Springtime is here and summer is just right around the corner. That means it’s time to start planting tomato seeds so that you’ll have a large bumper crop of sweet, juicy tomatoes for summer salads and flame-grilled hamburgers!
For the inexperienced gardener, growing tomatoes may seem like a challenge. But, it’s not as hard as it may seem. In fact, the following DIY tips and tricks will get you on your way to perfecting the “juicy” part of this fabulous fruit.
Keep The Birds Away!
Birds eat tomatoes for the same reason we do – they’re full of juicy goodness! To keep the birds from pecking all the good stuff out of the fruit, treat them like a pet dog or cat. Put out a bowl of water to keep them hydrated, and they’ll lay off your precious plant. That means you’ll have plenty of tomatoes left to make yummy summer salads!
We all know that tomato vines grow vertically, but there’s actually a good reason why you should consider making your plant defy the laws of gravity!
If you grow your seedlings inside a trench, they’ll develop nice long roots. Deep roots can tap directly into the groundwater and minerals in the soil, which means you won’t need to add as much fertilizer and water to keep the plants alive. Isn’t nature grand?
To transplant your seedlings, remove all the lower branches. Then lay the plant sideways in a shallow trench. Bury your little plant baby in the soil, but make sure the leaves at the top are above ground. As it starts to grow vertically, the roots will dig in and help nurture the plant, just as mother nature intended.
Protect With Newspaper
Tomatoes are juicy for one reason – they hold on to tons of water. Mulching helps protect a growing tomato plant in many ways – it locks in moisture, regulates soil temperature, and prevents fruit rot. But, you don’t want to add mulch before it’s time!
Wait until the soil has warmed up – tomatoes are tropical babies and they just love basking in the heat. You should give it about 3-5 weeks after the seedling has been planted before you add the mulch.
Once the ground is warm enough, layer 5-10 sheets of newspaper between each row of plants. Don’t forget to soak the newspaper in water first, so it doesn’t blow away! Top off the newspaper layers with mulch, grass clippings, chips, etc. and you’ll have a batch of delicious, watery fruit in no time!
Sprinkle Some Baking Soda
Baking soda may seem like an odd thing to toss onto your tomato plant, but think of it as magic fairy dust! It will make your vine-ripened tomatoes seem like they came straight out of the candy store.
That’s because baking soda lowers the acidity level in the soil, which in turn makes your tomatoes taste like the decadent fruit it’s really supposed to be.
To “bake” this natural sweet treat, wait until the tomato has grown to about an inch in diameter. Then sprinkle 1/4 cup of baking soda around each plant, and repeat this step again when the tomatoes are half grown. Just make sure you don’t actually get any on the plant itself – it needs to stay in the soil.
You could also just add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to a gallon of water, and then water the plant with it – it can’t get any easier than that!
Try The Stick Trick
If you’re growing your own seedlings instead of buying thick-stemmed tomato plants, you’ll want to learn about the “stick trick.”
Cutworm larvae love to munch on seedlings, and they are the bane of every gardener’s existence. But, you can trick them into leaving your plants alone – without bloodshed! The trick is in the stick!
Believe it or not, a stick will fight off these bad boys, and you don’t even have to whack them with it. When you’re ready to transplant your seedlings into the ground, insert a stickabout the size of a toothpick into the soil next to each plant.
When the yucky creepy crawlies reach out to touch the stem, what they’ll feel instead is the stick. Since if feels too thick and fibrous to chew through, they’ll leave your tender tomato plant alone.