Three Tips for Healthy Tomatoes

The late-spring months of May and June provide ideal temperatures and conditions for planting tomatoes in Central Iowa. Whether you’ve grown food in your garden for decades, or if this season is your first attempt at growing your own crops, tomatoes are a great place to start. These easy-to-grow plants will reward you with a plentiful harvest if you maintain them carefully.

Before you get started, read these three tips from Production Horticulturist Kim James to help you grow juicy, plump tomatoes.

1. Plant deep.

Tomato plants have the ability to produce roots along the entire stem, and more roots make for a healthier, more stable plant. For the best results, remove the lower leaves and plant the root ball two to three inches deeper than the current pot level.

2. If needed, plant sideways.

If your tomato plant is exceptionally tall, it’s best to plant on its side. You’ll first need to dig a trench, lay the plant sideways and then cover the root ball and lower stem with soil. Make sure you leave part of the stem uncovered so the plant will turn upward and begin to grow toward the light.

3. Remove leaves.

As your tomato plant grows, it’s important to continuously remove leaves and stems between the base up to 12 inches from the soil. Keeping leaves this far above the soil reduces the risk of soil-borne disease. Adding mulch at the plant’s base can also help prevent disease.

Careful, these tips do not apply to all other plants, like peppers or eggplants. Use these tips when planting and maintaining tomatoes in your garden to get the most out of your harvest this season.

Interested in growing crops in containers? Check out this Container Gardening Guide from Botanical Garden volunteer and Master Gardener Megan Will.