tomato-cages-1Q.  Should I support my plants with something such as stakes or cages?

A.  Determinate plants often don’t need support.  Indeterminate plants need to be supported in some manner to keep the leaves and fruit off the ground to allow for good air circulation and help with disease control.

Q.  What’s the best way to water my tomato plants?

A.  It’s always better to directly water the soil around the plants and not spray water on the plants.  Wet foliage promotes diseases. Consistency is the key. Water with same amounts around the same time of the day.  Never let the plants dry out to the point of wilting.

Q.  What does “hardening-off” mean?

A.  Better transplanting success is achieved by gradually introducing plants to the planting site.  Leave plants outside a few hours the first day, gradually increase the time outside over a couple more days, leave out for 24 hours, and then plant.

pruning-tomatoes-1Q.  Should I prune my plants during the season?

A.  Pruning off the suckers that grow out from the stem just above a leaf branch will contain the size of the plant and help produce larger fruit.  Determinate varieties do not need pruning.  It is also best not to prune in hotter summer areas to help prevent sunscald.

Q.  Should I mulch my plants?

A.  Mulching helps maintain an even soil moisture which is ideal for tomato plants.  Tomatoes do poorly when subjected to wet/dry swings, which promote slow growth and blossom end rot.

Q.  What is blossom end rot?

A.  Blossom end rot is when a big black spot develops on the bottom end of the fruit.  It grows slowly and eventually destroys the fruit.  It is caused by a lack of calcium uptake resulting from uneven watering.

Q.  I have white blotches on my fruit.  What is this?

A.  This is sunscald, which is a result of too much sun.  The plants need thicker foliage to shade the fruit.

Q.  How often should I fertilize my tomato plants?

A.  It is ideal to fertilize once a week with a balanced fertilizer and every other week apply a dose of Great Big Tomatoes Natural Compost Extract.  Near the end of the season, stop fertilizing and decrease watering to slow growth and promote ripening of the fruit.

tomato-horn-wormQ.  I have giant green caterpillars eating my plants.  What are they and what do I do?

A.  These are tomato hornworms and will defoliate a plant very quickly.  Hand pick them off and spray on a solution containing BT (bacillus thuringiensis.)

Q.  My plants are being attacked by aphids and whiteflies.  What do I do?

A.  Spray with a very dilute “Dawn” dish detergent soap solution. It is also helpful to hang yellow sticky traps on the plants to catch the whiteflies.

tomatoesblossomQ.  Do I need to do anything to help pollinate my tomato plants?

A.  The tomato blossom is what is called a “perfect” flower with both male and female parts and is wind-pollinated.  To encourage pollination (especially if growing in a greenhouse) gently shake the plants or snap the blossoms with your finger.

Contributed by Jim Mast