Few things are more discouraging than spending months weeding, mulching, watering and fertilizing your garden, only to end up with some measly little fruits and vegetables which aren’t even enough for a salad. If you’re going to grow big tomatoes, you’ll need to follow these tips to optimize next year’s harvest.
Get the right type
You’re not going to get giant red monsters from a grape tomato plant. Make sure you select a sliver or beefsteak variety of tomato, like Giant Belgium, Brandywine, Hillbilly, or Italian Beefsteak. These will continue growing and producing fruit all season long. Ask local gardeners which varieties of tomato plants work best in your area. When you purchase a started plant, make sure it has large, strong roots, and don’t just look good above the dirt.
Plant deep and early
You’ll want to get your crop into the soil as early as possible to maximize the amount of time it has to grow. Once winter concludes, toughen your plants up by gradually exposing them to the elements for two weeks — unless they’re already acclimated. Warm the soil with black or clear plastic and cover the plants during any late frosts.
As you dig your hole, bury half of your plant under the ground, trimming any lower leaves and leaving the healthy young leaves exposed. A buried stem will sprout even more roots. As the plant grows, remove the bottom leaves which are likely to develop fungal infections.
Give them room and nutrients
When you plant your tomatoes, make sure their roots have plenty of space to expand. Select a bright spot with fresh air and plenty of sun exposure. If you’re growing from seed, expose them to 14-16 hours of direct light, even if it’s artificial. The soil should be clean and nutrient-rich with lots of organic components (avoiding clay-filled or rocky dirt).
Fertilize the ground with potassium, phosphorus, and calcium rather than excessive amounts of nitrogen — a fish emulsion fertilizer works great. Then follow it up with compost. Water each plant once per week, soaking the soil directly rather than the stem or leaves. Rotate your crop around the garden every year to avoid diseases and keep soil balanced.
Give your plant support
If you want your tomatoes to grow large, you’d better be prepared to support the weight. Hook your tomato plant up to a six-foot cage, trellis, or heavy stake when you first plant it, then as your giant tomatoes begin developing, support each branch with its own sock/nylon to support the weight.
Keep it trimmed
Healthy tomato plants need lots of attention. As it grows, remove all but one or two flowers from each cluster, leaving the biggest ones. Remove most all of the young blooms at the top of the plant to let the older fruits at the bottom continue to thrive. Remove the fruit that develops furthest from the stem.
Trim non-fruiting sprouts (often called suckers or runts) that form between branches and the main stem. They sap energy from the plant without producing anything.
Halfway through the summer, harvest most of your tomatoes but leave the biggest, healthiest ones to continue growing. As fall approaches, keep an eye on your prized fruits, and once they appear to plateau in size and reach a rich red color, take them inside with you.
By following these steps, you are sure to grow a bountiful garden and really be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.