Gardening: When to plant tomatoes

  • Jun. 1, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Store bought tomatoes never taste as good as the ones grown in your own garden. It is a combination of the just picked taste, as opposed to fruit picked green and ripened artificially and the different varieties available. Each tomato variety offers a very distinct taste that can be attributed to the amount of sugar and acid in the fruit.

When there is room in the garden, try different varieties of tomatoes including heritage ones that are unique with a very full flavour.

Tomatoes are a long season crop and must be planted out as bedding plants once all danger of frost has past.

Take care to place the tomatoes in a hot, sunny area in the yard.

These plants love heat and do best against a south exposure where a building or fence traps sunlight and increases the temperature. Once the plant is blooming, increase the water supply as required to increase the yield.

Tomatoes are grouped by how the plant grows; determinate and indeterminate.

Determinate plants are bush tomatoes. The plant grows to a certain height and stops. Place a cage around these plants as they will develop multiple stems that will need support once the fruit begins to develop.

The weight of the fruit is heavier than what the branch can support. Without external support the branch and fruit will fall to the ground which can cause the branch to crack. Fruit left on the ground is susceptible to rotting and slug damage.

Indeterminate varieties grow upward and given a warm climate, will produce fruit for a number of years.

When this is the case, prune out all side growth that forms between branches and the main stem. Flowers and fruit will grow off the main stem.

When the plants are growing fast it might be necessary to remove side growth every few days. Pruning of excess stems insures that the growth goes into the fruit not foliage.

Stems grow fast and are not strong enough to support the weight of the fruit. Attaching the plant to a tall stake, fence or a string from above will give plants the needed support.

Insects and wind pollinate tomatoes but it doesn’t hurt to give nature a hand. Gently jiggling the plant will cause it to self pollinate. According to scientists the optimum time for tomato pollination is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. There are products on the market to help pollinate tomatoes but they rarely produce better results that a slight shake.

Fertilize regularly to insure the plants have all the nutrients required to thrive.

A basic fertilizer that is high in the last two numbers potassium and potash works but one that is formulated and labelled for tomatoes should also contain needed trace elements such as calcium and magnesium.

Potassium and potash are primarily responsible for the formation of flowers and fruit.

Nitrogen, the first number in a fertilizer formula increases the amount of leaves and stems formed. Not something that is wanted in tomato production.

Calcium and magnesium along with regular watering will reduce the risk of blossom-end rot.

Most importantly, follow the instructions on the fertilizer package. Recommended amounts have underwent ridged testing.

White fly and aphids can be a problem but only if the plants are crowded and air is not allowed to circulate around the plants.

Tomatoes need not be planted only in the vegetable garden.

Add a pot on the deck or plant in a hot part of the flower garden. Try a cherry tomato that will make great snacks on the way by.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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