When it’s finally time to plant tomatoes, it’s time for some deep thinking. You’re in for a “root” awakening.
Sure some thought needs to be given to the variety you want to plant. You need to consider if you want an indeterminate (best planted in the ground) or determinate (best planted in containers) variety. Indeterminate tomatoes need good spacing and staking because they will continue to grow, limited only by the length of the season. Determinate tomatoes are “wired” to have a determined number of stems, leaves and flowers and are limited by a terminal bud. There is limited vegetative growth making them a good choice for containers. When I say it’s time for deep thinking however, I’m referring to digging deep and deep planting when we first put them in the ground. When you look at the stem of a tomato plant it looks hairy. If you pick off some of the branches along the stem and plant the tomato deeper than the soil level in the container you bought it in, you will be giving yourself a big advantage. One of the keys to having lots of good tomatoes is to provide the plant with adequate moisture all season long. Young plants that are planted with roots close to the surface need to be watered often. As plants mature, the original pattern continues and shallow watering = shallow rooting. This makes the available water in the soil fluctuate between dry and wet resulting in poor fruit production. The fruit will tend to be undersized and blemished. Just like any other plant, the water schedule should be contingent on weather conditions. Deep planting tomatoes and the subsequent deeper root system makes moisture more consistent making it easier on you and easier on the plant. As with any plant, the goal is moist but well drained soil.
Remember a deeply rooted plant has more margin for error than a shallow rooted plant.
Finally make sure to feed your tomato plants right from the start. I like Tomato Tone because it has the major and minor nutrients along with beneficial organics for good rooting. It also has Calcium which can be found readily in most Michigan soils, but the addition of some calcium is important for good cell wall development of the tomatoes resulting in perfect tomatoes for a BLT on a hot summer day!