Tomatoes: Ten Tricks for Growing Better Tomatoes
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable. People grow tomatoes to obtain good taste,
save money and enjoy gardening. Some even enter contests and take pride in a bumper crop.
Here are some ideas to help grow the best tomatoes you can.
1. Choose the sunniest site available. Tomatoes require lots of light, so full sun (at least 6 to
8 hrs or direct sunlight) is important. You can grow them in partial sun, but yields and flavor will
not be as good.
2. Build good soil. Add compost and other sources of organic matter. This is the key to soil
quality. Organic matter supplies nutrients, increases moisture holding capacity, improves tilth,
encourages diversity of soil life and can reduce plant disease. Compost makes a good mulch for
3. Use a balanced fertilizer program. First of all, organic matter can supply much, and
sometimes all, of the nutrient needs of tomatoes. Don=t over fertilize. Tomatoes are relatively
heavy feeders, but excess fertility can reduce yield and cause other problems such as blossom
end rot. Look at your plants. Leaves should be green without any hint of yellowing, but a very
dark and almost bluish green color indicates excess nitrogen. For good yield and fruit quality,
tomatoes need an ample supply of potassium (potash) which can be supplied with fertilizer,
wood ashes and organic matter.
4. Maintain proper soil pH. This is important for optimum nutrient availability and health of
many beneficial soil organisms. Lime is used to raise soil pH (reduce acidity). It also supplies
calcium and magnesium. However, most limestone sold in Massachusetts is dolomite, which is
high in magnesium. Repeated use of dolomitic lime, results in soils with high in magnesium but
low in calcium. If you can find calcite lime, use it about every other time you apply lime. Another
way to supply calcium is to use gypsum in addition to dolomitic lime.
5. The only way to be sure of what your garden needs for nutrients and pH is to have your soil
tested every two or three years. The idea is to maintain nutrients at high (optimum) levels;
potassium and calcium should be at the upper end of this range. If you just add fertilizer or other
amendment, you may end up with nutrient excesses or imbalances. You can have a complete
soil test done at the UMass Soil testing Lab; information on costs and how to take a sample are
available online at http://www.umass.edu/soiltest. Recommendations for lime and fertilizer will
be provided for the crops you list.