The summer gardening season is in full swing. As my garden blooms, I thought I’d share with you some tips for maintaining tomato plants of all varieties. So far this year we’ve prepared our garden, we’ve talked about why we plant from both seeds and seedlings, and we learned how to properly cut lettuce. That’s why it makes sense to talk about all things tomatoes, now.
Tips For Maintaining Tomato Plants
1) Check On Your Plants Often: This might seem like a a no-brainer because you’re out there watering your garden every day or every other day (depending on rain.) However, sometimes you need to just take a moment and really look at your plants to assess how they’re growing and what their needs are.
2) Trim Off Excess Leaves: Excess branches on your tomato plants do provide some shade for your tomatoes; however, they are also a drain on the plant. These excess leaves, are often referred to as suckers, as they deplete the resources of the plant. You want the plant focused on baring fruit and not growing nonessential leaves.
How do you identify these suckers? You want to look for leaves, normally branches lower on the plant, that do not have flowers on them. You need to be careful because we don’t want to cut off anything that might grow flowers; so if you’re unsure leave it for a few days, even a week. The next time you trim them, look at that branch again. Remember that you never want to cut too many leaves off of a plant. I made that mistake once, and my plants looked like I had given them buzz cuts! At any given time you don’t want to remove more than 10% to 20% of the excess leaves on a tomato plant.
3) Tie Your Plants: You can buy tomato cages, which are inverted metal cones, that go over your tomato plants, and they grow up, around and into them. However, I find they take up too much space, given that I have planted a lot of tomatoes relatively close to one another. Instead, I use tomato stakes, which are thin pieces of repurposed wood, that are about 6 to 8 feet high, and they have a point at the bottom. I insert the stakes into the ground just behind the plant, quite careful not to get too close to the plant; maybe about an inch behind them. Then I tie the plants using about three or maybe four inches of string. I like to cut the ties long because as you tie the plants to the stakes, you realize you can untie the bottom ties and reuse them, as the plant grows; so you’re not wasting string. Ultimately, there doesn’t need to be six or seven ties on a plant, at any give time. You may need more on a cherry tomato plant, as they tend to have more offshoots that beefsteak varieties.
4) Tie Often: This goes back to step one, actually look at your plants, especially after rain. Because plants will have a natural growth spurt, following a summer shower. You’ll find that your tomato plants will go from well manicured to unruly very quickly- especially after rain.
Bonus Tip For Maintaining Tomato Plants: If you have a clean pair of old pantyhose or tights, something stretchy, you can cut them into long strips and use those to tie your tomato plants instead of using string. This is a great sustainable tip, as you are able to use something that you already have on hand and would otherwise be thrown away. So the next time you get a snag in your tights or pantyhose, you can still put them to good use.
These gardening tips for maintaining tomato plants will keep your plants looking beautiful and well manicured, in no time. Not to mention by freeing the plant of draining suckers, they will be more fruitful.
Did you find these tips for maintaining tomato plants helpful? Do you have any tomato gardening tips that you’d like to share with us? Leave us a comment below and let us know, as we love hearing from you and learning from your ideas.
Happiness is watching your garden grow healthy and plentiful!