Environment

Maximizing Tomato Yields

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Perhaps growing tomatoes is popular because it's easy and they don't require a lot of space. Tomatoes can be grown in the ground as well as in containers. Healthy seedlings planted in well-drained soil in a sunny spot can often survive even through neglect; however, results can be erratic when basic maintenance is disregarded. Here are just a few ways to maximize your tomato yield.

One simple way to increase a tomato yield is to set up supports, preferably at the same time as you transplant your seedlings. Supporting tomato plants not only helps save space and keeps order in the garden, but also facilitates weeding and harvesting Supports also mean less spoiled fruit. Types of supports available for tomatoes include wooden poles, metal spirals, cages and trellises and this need not merely are functional; they can also serve as decorative elements for the garden. As an example, cherry tomatoes supported by a columnar frame can become a focal point in a garden. Some types of supports will also require the use of ties to support the stems. When tying stems to supports, loosely tie soft materials (such as cotton lacing or nylon) in a figure 8 to leave ample room for plants to grow and to prevent bruising the stems.

Pinching suckers can improve tomato size and quality, as well as hasten ripening, but usually at the expense of quantity. Pinching side shoots when they are small will concentrate food energy on fruit development rather than on leaves. Pruning some of the lower leaves when the lower fruit begins to ripen can improve air circulation and let more light in to help ripen the fruit. On the other hand, if too much foliage is removed, tomatoes will not have adequate protection from the sun and they will not likely reach their maximum size. The key here is to prune with caution and moderation.

Since poor soil conditions and pests will affect yield, it is a good idea to inspect your plants on a regular basis. Early detection of problems gives you time to fix them. Rotting on the bottom of tomatoes, or blossom-end rot, for example, lets you know that your plants are suffering from a calcium deficiency. Such factors as irregular watering, root damage, drought and excessive soil salts are frequent culprits. Adequate mulch around plants and the use of fertilizers low in nitrogen are just two ways to avert calcium deficiencies in tomatoes. While good weeding practices help to keep problems at bay during the early stages of growth, mulch maintains moisture levels as well as keeping weeds under control during the later stages of growth. To improve soil conditions, fertilize regularly and add compost or peat moss to your tomato bed. Manure is not recommended since it contains high levels of nitrogen, which produces more foliage than fruit.

Watering patterns also affect tomato yields. Irregular watering may cause such problems as blossom-end rot, cracked skins and loss of a plant altogether. While setting up an irrigation system will ensure tomatoes get plenty of water, the use of mulch, water timers and gadgets that promote deep-root watering are all lower-cost alternatives to make sure tomato plants never suffer from a lack of moisture.

A little extra fussing with supporting, pruning, feeding and watering will go a long way to obtaining a better tomato harvest.