Julie Bawden-Davis was our March 2019 guest speaker, and we are grateful for her fabulous tips, below, on planting and hardening off tomatoes.  She is a master gardener, Heirloom Tomato expert, best-selling author and prolific gardening writer.    Find out more about her interests and work by visiting HealthyHouseplants.com,   https://parade.com/member/juliebawdendavis/ and JulieBawdenDavis.com.

Planting Tomatoes

  • Choose a full-sun location with good air circulation.

  • Plant in well-drained soil. Improve drainage by amending with a two- to three-inch layer of compost.

  • Plant deep; remove bottom leaves and bury the notch where the leaf was attached. New roots will come from this point and make for a stronger plant.

  • Mulch to conserve moisture and nutrients and to keep the soil evenly moist and the soil’s beneficial bacterial thriving.

  • Water when the first three-to-four inches of soil has dried. This usually means watering every day, then every other day, when the plant is newly transplanted and then easing off until you water just once a week.  Overwatering leads to watery fruit and disease.

  • Feed with organic tomato food. Good NPK ratios are 5-10-10; 5-16-12 (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium).  Low nitrogen is important, because excessive nitrogen will lead to lush plants and no fruit.  Good choices contain micronutrients.

  • Tomatoes require pH** between 6.5 to 6.8. Do a soil test if you’re having low yields.

  • Provide adequate growing room, four-to-five feet apart in tomato cages.

  • Choose small to medium-sized tomatoes to grow in containers. Cherry tomatoes do especially well in pots.  Provide a soil that is water-retaining; yet drains well.

Hardening Off Tomatoes

  • Place tomatoes outside all day in a location that receives dappled sunlight or morning sun and afternoon shade until one hour after dark, then bring in for the nights.

  • Leave them out for two hours the next night after dark; the following night, three hours after dark; and so on.

  • Continue for four to six nights until you leave them out all night.  When you do, put them in a location near the house.  After four to five days of being outdoors at night, you can plant them.