Last year, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension data, farmers in New York State planted around 2,900 acres of tomatoes for an estimated value of $32.4 million. Tomatoes are a popular crop with New York fresh market vegetable farmers due to high demand and fair prices. Tomatoes are also popular among homeowners to grow in their own gardens in a variety of ways.
There is a lot to know about growing tomatoes, mainly because there are so many varieties. This is also important to remember – it is ok to plant a wide variety of plants in a variety of places. You can start by choosing to cage tomato plants, place in a trellis or allow sprawling on the ground. Tomato plants can also be tied to stakes or grown in hanging baskets or containers. Quite frankly, each method has advantages and disadvantages. If you have enough space, placing in the ground is the easiest method and plants grown this way often produce the greatest number of fruits. However, the plants are in contact with the ground, so the chances for fruit rot and damage by slugs and snails increases. Applying a layer of mulch under the tomato plants will reduce the risks of disease and damage. If you decide to cage the plants, research which varieties need cages and also be aware that some varieties do better with tall cages. With cages, plants are off the ground and fruits are easy to pick.
When it comes to soil, tomatoes take up nutrients the best when the soil pH ranges from 6.2 to 6.8. When choosing a spot to place your tomato plants, devote a sunny spot for them. Most tomato plants will grow into a tall amount of green NURSERY, LLC Landscaping/ Commercial/ Residential Route 9, PO Box 1432 South Glens Falls, New York 12803 518-793-2886 FAX 518-793-2626 foliage with appearing ripening fruits in mid to late summer. Does your space give about 8 hours of sun to your plants? That is what is recommended to bring out their best flavors.
Spacing is also important when planning your garden and planting tomatoes. Expert gardeners recommend spacing large, long-vined varieties about 3 feet apart. A single patio tomato will probably need an 18 inch container.
Fertilizer is an important consideration because tomatoes have specific nutritional requirements. They need phosphate, nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, potassium, potash and other micro-nutrients. Experts suggest that you mix a balanced timed-release or organic fertilizer into the soil as you prepare planting holes, following the rates given on the fertilizer label. At the same time, mix in 3 to 4 inches of compost. The compost will provide minor nutrients and help hold moisture and fertilizer in the soil until it is needed by the plants.
Tomatoes are not free from annoying pests either. Some experts suggest an organic pest repellent such as basil. Basil planted among tomatoes improves both production and flavor. Basil is also helpful for growing peppers and has also been said to repel mosquitoes. Borage is also a great companion for tomatoes and cabbage as it repels both tomato horn worm and cabbage moths. Just as a warning, tomatoes can sometimes be difficult to grow because they are susceptible to many diseases and pests that can potentially destroy an entire field. The tomato hornworm is commonly noted as an enemy of tomato plants.
Enjoy your gardening this summer and we hope you bear plenty of fruit from your tomato plants. Happy gardening!