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Caring for Your Tomato Plants

Caring for your tomato plant

Give your tomato plants all the TLC they need to thrive and produce fruit all season long!

Tomato plants are a garden favourite for their delicious fruit and bright colours—plus they are pretty easy to grow! Start off with baby plants and keep them in a safe space (indoors or in a heated greenhouse) until the frost disappears in late spring or early summer. Tomato plants are tender and will not tolerate frost or freezing temperatures. While you're deciding where to plant them, remember they need about 6-8 hours of sun to really thrive and produce healthy tomatoes.

Bury your new plants in good, well-draining soil, up to their first set of leaves (often about 2/3 of the stem) so that they can get a great start on growing roots! Then give it a good dose of H2O. 

Remember: Tomato plants are thirsty, so set a watering schedule and make sure to increase your waterings as the weather gets hot. 

Tomato Plant TCL

Tomatoes need a bit of care after they are planted. It's a good idea to always water in the mornings, allowing the leaves enough time to dry off so you’re less likely to have problems with fungus or mildew. As well, if you see any leaves that are yellow or spotted, immediately pinch them off the stem with your fingers. 

Adding good quality mulch and compost to the soil can help retain moisture as well as bring more nutrients to keep your tomato healthy and producing. Remember to fertilize because the more nutrients you add the better your tomatoes will taste!

Be Supportive

As your tomato plants get taller they will need some support from a cage, trellis, or stake. Start out when they are young and attach the stem to your sturdy support device with soft thread or twine. Then, continue as they get taller.

To Pinch or Not to Pinch?

There has been a lot of speculation about whether pinching off the sucker stems of your tomato plant can help increase the size of its yield throughout the season. Suckers grow right at the intersection of your branches and stem of the tomato plant—creating thin shoots that curl out. Many gardeners pinch or cut these off as the plant matures, believing that it allows the larger stems to access more nutrients and grow larger and stronger fruit. Other gardeners leave them on, letting some of them mature into their own stems in order to increase the number of fruit produced, even if it means smaller tomatoes.

If you are growing indeterminate tomato plants (which grow taller and longer stems which produce fruit at varying times throughout the season) then it may be a good idea to remove suckers in order to keep the bush from becoming unwieldy and growing only very small fruit. Pinch off the suckers as they grow and don't be afraid to prune some of the branches as well to keep your tomato plant in shape!

If you are growing determinate tomato plants (which grow to a specific height only and produce all of their fruit all at one time—usually after 30 days) then pinching back your suckers could end up giving you less fruit in the end.  Not sure? Do your own experiment this summer! Try pinching the suckers off one of your tomato plants and leaving them on another. Then measure the quantity and quality of your fruit throughout the season. 

You will likely still need to prune both, however, cutting off unwanted branches in order to keep your plants in a nice shape and avoid tangles or dense areas that could attract pests. Also, cutting off any branches up to 6 inches from the ground is a good idea to keep your plants healthy. Use sharp tools to prune and avoid doing it during the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest and cutting branches could stress your plant. 

Good luck with your tomato plants, we hope they grow strong and beautiful. Snacking on fresh, sun-warmed, tomatoes during the summer is a rare treat—and if you end up with too many, remember they can be popped in the freezer! 


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