Looking to get a head start on your tomato harvest? Most gardeners are eager to harvest their first tomatoes of the season. Ripe tomatoes usually mean that harvest season is in full swing or about to take off, which is an exciting time of the year.
Here are seven tips to help speed up your tomatoes’ growth and prepare them for picking sooner!
1. Start by planting your tomatoes in soil that is rich in nutrients
One mistake that many beginner gardeners make is neglecting the importance of soil quality when planting tomatoes. Sure, you can use any old dirt from your backyard, but without the proper nutrients, your tomato plants will struggle to thrive.
Luckily, you can take a few easy steps to ensure your soil is nutrient-rich and ready for tomato planting:
- Consider using a premium potting mix or compost to give your plants an extra boost. Regularly adding organic matter, such as mulch or compost, during the growing season can also help improve soil health.
- Prepare your tomato planting holes well with any soil amendments, like bone meal, kelp meal, and finely crushed eggshell.
- Rotate your crop annually to prevent depletion of certain nutrients and reduce the chance of disease in your plants.
Taking some time to properly prepare your soil may require an initial investment of effort, but it will pay off with luscious tomato harvests throughout the growing season.
2. Feed your tomatoes with a balanced fertilizer up to once a week
A balanced fertilizer applied once a week can do wonders for their growth. Tomatoes require a specific ratio of nutrients in order to thrive, and using a balanced fertilizer ensures that they have access to all the necessary ingredients for maximum health and productivity.
This simple step can lead to bigger, juicier fruits that ripen faster and taste better than those left to fend for themselves without the added boost of fertilizer.
A tomato and vegetable fertilizer will provide the boost you’re looking for with tomato plants. An organic option, like fish emulsion fertilizer, is another way to get your plants the nutrients they need to thrive.
3. Harden them off
For avid gardeners, there’s nothing quite as exciting as seeing those little tomato seedlings poking out of the soil. But before planting them directly in their final spot, it’s important to properly harden off your plants. This process gradually acclimates them to changes in temperature and sunlight levels, helping to ensure their success once they are planted outside.
To harden off tomato seedlings, begin by placing them outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time they spend outside over the course of about a week. Make sure to protect them from harsh elements like wind or heavy rain, and bring them back inside at night.
It’s also important to monitor their water and nutrient levels during this time, as they may need slightly more or less than usual during the transitioning period.
4. Plant your tomatoes deep
Did you know that planting your tomatoes deep can grow bigger, healthier plants and get a faster harvest? That’s because the tomato plant has the ability to produce roots all along its stem.
When you bury the stem up to its first set of leaves, those buried sections will begin to develop their own root system, giving the plant extra support and access to more nutrients. And with a stronger foundation, the plant will also be able to grow taller and produce even more delicious tomatoes.
As for how deep to plant your tomatoes, it’s best to bury at least half of the stem as long as it doesn’t cover any of the leaves.
To do it properly, just hold the tomato plant gently in one hand and use your other hand or a small shovel to dig a hole deep enough for the entire buried part of the stem. Then place the plant in the hole and carefully fill it around it with soil, making sure not to press down too hard.
5. Amend the soil with compost to give them a boost
If you want to boost your tomato plants, amending the soil with compost is one of the best things you can do. Compost adds vital nutrients and organic matter to the soil, improving its structure and promoting healthy plant growth.
But how well-rotted should your compost be before using it in the garden? Generally, it’s best to wait until it has reached a dark, crumbly texture and no recognizable chunks or pieces remain.
As for timing, applying compost in the fall or early spring is recommended, giving it time to break down before planting season. Adding compost to your garden beds is a great gardening task to add to your to-do list in late fall, winter, or early spring when the garden isn’t as busy. This will give your compost some time to break down further so that your tomato plants can take advantage of its nutrients.
6. Warm the soil before planting tomatoes
Have you ever wished for a longer gardening season? Instead of waiting for the arrival of 24/7 warm weather, why not warm up your soil before planting tomatoes? This simple trick can give your plants a headstart and potentially increase your harvest.
Before adding seeds or seedlings, cover the soil with black plastic sheets and anchor them down with stones or stakes. Keep the plastic in place for several weeks to allow the sun’s rays to heat up the soil.
When it’s time to plant, remove the plastic and enjoy the fruits of your labor earlier in the season. Keep an eye on moisture levels, as warm soil can dry out more quickly than cold soil.
By warming up your tomato patch, you can extend your growing season and potentially have a larger bounty come harvest time.
7. Water your plants regularly and deeply
Have you ever let your plants go a little too long without water, only to come back and find them wilting and droopy? We’ve all been there, but what many of us don’t realize is that consistently under-watering our plants can have disastrous consequences in the long run.
When soil becomes too dry, it’s difficult for roots to access water and vital nutrients. This can lead to stunted growth and a weaker harvest.
On the other hand, regularly providing sufficient water allows roots to spread deeply into the soil, creating a strong foundation for future growth. Next time you water your plants, make sure to give them a good drink – not just a light spritz on the surface – for optimal health and harvest.
Watering your plants deeply means that you can water them less frequently and avoid stunting your plants early in their life.
8. Support the plants as they grow
Providing structural support, such as cages or stakes, promotes upright growth and allows the plant to direct energy toward fruit production. Not only does this result in a bigger harvest, but it can also increase the quality of the tomatoes. When the plant is allowed to sprawl on the ground, fruits can rot or be damaged by pests.
So what kind of trellis should you use for your tomato plants? Traditional options include wooden or metal stakes, cages, or even simple strings attached to a sturdy frame. But don’t limit yourself to those options – shrub branches, wire fencing, and old ladder rungs can also work.
Any type of support that offers individual stems enough room to grow is worth considering. If trellising isn’t possible, try alternative methods such as tying plants to stakes or interplanting with taller vegetables like corn.
However you choose to support your tomato plants, remember to carefully monitor their growth and provide any additional assistance before the weight of the fruits becomes too much for the structure to handle.
9. Use proper spacing between tomato plants
Tomato plants are notorious for their voracious growth and sprawling habit. That being said, crowding them together in the garden can have some negative consequences. When planted too close together, tomato plants can compete for sunlight, water, and nutrients, leading to smaller and less flavorful fruits.
As a general rule, I’d recommend keeping 12-18 inches between tomato plants. From there, you can start to experiment with spacing and what works for your garden.
Crowded tomato plants are more susceptible to disease and pests. One way to combat these issues is to plant tomatoes with proper spacing between them. This allows each plant enough room to spread its leaves and roots without competing with its neighbors. Better spacing also makes harvesting easier since there will be fewer tangled vines to navigate through. By taking the time to properly space out your tomato plants, you can ensure a faster and more abundant harvest of delicious fruits.
Tomato plants are susceptible to diseases that can spread easily when the plants don’t have enough airflow between them. Spreading out your plants slows the spread of fungal and viral diseases between specimens, allowing you more time to mitigate the damage if an outbreak occurs.
10. Retain moisture by using mulch
Have you ever watered your plants only to come back a few hours later and find the soil dry and crusty? This is a common problem faced by gardeners, but there is a solution: mulch.
By laying a layer of mulch around your tomato plants, you can help retain moisture in the soil and reduce evaporation. This not only saves you time and energy on constantly watering, but it also benefits the health of your plants.
Deeper root systems are able to develop when the soil stays moist, leading to stronger and healthier tomatoes. In addition, mulch helps control weed growth and regulate the soil temperature.
11. Try raised bed or container gardening
The soil in these types of gardens warms up faster than in traditional in-ground gardens, meaning that you may be able to plant your tomato seedlings earlier in the spring. Plus, container gardens offer the added benefit of being easier to control and maintain.
Do keep in mind that containers require more frequent watering – check on the moisture levels regularly, especially during hot summer days. With a little extra attention and effort, raised beds and containers could give your tomato harvest a well-deserved boost.
12. Prune suckers
If you’re a tomato lover, you may have noticed small shoots or “suckers” growing in the crooks of your tomato plant’s stem. These suckers can often be easily plucked off, but leaving them on can negatively affect the plant.
Removing them allows for better air circulation and sunlight exposure throughout the plant, helping it to grow stronger and faster. In addition, removing suckers helps the plant focus its energy on producing fruit rather than foliage. Pruning also promotes stronger root growth, resulting in larger and tastier tomatoes.
So next time you notice a sucker on your tomato plant, don’t hesitate to give it a quick pinch (and maybe add it to your compost pile)!
13. Pick off any flowers that appear on the plant early in their life
When it comes to growing healthy plants, timing is everything. Removing flowers before they bloom may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a crucial step in encouraging strong growth for many plants.
By picking off the flowers early on, you redirect the plant’s energy towards developing a strong root system and sturdy stem instead of using up resources on producing fruit or seeds. This can produce a more vigorous and resilient plant once it’s transplanted outdoors or reaches maturity.
FAQ about how to speed up tomato plant growth
How can I speed up my tomato plant growth?
You can do several things to speed up the growth of your tomato plants, including planting in well-drained soil, giving them plenty of sunlight, and adding a layer of mulch around the base of the plant. You can also try doing some early pruning to encourage strong root growth, and make sure to pick off any flowers that appear early on.
What makes tomato seeds grow faster?
A few things can help tomato seeds germinate and grow faster, including using fresh, high-quality seeds, planting in warm soil, and keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged. You can also try using a heat mat to provide bottom heat, which can speed up germination.
What increases tomato production?
There are a number of things that can help increase tomato production, such as planting in well-drained soil, giving them plenty of sunlight, and adding a layer of mulch around the base of the plant. You can also try doing some early pruning to encourage strong root growth, and make sure to pick off any flowers that appear early.
Why are my tomatoes taking so long?
There are a number of reasons why tomatoes might take longer to mature, including planting in cool or wet soil, inadequate sunlight, or too much nitrogen in the soil. You can also try adding a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help keep the soil warm and moist and make sure to pick off any flowers that appear early.
What does Epsom salt do for tomatoes?
Epsom salt is a good source of magnesium, which is an essential nutrient for plants. It can help promote strong growth and increase fruit production. You can add Epsom salt to the soil around your tomato plants or make a solution to spray on the leaves. One thing to note is that Epsom salt can damage your plants if the extra magnesium is not needed, so test your soil before adding it.
Does removing leaves help tomatoes ripen?
Removing extra leafy growth can help tomatoes ripen by increasing air circulation and sunlight exposure. It can also help the plant focus its energy on producing fruit rather than foliage. Pruning can also promote stronger root growth, resulting in larger and tastier tomatoes.
Which type of fertilizer helps tomato plants grow the fastest?
A few different types of fertilizer can help tomato plants grow quickly, including those high in nitrogen and phosphorus. You can also try using a slow-release fertilizer or compost to supply nutrients over a longer period of time.
How much water do tomatoes need?
Tomatoes need about 1-2 inches of water per week, depending on the weather and the type of soil they are planted in. Watering deeply is important so the roots can grow deep and strong. Overwatering can lead to problems such as root rot, so make sure to check the soil before watering.
There are a surprising number of ways to speed up your first tomato harvest by a few days or a few weeks. Tomato plants can be boosted by adding amendments to the soil and fertilizing weekly. Harvests can also be improved or sped up by spacing properly, using mulch, raising beds or containers, pruning suckers, and picking flowers. Additionally, planting at the correct time and planting the stems deep can help your tomato plants grow more robustly.
Follow these tips for a healthier and faster harvest, and comment below with what works for you!