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Tomato Plants

When planting your young tomato plants, select a place that gets a fair amount of direct sunlight for most of the day. Your plants will need around 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.

If you choose to start your plants from seed, they should only get indirect sunlight for a few hours per day for the first week and slowly introduce them to direct sunlight. If you set your plants outdoors all day, this could make them sunburnt, resulting in gray/yellow leaves. Too much sun may also kill the plants.

I like to use patio umbrellas to protect the plants from the bright afternoon sun when I first put them outside. If you find your plants did get too much sun, give them a healthy drink of water, and keep them in a shady area until you see them recover. Once recovered, slowly reintroduce them to direct sunlight.

A Tomato plant grows best in temperatures from 55-85 degrees Fahrenheit. If the outdoor temperature gets hotter than 85 during that day and 75 at night, the plants may start to go into a dormant stage, meaning they may not produce any new flowers or leaves.

If the weather will be hot for a few days straight, it may be best to use a shade cover to protect the plants, but remember the cover should not touch the plants. Another way to protect your plants from the hot sun is to put down mulch under the plants. Peat moss holds the moisture in the soil and will break down over time, making the soil acidic, which tomatoes love. The mulch also makes the garden beds look nice and clean.

After a few weeks, you may also see some lower leaves turning yellow; these should be removed with pruners. I feel it’s best to remove them, so the plant doesn’t waste energy trying to save the leaves.

Making sure plants have adequate water will also help in keeping them cool from the hot sun. I water my plants in the evening to allow them time to soak up the water they need. If you water in the hot afternoon sun, the water may evaporate before the plants have a chance to soak it up. Remember to water the soil, not the plants. If the plants’ leaves and stems are wet for too long, they may grow mold or fungus. The key to watering is small amounts and often. This will help prevent the skin of the fruits and vegetables from splitting.

I always get asked if I remove the suckers from the growing tomato plants. A sucker is a small shoot that comes out from where the branch and the stem meet. The answer is yes, but only until July 4th. A friend of mine who lives in Wisconsin gave me this tip, and I thought this was crazy! He said that his yield and the health of the plants increased. I tried this technique the following year, and it worked. My tomato plant yield had almost doubled, and my plants did seem healthier. My growing season seemed longer (May 1st-Oct 1st) too.

At the end of the season, I pulled out my tomato plants and noticed the root system had almost doubled in size. My indeterminate tomato plants also grew taller, more than 10’ tall. The only downside is waiting for your first homegrown tomato.

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