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Tomato Planting Tips

Tomato in Plastic Mulch
plastic mulch to warm the soil
Place black plastic over the planting bed to warm the soil. Cut an X in the plastic to set tomato seedlings in the soil.

Set out tomato seedlings in midafternoon after the air and soil have warmed for the day. Seedlings set out on cold mornings are more susceptible to chilling injury—their metabolic reserves have been depleted overnight.

Don’t let tomato seedlings grow-on in small pots too long; they will become rootbound and stunted. Pot up if you can’t get them in the garden before they grow taller than 6 inches.

Tomato seedlings that have 5 to 7 true leaves are ready for planting out in the garden—but be sure the garden soil temperature is greater than 50 degrees F. If the soil is chilly, warm it by placing black plastic sheeting over the planting row. Cut an X in the plastic to set seedlings in the soil.

Plant tomatoes deeply
Plant tomato seedlings deep. Only the top leaves need to be above the soil line. Roots will grow along the buried stem.

Plant tomato seedlings deeply—you can nip off all but the two or three branches and bury the rest of the stem. If the soil is cold, lay most of the stem on its side in a shallow trench; this will create a strong root system. Mulch with aged compost around tomato plants once the soil has warmed.

Add a few pinches of Epsom salts in the planting hole. Epsom salts are rich in magnesium which are is important for strong cell growth.

Foliar-feed (spray the leaves of your plants) every 2 weeks with liquid kelp or compost tea. Avoid feeding tomatoes too much nitrogen—you won’t get the fruit you want. Hold off on feeding once plants begin to flower.


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Grow enough tomatoes this year for fresh eating and also for cooking, canning, or preserving (if that’s what you have in mind). But don’t grow more. Continue reading to see our list of best tomatoes for your garden>>>


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Tomatoes can be planted in your garden if night temperatures are averaging warmer than 55ºF. One key to tomato success is simply to remember that tomato blossoms don’t set fruit when the night temperature is below 55ºF or above 70ºF (13-21ºC). Continue reading>>>


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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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