How To Support Growing Tomatoes?

Tomato plants grown from seeds are among the most popular vegetables to grow at home in your own garden however, many people struggle to get the very best out of these plants because they can be a little bit tricky to maintain. So how do you support the growth of tomatoes to maximize your yield?

The trick to supporting the growth of tomatoes is to ensure that there are adequate nutrients in the soil, a sturdy support system to tie the tomatoes to, and an active pruning regime to encourage the plant to focus on the production of fruit rather than foliage. Now let’s look at each one of these key points.

Preparing Soil for Planting Tomatoes

Preparing and maintaining soil for Tomatoes is a relatively straightforward process, however many commercial suppliers are fertilizers tend to over-complicate this process. An important step is to first clear your garden bed of any weeds to ensure that there is nothing to compete with the tomatoes in the soil.

In terms of adding things like fertilizers the most commonly used product is palletized manure which can be mixed through the soil readily, however, I personally recommend using compost as this will have adequate nutrition to support the growth of the tomatoes.

The primary advantage of the noted method is that it is less work for a couple of reasons.

1.         There is no digging involved to mix the compost through the soil

2.         A single application of the compost is sufficient to supply enough nutrients to last the entire season

3.         The use of compost as a mulch is significantly easier to maintain than using various types of straw.

The reason that the garden bed is easier to maintain when using compost as a mulch is because a Dutch hoe can easily be run lightly through the surface of the garden bed to remove weeds when they are tiny. This method only takes a matter of a few minutes making it much easier to maintain your garden bed and keep it weed-free.

Installing Support Structures For Tomatoes To Maximize Yield

To ensure that the quick growing tomatoes are easy to maintain during the growing season it is essential to have a support structure to keep the plant upright which makes it easier to pick the fruit. Many of the commercially available structures designed for specifically for growing tomatoes are generally to short to support the growth of the tomato which can reach up to 8 to 10 ft in height if it is an indeterminate variety.

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The most commonly used supporting techniques:

  • chicken wire structure between posts
  • garden trellis or panels
  • A-frame which will support wires or twine
  • a stake/cane by every single plant
  • a cage which surrounds the whole plant

Indeterminate varieties are tomato plants that grow in a vine-like fashion and get extremely tall.  However, the advantage of these varieties is they grow throughout the season producing flowers and fruit over several months which is ideal for most home gardeners.

Determinate varieties, on the other hand, are ones that are sometimes referred to as bush tomatoes. These plants typically only reach a height of 3 to 4 feet sometimes a little taller. Once the plants reach their maximum height, they produce all their flowers and fruit at once which means that you get a glut of tomatoes over a short period of time. This is more suitable for those people that are making tomato sauces or relishes with the tomatoes.

Panel structure

In terms of providing support structures for tomatoes the best materials are panels of temporary fencing, if you can find them, or sheets of chickenwire which can be purchased at most garden centres.

The advantage of these structures is that they are extremely tall and very easy to erect as you simply need to put a couple of sturdy stakes in the ground and tie the structures to them. They are also extremely long-lasting which means a one-off purchase of these materials will last years.

Trellis

With trellis is the easiest to support a row of tomato plants, just support the trellis at both end with a pole or you can lay the panel against your fence. And plant the tomatoes in a row by the trellis panel, you will have to trian the plants as they grow and tie them to the trellis.

There are endless different option, you can buy many in the garden centre, or you can simply build your own from bamboo canes, pallets, thicker willow branches.

A-frame

The other method that is frequently used is to build a frame that has strings hanging down to the ground which the tomatoes can be wrapped around as they increase in height. This method works well because you do not have to use twine to tie the tomatoes in, you simply wind the vine around the tomatoes as they increase in height.

See also  Planting out tomatoes

The disadvantage of this method is that you can only allow a single stem to grow, however, many people prefer doing that rather than having multiple stems growing.

If you are going to implement this method, you need to place the strings in the ground below the seedlings at the point at which the seedling is placed into the ground.

Cane

Stick a bamboo cane or anything you have lying around by every single plant. You can have brunches of tree saved, if you did prune a tree recently, that is the best and cheapest option, as bamboo and other shop bought support can get broken and rotten over just a few short years. And you will of course also tie the plants against the stake.

Tomato cage

This can look very pretty, but most of the time it has to be bought in the garden centre, and it is the most expensive option. The advantage of such a structure id that you don’t have to tie the plants against it, in theory but sometimes you might, as the cage will support the growing plants throughout the season. You need one cage per plant and they are not cheap, the best is if you only have a few plants each your and you would want less work with them, as they can sit pretty on your patio.

Pruning Tomato Plants Throughout The Season To Maximise Yield

To get the maximum yield from your tomatoes one of the most important jobs is to ensure that you regularly prune and maintain the foliage of the plant to ensure that it remains focused on the production of fruit rather than foliage, also regular watering of the plants a must especially during the hot summer.

To do this is important to pinch out any side shoots that form on a regular basis, at least every 2 weeks or so. For the uninitiated, side shoots are the shoots at appear at a 45-degree angle between the main stem and leaves. Pinching them out with your thumb is a very straightforward and quick job to do and for most plants early and will take less than a minute to do.

However, it is important to note that if this job is not done regularly the plants can quickly become a tangled mess once they become established and the weather starts to warm up. Therefore it is really important to make sure that this is done on a regular basis to avoid having a lot more work later on. 

See also  Tomatoes: Removing Side Shoots or Not

In addition to pinching outside shoots it is also important to regularly remove the lower yellowing leafs and tie in your plant to the support structure as tomato plants will not remain upright without the support structure. To do this it is best to use soft twine that will not damage the stem of the plant if there is movement in high winds.

What to do at the end of the season to maximise yield?

As the end of the growing season approaches it is advisable to remove the top of the plant approximately 4 weeks before the first frost of the season. The primary reason for doing this is because this will encourage the plant to focus on ripening fruits that already has as any new fruits that develops at this point of the year are unlikely to produce a viable fruit.

Additionally, it is also advisable to remove any very small fruits already on the plant as this will affect the ability of other fruit on the plant to ripen. Typically, those fruits that will not ripen are usually approximately the size of a marble of small, if you are producing regular tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes.

When the first frost finally arrives then this is the point at which you should be bringing inside any remaining Green Tomatoes. Green tomatoes can still be ripened by placing them inside on a sunny windowsill or alternatively placing them next to a ripe banana which will produce ethylene causing the fruit to ripen.

black krim tomato

How much fruit can you expect to get per plant and how to get more.

Typically, amount of fruit that you will get per plant is anywhere between 10 and 20 lbs in most cases. Tomato are heating loving plants that take a while to get going. To increase the period of time that the plants are exposed to high temperatures it is best to start the plant seeds around 4 weeks before the last frost in warm  conditions. When seedlings reach a height of approximately 2 to 4 inch they are ready to plant out into the garden.

To maximise the heat that the plants are exposed to early in the season when it is still relatively cold is recommended that you put a cloche on the plants up until mid to late spring. This will allow the plant to get to get going quickly and provide a greater opportunity for the production of fruits and flowers.

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