Looking to grow some deliciously plump tomatoes this season? Let Kevin from @Epic Gardening show you the different trellis types that will work best for your space and budget.
When it comes to insects in your garden, don’t be quick to kill. Not all insects are enemies. In fact, most insects are essential players in your organic garden’s success. Others are neutral and don’t cause any harm. Yet some will ruin your harvest.
Spotting the difference between the good and the bad can be tricky, so keep your eyes peeled.
Four Common Tomato Plant Pests:
Hornworms – These destructive caterpillars can grow to about 3-3½” at full size, but their green color makes them difficult to spot. If you spot hornworms, spray with water or remove by hand. However, where there is one, there are usually more. If there is a large infestation, consider spraying tomato plants with an organic approved pest control.
Fruitworm – Adult tomato fruitworms are moths, typically yellow or olive in color. They often lay eggs near the leaves of the plant. If you see fruitworms, check leaves for eggs. Larvae feed on leaves and foliage before moving to the tomato, giving you more time to stop potential damage.
Potato Aphids – These tiny insects are usually found in dense clusters. Potato aphids are typically not serious enough to kill plants, but a large enough infestation can stunt growth and lead to mold and disease. If you spot an infestation, remove it and be sure to throw in the garbage. If thrown on the ground, aphids will re-infest the plant. To control, apply insect soap.
Beet Armyworm – Similar to the fruitworm, beet armyworm adults are moths with gray and brown upper wings and white or pale gray lower wings. They typically lay eggs on the underside of leaves. When larvae hatch, they feed on foliage before attacking the tomato itself. Remove beet armyworm caterpillars by hand before they become moths.
When it comes to tomato pests, the best way to stop damage is to spot pests early. Keep a close eye on your tomato plants, especially in the early stages. Introduce beneficial insects such as lacewings or ladybugs into your garden to naturally control common pests.
For more tips on tomatoes, check out our Total Guide to Growing Tomatoes.
No other flavor in the garden can compete with sun-ripened tomatoes! Just seeing their bright, shiny color emerge gets us giddy!
We want to make sure you get to experience the joy of your homegrown, golden delights this year.
So, if you spot a worrisome sign on your tomatoes, here’s how to identify and fix it – the organic, natural way!
Dr. Tom A. To: How to Identify and Fix Common Tomato Diseases and Problems
The Mark of Dark Spots. First, you’ll see tiny spots on tomatoes’ lower leaves, usually after the first fruit has set. From there, the spots grow larger and begin to look like a target. That’s early blight.
To fix, remove infected leaves as well as lower leaves. Water in the morning to prevent further spread of this fungus. Low nitrogen levels often cause early blight, so feed with Tomato-tone monthly.
Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org
The Bruise Blues. If small, sunken spots or what looks like bruises appear on your ripe tomatoes, that’s anthracnose. This fungus emerges as the weather gets hot and humid – usually 80° or warmer.
So, harvest ripe tomatoes as soon as possible. These are safe to eat if you cut off the bruises. Then water tomatoes in the morning.
So Many Spots. If tiny, greyish-brown dots cover your tomato leaves, Septoria leaf spot is to blame. Soon, leaves will fall off. Though, a harvest will usually still happen.
To remedy, remove all infected leaves. Then apply a copper fungicide – if you’re organic gardening.
Brown Bottom. See circular brown spots on the bottom of your half-grown tomatoes? That’s blossom-end rot, which is usually caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. Blossom end rot should only happen to a few tomatoes early in the season, not the whole bunch.
To fix, use an organic tomato fertilizer with calcium.
Built to Wilt. Wilting, curling leaves could be bad news for your tomatoes. If paired with stunted grown or browning veins or blotches, your tomatoes have Fusarium or Verticillium wilts. These diseases are caused by a super vicious fungus in the soil.
And, there’s no cure for it. Remove and rid your garden of these tomatoes. Do not compost. Then, solarize the soil to kill the fungus. Otherwise, when you plant veggies in the same area, they, too, will get this disease for the next 4-6 years.
Next time, when you’re growing tomatoes, select disease-resistant varieties to avoid some of these common problems.
Add mulch, a natural covering on top of soil, to keep moisture in, block weeds and provide added nutrients. But did you also know that mulch is particularly important for tomato plants?
If you grow tomato plants, then you have to understand the importance of mulch.
Why is Mulch So Important for Tomatoes?
1. Mulch Protects
Many tomato plants grow large, heavy fruit. Mulch protects the lowest-growing fruit from resting on the ground and developing rot.
2. Mulch Blocks Weeds
Weeds are usually no problem for tomatoes since the large plants, with their dense foliage, shade out and smother any weeds. However, mulch around staked or trellised plants will keep down those baby weeds, so they won’t rob the plants of water and nutrients.
3. Mulch Saves Water
Staked and trellised plants usually benefit from mulch to save moisture. More exposed to sun and wind than unstaked plants, they lose more water through their leaves. It takes extra effort to provide them with an ample and even supply of moisture, but in dry climates, it’s worth it.
4. Mulch Keeps Plants Clean
A mulch blanket under your plants keeps soil from splashing onto the leaves, which helps prevent disease, something tomatoes are especially prone to.
How to Mulch Tomatoes
Many make the mistake of laying mulch around tomatoes too early. You should wait until late spring or until the ground has really warmed up. Adding mulch will inhibit soil from warming and delay the harvest a few weeks.
Once the soil has warmed, feed your tomatoes again with Tomato-tone. Then spread a 2-3” layer of organic mulch. Be sure to leave 2” of room around the stem so water can reach the roots. Water well.
The Best Organic Mulches for Tomatoes
Shredded Leaves: Composted leaves are great for vegetable gardens because they provide natural weed protection and increase moisture retention.
Grass Clippings: If you apply organic lawn fertilizer, dry grass clippings are a great option. They mat together to protect plants and retain heat.
Straw: Straw makes great mulch for tomatoes. But stay away from hay, as it’s full of seeds. Spread a 3-6” layer around tomatoes.
Newspaper or Cardboard: Newspaper is best for blocking weeds. Cut or tear into strips that fit easily around plants.
Peat Moss: Peat moss slowly decomposes over the growing season, adding nutrients to the soil. Water plants thoroughly before spreading peat moss, however, because it sucks a lot of moisture from the soil.
If you’re looking for more information on tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.
Tiny tomato seedlings can vigorously turn into huge bushes in no time. In fact, they’ve even been known to bend cages and pull stakes out of the ground!
However, when it comes to growing tomatoes, less is more. Fewer leaves mean air circulates better and leaves dry quicker, reducing the risk of disease.
Plants with less density direct energy toward producing bigger fruit. Plus, tomatoes often ripen earlier after a good pruning, allowing you to enjoy your harvest sooner.
Here are some helpful tips for pruning your tomatoes this season.
1. Find out if your tomato plant is a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinate varieties often thrive with less attention because they only produce one crop of tomatoes. Indeterminate varieties, on the other hand, require frequent maintenance because they produce tomatoes all season.
2. Pinch or snip flowers until plants are 12-18” tall. When the first green fruit appears, remove all suckers, ie leaves beneath that cluster.
4. As the plant continues to fruit and flower, chose a few strong stems to produce tomatoes and prune the rest. Though this results in less fruit, tomatoes will be bigger and juicier.
5. Continue removing unnecessary suckers and flowers at least once a week during peak growing season. Eliminate suckers while they are still small enough to remove by hand. If you need to use a tool, be sure to use a sharp pruner blade to make a clean cut.
Grow Up, Not Out
Tie tomato plants to a support such as a stake or a trellis to promote upward growth. This keeps tomatoes off the ground, keeping pests and diseases at bay. Vertically grown tomatoes are ultimately easier to prune because unnecessary suckers and leaves are more visible.
Though plants may now be better protected from insects and disease, staked and pruned plants may be more susceptible to blossom end rot and sunscald. Get a better harvest than you ever thought possible by giving tomatoes what they need!
Ready to learn more? Check out our guide to growing organic tomatoes for more information!
Seeing red tomatoes peek through the green leaves in your garden is a true sign that summer is here. The first harvest of the season provides opportunities to finally try those delicious garden-to-table recipes.
Tomatoes are a staple in every organic garden. And growing them doesn’t have to be difficult.
Start planting today and you’ll have a delicious harvest in no time.
1. Choose a few of your favorite tomato varieties and get ready to plant!
2. Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
3. Check the plant tag to see how far apart plants should be.
4. Dig holes larger than the tomatoes’ original container.
5. Set the plant in the hole so its lowest leaves are below the soil level. Go ahead and pinch those lower leaves off now.
6. Mix in an organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.
7. Fill the hole with amended soil or Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.
8. Once established, feed tomatoes by mixing in 3 tablespoons of Espoma’s Tomato-tone per plants. Organic Tomato-tone provides tomatoes the nutrients they need to grow big and plump. Since this is a slow-release, organic fertilizer, Tomato-tone never forces rapid growth, which reduces tomato yield.
Keys to Success
Stake tomatoes now to increase air circulation and sunlight exposure.
Support plants with a tomato cage, trellis or container. Stakes work, too. Hammer 6-8” stakes into the ground 3-6” away from the plant. When tomatoes begin blooming, tie them to the stake.
Water tomatoes generously for the first few days after planting. Then, give tomatoes 2” of water at their roots per week.
Feed tomatoes with organic Tomato-tone monthly for larger, plumper tomatoes all season.
Add 2-3” of mulch in 3-5 weeks to reduce water consumption.
Nothing beats that first bite into a delicious, ripe tomato – even better when it’s fresh out of your summer garden! Just talking about tomatoes has us craving homemade salsas, Caprese salads and a delicious medley of fresh summer veggies.
If you’re as excited about tomato season as we are, why not get started now?
In practically no time at all, you can start tomato seeds. The best way to get a head start on growing tomatoes is to start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date in your region.
Pick Your Plant
The first step to starting seeds is deciding which tomato is the one for you. With thousands of varieties, it can be hard to choose just one! This list of easy-to-grow tomatoes will make your decision simple and stress free.
When starting seeds indoors, you only need three simple things: warmth, light and an organic plant food.
Fill seed trays to within ¼” of the top with Espoma’s Organic Seed Starting mix. Follow instructions on the seed packets to see how deep and far apart to plant. Cover with soil, press down and lightly water.
Place tray in a larger pan of shallow water for a minute so the water seeps up from the bottom.
Place seeds in a warm spot between 65-75°. Try the top of the fridge, or purchase a heat mat.
Loosely cover tray with plastic wrap or the cover from your seed-starting kit. Check seeds daily for moisture and water as needed.
Give seeds 12-16 hours of light daily. Supplement sunlight with grow lights if needed.
Once you see sprouts, remove the cover and move seeds to a sunny, south-facing window that is 65-75°F. Then, turn the container a little each day to prevent leaning seeds.
Add Espoma’s Organic Tomato-tone, a premium plant food formulated specifically for growing plump and juicy tomatoes, once seeds have sprouted. Tomato-tone’s organic composition feeds your plants naturally and will not force rapid growth at the expense of blooms and tomato yield.
Ready to Plant
Once the last frost date has passed, you’re almost ready to plant! Start by hardening off plants and placing seedlings outdoors for seven to 10 days for a few hours each day. Cut back on watering, as well. Now that plants are good and strong, it’s time to plant! Gently remove plants from containers without damaging the roots. Plant in a prepared bed and mix in organic starter plant food, such as Bio-tone Starter Plus, to keep roots strong.
Now you’ll have delicious tomatoes in no time!
Go forth, and grow! When you’re organic gardening, be sure to feed tomatoes lots of Tomato-tone during the growing season.
For good reason, tomatoes are the popular kid in the garden. Everyone wants to grow them, but not everyone knows how! So we have collected everything we know about tomatoes – from choosing which tomatoes to grow to how to harvest – and put it in one place!
Have success with Espoma’s Total Guide To Growing Tomatoes!
Five questions to ask before growing tomatoes – Know your tomatoes! Answer these five questions before deciding what tomato varieties to grow.
Best Tomato Varieties for Beginners – Depending on what you’re making and where you live, some tomatoes really are better! With more than 7,500 varieties, you have to know exactly what you’re looking for.
Should I grow heirlooms? – Heirloom tomatoes come from seeds that have been handed down from farmer to farmer for generations for their special characteristics and varieties must be 50 years old at least. Because of this, heirloom tomatoes have minimal disease resistance.
Hybrid tomatoes – With over 7,000 varieties, picking the right tomato to grow can seem overwhelming. If you want your tomato to have it all — flavor, disease resistance, texture and more – try modern, hybrid tomatoes.
Non-Red Tomatoes – When growing tomatoes in your organic garden, you probably envision swathes of red. However, tomatoes were not always red. The earliest varieties were yellow and orange.
Starting tomatoes from seed – In practically no time at all, you can start tomato seeds. The best way to get a head start on growing tomatoes is to start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date in your region.
How to start tomato and pepper seeds indoors – The best way to get a head start on growing tomatoes is to start seeds indoors. Whether you’re growing cherry tomatoes or hot peppers, visit your local garden center to pick up supplies.
How to plant tomatoes – Seeing red tomatoes peek through the green leaves in your garden is a true sign that summer is here. The first harvest of the season provides opportunities to finally try those delicious garden-to-table recipes.
How to Grow Tomatoes in Containers – Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to grow tomatoes in planters.
Ensuring soil health – Soil, as you may have thought, is not dirt. Healthy soil is a collection of creatures, minerals and living material that holds water and nutrients like a sponge, making them readily available for plants. To continue to grow big, juicy fruits and vegetables, you need to make sure you’re feeding your soil.
Growing tomatoes in containers – Tomatoes grown in portable containers are just as tasty and satisfying as garden grown. Plus, containers are versatile and can easily be moved from one spot to another to suite your gardening needs.
Growing tomatoes upside down – Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to make an upside down tomato planter. She uses Espoma’s new liquid fertilizer, Start!, to give plants the nutrients they need to grow.
Turn your tomato garden upside down – This summer, put a new twist on growing tomatoes by adding upside-down tomato planters to your organic vegetable garden.
Growing tomatoes – To pick the tomatoes best for you, decide if you’d like to snack on tomatoes throughout summer. These are known as Indeterminate. Or if you’d like your crop to ripen at once at the end of summer, select determinate.
Companion Planting for Beginners – Find out how to your plants can help each other in this tutorial with Laura from Garden Answer. She’ll walk you through the basics of what it is, how to get started and how she companion plants in her own garden.
How to fertilize tomatoes – Tomatoes and peppers have big appetites, so they need plenty of organic food. Since plants get all their nutrients from the soil, their all-you-can-eat buffet runs out quick. Feed them right, and they’ll burst full of fresh produce.
3 Ways to Support Tomatoes – Use tomato cages, wood or metal stakes, or a trellis to give plants extra support. It’s really a matter of preference which one you choose. The most important thing is that you’re keeping plants off the ground to avoid pests, diseases and rot.
How to mulch tomato plants – Add mulch, a natural covering on top of soil, to keep moisture in, block weeds and provide added nutrients.
How to prune tomatoes – Tiny tomato seedlings can vigorously turn into huge bushes in no time. In fact, they’ve even been known to bend cages and pull stakes out of the ground!
What are tomato plant suckers? – Tomato suckers are small shoots, or leaves, that sprout out from where the stem and the branch of a tomato plant meet. Although relatively harmless to the plant, suckers don’t serve much of a purpose.
How much water do tomatoes need? – When, and how frequently, you should water your tomato plants depends on the variety, size and location.
6 Secrets to Get The Best Tomatoes – Every tomato has the potential to be great and some extra attention now will pay off big time come harvest. Set the stage for a stellar performance by this year’s crops with these tips.
Blossom end rot – If a dark, water soaked spot has formed on your tomato you may have blossom-end rot. This problem is likely caused by an imbalance of calcium in the plant.
Tomato woes – How to solve common tomato diseases – If you spot a worrisome sign on your tomatoes, here’s how to identify and fix it – the organic, natural way!
Keep Tomatoes from Cracking and Splitting – Tomatoes split open when the fruit outpaces the growth of the skin — usually after a heavy rain. The bad news: split tomatoes can introduce bacteria into the fruit and cause them to rot.
Protect your plants – 4 common tomato pests – It doesn’t matter if you’re growing hybrids or heirlooms, there are a few pests you don’t want around. Identify harmful pests early before damage is done.
Harvesting tomatoes made easy – Whether you’re cooking, canning, freezing or simply eating your tomatoes raw, you’ll want to pick them at the perfect moment. These harvesting tips will ensure your organic tomatoes are ripe when picked.
Step-by-step Instructions to Can, Save and Preserve Tomatoes – Preserve tomatoes now to enjoy the sweet rewards of your summer veggie garden long after harvest season is over.
Saving tomato seeds – Tomato seeds might be available at the store year-round, but saving your own is satisfying and easy.
Tomato recipes – Make sure to pick tomatoes when they are just right to enjoy with your favorite tomato recipes. These harvesting tips will ensure you get a flavorful tomato every time.
If there’s one vegetable that needs to be in your organic garden, it’s tomatoes! Juicy, red tomatoes are the taste of summer.
In a salad, drizzled with olive oil, sliced with fresh mozzarella or even eaten like an apple, homegrown tomatoes make every summer meal taste better.
Like all homegrown food, they’re picked when they’re the juiciest and most flavorful. And since you care for tomatoes all season, you appreciate the care and work it takes to ethically raise them. You know without an inkling of doubt that these tomatoes are organic, packed with nutrients and 100% free of harmful pesticides.
Plus when growing your own tomatoes, you get to pick exactly the kind you want! There are over 10,000 different types of tomatoes, in nearly every size and color.
To pick the tomatoes best for you, decide if you’d like to snack on tomatoes throughout summer. These are known as Indeterminate. Or if you’d like your crop to ripen at once at the end of summer, select determinate.
Also, think about how you’d like to use your tomatoes. Will you use them in lots of fresh recipes or can and preserve and save them for winter? See our favorite tomatoes below to pick the one right for you!
Best Tomatoes to Eat All Summer (Indeterminate)
Best Tomatoes for Canning and Sauces (Determinate)
Pick one (or a couple) tomato varieties and get planting! Follow along below or check out how not to be a couch tomato with these tips.
Since tomatoes love the sun, they need a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
While you’re at it, mix in 9 cups of Espoma’s Tomato-tone per 50 square feet. For single plants, use 3 tablespoons of Tomato-tone per plant.
An organic plant food like Tomato-tone provides tomatoes the nutrients they need to grow big and plump. Since this is a slow-release, organic fertilizer, Tomato-tone never forces rapid growth, which reduces tomato yield.
Now dig a hole larger than the tomatoes’ original container. Look at the plant tag to see how far apart each tomato plant should be.
Situate the plant in the hole so its lowest leaves are below the soil level. Go ahead and pinch those lower leaves off.
Then fill the hole with amended soil or Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil.
To set your tomatoes up for success, stake them now to increase air circulation and sunlight exposure.
You can support them with a tomato cage, trellis or container. Or hammer 6-8” stakes 1’ into the ground about 3-6” away from the plant. When tomatoes begin blooming, tie them to the stake.
Right now though, all they need is some water! For the next few days, water tomatoes generously. Then, give tomatoes about 2” of water around their base each week.
In addition to watering, feed your tomatoes an organic tomato food each month. Organically fertilizing tomatoes with Tomato-tone produces larger, plumper tomatoes all season.
In 3-5 weeks, add 2-3” of mulch to reduce water consumption.
It won’t be long now until you’re biting into the first, fresh tomato of the season!
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