Now I don’t wanna offend anyone, but sometimes us gardeners get a little competitive …. or maybe it’s just me. There is just something about being first. The first one to grow kiwis successfully, the first one to bring fresh raspberries around to the neighborhood, the first one of the summer to have jalepenos to sell at the farmer’s market. Then casually being like
“Oh really? Yours aren’t on yet? That’s weird. I must have got lucky.”
All the while remembering the hours of extra care you gave to MAKE SURE those sweet little plants were given the royal treatment.
Now I don’t do this with all my plants, but occasionally I am willing to go above and beyond to make sure I have the first fruits of the season. Tomatoes are THAT CROP. They are the one thing that I baby the most, year after year, in hopes of having the biggest, best, and EARLIEST tomatoes around.
So since I know you don’t want to listen to me ramble on all day about how much I LOVE tomatoes, I will just get right to it and tell you…
- Start your own seeds, not 8 weeks early like the packet says, but 10 weeks early (that’s February 28 where I live). Put them in a big container, not one of those little ones that will need transplanting in three weeks. Every time you have to transplant it, it will stop growing for a few days to get used to it’s new home. Now don’t stop reading here if you didn’t start your own seeds, there is still hope for you ….
- Water your seedlings with warm water while they are in your house/greenhouse/wherever you start your plants. Tomatoes LOVE to be warm. Make sure their first home is toasty and cozy.
- About 3 weeks before your getting ready to plant (April 17) start setting your plants outside during the day, but only on warm ones with very little wind. DO NOT forget your plants! If you leave them out over night, they may all be dead in the morning.
- Find out when your last frost date is (ours is May 8) and watch the weather like a hawk. This part is crucial, and a bit of a gamble. Ideally, you want to plant your starts 1 week early (May 1) but you have to be SUPER careful and sometimes you just don’t get the ideal. So what your looking for is excellent weather. If on May 1 you look at the weather and the next week is warm with not a lot of wind, then it’s time to get those babies in the ground! As a general rule, don’t plant them a week early unless every night in the 10 day forecast is above 40 degrees. If it’s down in the 30’s, then just wait a day or two and see what the weather says then. When the weather is right, plant them.
- Now for the planting part. You need to start your plants off right, with the best chance of snapping out of their “transplant shock” quickly so they can start growing faster then everyone else’s of course! Dig your hole, and put some compost in the bottom. When you plant tomatoes, you set them deep and cover the entire bottom half of the plant with dirt. This lets the plant set more roots allowing it to get out of it’s funk sooner and start growing. Create a little “mote” around your plant to catch the water, sprinkle a little more compost around the base, and then SOAK it with WARM water. Again, tomatoes love being warm! Imagine if you moved to a new town and the first people you met tossed a bucket of ice water on you. Are you liking your new home? Now imagine the first people you meet invite you in, give you delicious food, and offer you a warm bubble bath …. Ya that’s better right?!?!
- After you have your baby plant all cozy warm and tucked in bed, set up a drip system or soaker hose to water them, NOT a sprinkler! Tomatoes hate getting sprayed. They need deep watering once a week. Learn more about that HERE.[wp_ad_camp_2]
- The same day that you plant them, you must cage them. You need a cage around them for several reasons. They need to stand up to grow properly, not on the ground. You can keep them weeded a whole lot easier. And you can baby them their first two-three weeks. On the same day that you plant your tomatoes, your going to create a mini greenhouse for them. This will protect them from the wind, and keep them warmer, and happier! Wrapping clear plastic food wrap around your cage works perfectly. And take it from me …. having TWO people around for this job makes it exactly 975 times easier! Leave your mini greenhouse there for three weeks.
- The other thing your going to do for the first three weeks is tuck your little plants in EVERY SINGLE NIGHT with a sleeping bag. I don’t care if it’s not cold, just do it! And tell them you love them! Kisses are helpful too.
- After your three weeks is up, just check the weather and make sure it’s not abnormally cold or windy. Then you can quit tucking them in and cut off their greenhouse. Make sure to keep watering them once a week, VERY deep, at the roots.
- Last one! When your plants have been happily growing for awhile, and they have a whole bunch of big green tomatoes on them, and your wondering what’s taking them so long to turn red (or whatever color of tomatoes that you planted) it’s time to do one last thing. You need to let your tomatoes know it’s time to start paying their rent by turning off their utilities. It makes them uncomfortable and they freak out a little bit and turn red, Yay! Just don’t water them for an extra day or two (that would be 8 or 9 days instead of 7) and only if the weather is nice, don’t do this if it’s 110 degrees.
Now you don’t have to do every single one of these things, each one will help on their own. But if you do, nine times out of ten, you will be the first one picking juicy ripe tomatoes anywhere around, unless of course a tornado touches down only on your garden. In that case, you will be the very last one harvesting tomatoes ….
One last thing… If you are serious about your tomatoes, you need to know this. Tomatofest.com has the largest and most impressive selection of organic and heirloom tomatoes I have ever seen. They have over 600 beautiful, unique, and rare varieties of all different colors, sizes, shapes, and flavors. In fact, this year I am trying out a blue tomato for the first time. Yes, blue! You can’t believe some of the stuff they have until you see it with your own eyes. CLICK HERE to visit this incredible organic and heirloom tomato seed supplier that is run by a couple who harvest their own seeds. If you aren’t buying your seeds through these guys, you are truly missing out on some great tomatoes.
Now all that’s left to do is click here and read the 3 things that you need to know about growing tomatoes that nobody ever tells you, and you will have the biggest, most beautiful, and early tomatoes you have ever had.