Planting Tomatoes

For most of the country, May is tomato-planting time. There’s really no reason to rush to plant your tomatoes in spring. It is important to wait until the soil warms and dries and to take the time to build up fertility for this fast-growing veggie. Here are some tips to help you grow the best tomatoes this year:

Although it’s too late to start tomatoes from seed, we have a good supply of transplants to purchase. Look for varieties that fit your location, and mix and match cherry, plum, and slicing varieties.

Amend your soil by working in a 1- to 2-inch-deep layer of compost. Make raised beds on heavy soils, and if the fertility is poor, consider increasing your compost to 3 to 4 inches deep.

Before you plant, heat up the soil by laying mulch on the beds. The mulch not only preheats your soil but provides a weed barrier, and the dark mulch increases yields up to 20 percent.

Harden off your tomato transplants even if they were grown locally. Place them outdoors in a partly shaded location protected from winds for a few hours the first day. Move them inside and each day extend the amount of time outdoors until after five days they’re outside overnight.

Plant on a cloudy day, if possible, to reduce transplant shock. If your tomatoes are tall and leggy, bury the stems up to the first set of true leaves. Tomatoes have the ability to root all along the stem and form a stronger plant.

For determinate and indeterminate varieties, stake or cage the plants when young to support them when they’re older. Placing the stakes and cages now prevents you from harming the roots later.

Keep plants well watered and fertilize every three weeks with an all-purpose organic plant food.