Reap what you sow: Tips for a huge tomato harvest
Snowdrops and crocuses have already fought their way through the cold ground and painted the landscape with their colorful blooms. That can only mean one thing — spring is here! For people who are serious about gardening, it's time to get out the gloves, the rake and the watering can and get to work. One plant that you'll find in almost every vegetable garden is the tomato. It's relatively easy to grow, but reaping the rewards — that means big, red, juicy tomatoes — isn't as easy as it looks. So we've collected a few handy tips that will help you get the most out of your tomato plants and enjoy a harvest like none you've had before...
It's always a good idea to ask an expert (someone at the nursery or garden center) what kind of tomato is best for your growing conditions, e.g. in an open area with lots of sun, on a balcony with limited sun etc. Just because a variety is sold at the garden center doesn't mean it will automatically grow well in all locations.
Whether the plants are store-bought or grown from seed, you should always leave them on their side for one to three days before planting them. This allows the upper part of the plant to grow upwards. For the actual planting, shovel a trench that will act as a bed for the plant. All of the plant except for the upper part that has bent upwards will be buried in the soil. This will make the plant much stronger.
To protect the plant from wind, surround it with a 5-foot wire cage that is about 25 inches in diameter. You can make one yourself by using wire fencing and closing it with zip ties. The middle of the cage consists of a bucket with holes drilled in the bottom and the sides. This bucket is kept slightly buried and then filled with water, fertilizer and manure that slowly nourishes the surrounding soil as it seeps through the drill holes.
Tomatoes are hungry plants and need a lot of nourishment, which means that you have to fertilize regularly. It's a good idea to use long-term fertilizer right after planting, but you should still make sure to fertilize regularly after that, too. After the first harvest, each plant should be nourished with three teaspoons of ammonium sulphate. Because the plants grow rapidly, it's important to regularly cut off the sideshoots that grow from the leaf axils. This will help the fruit grow bigger and ripen more quickly.
In general, tomatoes need lots of sun, water and nourishment. It's a lot of work, but in the end it's worth it — juicy, garden-fresh tomatoes are much better than anything the supermarket has to offer.
Here's a video that shows the bucket and cage housing method in more detail. Happy gardening!