Growing Healthy Tomato Plants: Care and Feeding

Now that you've gotten your tomato plants successfully transplanted into your garden, it's time to think about the proper techniques for watering and caring for them. It's important to know that tomato plants care about how they are fed, watered, and cared for, so it is really important to make sure you do it right. Following a few simple rules will go a long way in keeping your tomato garden growing healthy, and producing baskets full of ripe, delicious tomatoes.
The first aspect of tomato plant care that I'll be discussing is proper watering techniques. Even though tomatoes are a forgiving crop, and are relatively simple to grow, you still want to make sure you are using the proper method of watering them. The first question to answer is how often should you be watering your plants? One important thing to remember is to not over-water the plants, so somewhere around two waterings per weed should be about right, especially earlier in the season. Once summer heats up however, you should consider additional watering due to the extra evaporation from the heat. Make sure your soil is moist about an inch deep, and that should be a good indicator of when you'll need to water again.
Now that we've answered the question of "how often," we need to make sure we are watering the plants properly. Believe it or not, you shouldn't be watering the entire plant. Many generations of experience in tomato plant care have established that the roots are what really need the water, not the plant foliage. By keeping the leaves and stems dry, you are decreasing the chances of fungal diseases infecting your plants. For the best results, a drip watering system is the recommended way to keep your plants nourished. A small soaker hose, running on a low setting, is one popular way of regulating the amount of water getting to the soil. Some gardeners even purchase watering systems that run on a timer that you can pre-program and it takes care of itself. I also recommend watering earlier in the day so the sun doesn't evaporate the water before it gets a chance to soak into the soil and down to the roots.
I have many people ask me if they need to prune their tomato plants. It can be a bit of a chore, and lots of busy folds don't have the extra time to spend pruning tomato plants. If you are growing indeterminate plants, you should take the time and periodically prune them. If you do, you will get more tomatoes from your plants. The new shoots growing out of the plant "steal" energy from your plant that could be used growing more tomatoes.
Pruning tomato plants is not difficult. Just make sure you are using a clean pair of garden shears, so you don't risk infecting your garden. What you'll be looking for, are the little shoots that will grow in the crotches of the plant. This is the space where newer branches are starting to grow out of the tomato plant stem. Smaller shoots are easily removable by just pinching them off, but once they grow thicker, you'll need to use the shears. You should keep up with your pruning as much as you can, but if you don't it won't harm your tomato plants, only decrease the number of tomatoes you'll see on the vines.
Remember, your tomato plants care how they are fed, watered, and maintained. If you follow these simple rules, you'll find that your plants are thriving and producing an abundant tomato crop. Keep them watered, but don't over-do it, and try to stay on top of the pruning too, as you'll benefit from having more tomatoes to pick and enjoy.

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