Updated: Jun 21
Nothing compares to the flavor of a fresh picked tomato that has been basking in the warm summer sunshine. Not only do they taste superior to their grocery store counterparts, but you can be rest assured that the fruit you grow on your own is not treated with chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Growing tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest can be rather challenging, thanks to a temperate climate where one can see rays of sunshine, rain, and hail – all in one day, but it can be done. Whether you grow your plants in a container on the patio or in a garden out in the yard, here is a guide to help you grow your best tomatoes ever:
…it all starts with the soil!
Provide a Nutrient Rich Soil
All plant life is dependent on healthy, well-drained living soil. Tomato plants love to eat and need soil that is loaded with nutrients. In order to be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of plump and juicy tomatoes, encourage vigorous and lush plant growth by ensuring your soil is rich with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.
Importance of Nitrogen in Healthy Tomato Plants
Nitrogen is the most important soil nutrient. It promotes chlorophyll development, which leads to thick, green plants. Phosphorus is like an energy drink for plants; it aids in photosynthesis and makes the plant grow quicker. Potassium acts as the appetite suppressant for tomatoes ensuring that the plant does not take in more water and nutrients than it needs. Calcium helps to prevent blossom-end rot, which can destroy the fruit you have worked hard to grow. To fertilize your tomato bearing soil the organic way, try Hendrikus Organics Organobloom 5-2-4 for acid loving plants. It provides all the nutrients necessary for healthy tomato production.
Prevent Soil Depletion by Rotating Your Tomato Crops
Rotate your crops every year to keep your soil balanced with nutrients. Different plants have different nutrient requirements, and rotating your tomato crops will help ensure that your soil does not become depleted. Crop rotation also helps prevents soil-disease and bad soil funguses from emerging.
Seeds Vs Starts
Time Your Seed Planting
Tomatoes love to sunbathe and require over 5 hours of direct sunlight each day in order to grow to their full potential. They also need warm soil in order to germinate from seed. It is important that you take care to plant your tomatoes outdoors only after the danger of frost has passed for the spring or your plants will not survive.
Tomatoes love sun and warmth, and are easy to grow from seed in warmer regions with long summers and consistent sun. In finicky climates, such as the Pacific Northwest, where summers can be short, it is better to plant tomatoes from starts rather than seed in order to get the most out of the sunny growing season. If you prefer to start tomatoes from seed it is best that you plant early in the spring in a warm indoor space or else your plants will not reach their full fruiting potential in time to harvest.
Picking Starter Plants
When picking starter plants, be sure they are bright green in color and that the plants are not huge compared to the pot they are planted in. When plants are too big for the pot it causes root bounding which puts stress on the plants when they are transplanted. Look for small to medium size plants that have plenty of room for growth. Plant your starters in nutrient rich soil and be sure that they get plenty of water.
Support Strong Plant Growth
A sturdy tomato cage or trellis will ensure that your plants stand tall under the heavy weight of all of the plump and juicy tomatoes they produce. Tomato cages and trellises come in all shapes and sizes, so pick one out that works best for the type of tomatoes you are growing. The key is to put the support in place while your plants are young so that they can grow into their new home.
Deal with Weeds of Mass Destruction
Winning the war on weeds is almost impossible unless you fight aggressively with every tool in your shed. Weeds need to be dealt with as they take away vital nutrients from the plants you do want in your garden. The first line of defense in weed control is to mulch your garden after planting your tomatoes. This prevents weed seeds from seeing the light of day and will help to keep new weed seeds from finding the gold standard in soil you have cultivated.
Maintaining a Weed-Free Growing Environment
Once you have mulched, keep an eye on the garden and pull out any new “weedlings” that emerge before they grow up and go to seed. You can also make your own chemical-free weed killer by mixing plant-based soap and vinegar together in a spray bottle.
Time to Enjoy Your Tomatoes!
To grow your best ever tomatoes, you have to start by cultivating the best and most nutritious soil ever. Once you have good soil, the rest of the tomato growing process is quite easy.
Follow this simple guide and the end of your summer will be blessed with bowls of salsa, jars of spaghetti sauce, plates of Caprese salad, and enough Pico de Gallo to host your own fiesta!