These are twenty ideas for effectively producing tomatoes in the Washington, DC metro region.
First, understand what you are growing. Tomatoes have determinate and indeterminate growing tendency. Determinate types produce fruit at the end of the branches so most of the crop ripens at one time and you will have one or two harvests per growing season. This is useful for canning. The determinate types are more compact and are better for containers than the indeterminate tomato plants; however, you may still have to stake the vines or add a trellis. Indeterminate plants develop fruit along the branches, allowing you to select tomatoes throughout the season. Vining plants may grow rather big; a support system, such as hoops or posts, should be utilized.
2 . Tomatoes are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and tastes. Cultivate foods that you like eating or using in the kitchen. For example, determine if you prefer to use tomatoes for salad, snacking, pasta sauce, sandwiches, etc. This will determine if you want a cherry for snacking, a slicer for sandwiches, or a paste for making sauce.
3 . If you are limited to containers, grow the determinate type and use a container at least 5 gallons large with drainage holes or an Earthbox. Look for cultivars that have been specifically cultivated for containers, such as window box variants (usually these will be the small, cherry types).
4 . Decide if cultivating an heirloom plant is essential to you. Heirlooms may be tastier, and seeds can be saved for next year, but these plants may be more susceptible to diseases. Disease resistance is often bred into hybrids. But, if you keep the seed and spread it the next year, the plants may not have the same characteristics as previously. Disease resistance is typically indicated by letters following the plant’s name in seed catalogs and packaging. For example, F stands for fusarium, V stands for verticillium, LB is for late blight, TMV stands for tobacco mosaic virus, and N stands for nematodes.
5. Days to maturity is the average number of days it takes for a transplant to develop a tomato (fruit) when planted in the early summer. That is not the number of days since planting. This varies quite a lot with tomatoes from plants with a lower number of days which will provide an early season harvest, to mid-season, to those with larger numbers, resulting in a late season harvest in late summer. Plant early, mid, and late season tomatoes if you have the room and desire tomatoes throughout the growing season.
6. Sow seeds approximately a month before the normal final frost date (Mother’s Day in our area). Begin indoors, under lights. After the seedlings have a set of genuine leaves, move the plant to a bigger container and place it outdoors for a few hours each day. Gradually expose seedlings to more light and time outdoors in order for them to harden off before planting. Hardening off is the process of acclimatizing seedlings to higher light levels, cooler (than your home) temperatures, and breezes so they can withstand being outside.
7 Initially, the overnight temperatures may be too cool (in the forties and below) to leave these transplants outdoors, so bring the pots inside for the night.
8 . Seedlings and transplants in the spring may develop purple tinged leaves which means cool temperatures are preventing phosphorus absorption. They will grow out of this in the summer as it becomes warmer, so there is no need to do anything.
9 . Tomato plants need at least six hours of sun and like warm soil, which is why it is best to put the transplant in the ground after Mother’s Day. Planting them in chilly soil will make them unhappy.
10 Tomatoes like rich, well-composted soil over clay. You may need to modify your garden bed with compost in this region. A raised bed and a container will have warmer soil than the ground in the spring.
11 Plant in the ground when nighttime temperatures are in the fifties and the transplant has hardened off. Insert staking or hoops immediately after planting indeterminate varieties. Make sure your tomato plants are at least 2 feet apart for air circulation (this will reduce a pathogen’s ability to spread).
12 Tomato stems that are covered with soil will produce roots. Some gardeners may bury as much stem as possible in order to promote root growth. The notion is that if there are more roots, the plant will be able to take in more water and nutrients. Other individuals place the transplant horizontally on the ground, burying the stem but keeping 1 to 2 sets of leaves above ground. Some people plant vertically but deeply, leaving just one or two sets of leaves above ground. Before you submerge the stem, strip off the leaves and little branches that would be underground.
13 . A lot of gardeners add calcium in the form of crushed eggshells to the soil before planting, to prevent blossom end rot. If you do not do this, use a fertilizer developed specifically for tomatoes, since it should have extra calcium.
14 . In the beginning of the summer, mulch with straw, leaves, or compost to prevent weeds and to keep a constant level of soil temperature and moisture. Use Maryland’s Leaf-Gro instead of composted manure.
15 . Tomatoes will need to be watered, so have a hose or watering can handy. Water the soil, not the plant, and water in the morning to decrease possibility of fungal disease. It isn’t that tomato plants need a lot of water, it is that the soil moisture must be consistent, and not fluctuate often. Mulching aids in this.
16 Tomatoes will need to be fertilized in mid-summer, particularly if grown in pots. Espoma has organic Tomato-Tone and Neptune’s Harvest has a Tomato and Vegetable Formula.
17 . To obtain fruit, temperatures must be above 55 degrees at night but temperatures of 75 or higher will inhibit fruit set and may cause blossoms to drop. There are, however, heat-tolerant cultivars.
18 Wind pollinates tomatoes. Some gardeners hand-pollinate with a paintbrush if they feel the plant is not setting fruit. All the more reason why there should be good air circulation. Harvest on a regular basis to encourage plants to produce fruit.
19 . Pruning is optional, but should be done solely on indeterminate plants. Pruning refers to the removal of side branches or suckers. Some gardeners use this to enhance or uniformly distribute fruit size, as well as to assist tomatoes mature quicker. It will not result in an increase in the number of tomatoes. Start pruning when the plants are around 2 feet tall and the suckers are little. When the plant is dry, not damp from rain, do this.
20 Rotate crops as much as possible to avoid soil-borne illnesses.
When should I plant tomatoes in Washington DC?
Planting Dates for Spring
Crop Based on Frost Dates Based on Moon Dates Start Seeds Indoors Plant Seedlings or Transplants Tomatoes Feb 1-15 Feb 1- 5 Apr 6-27 Apr 19-27 Turnips N/A N/A Watermelons Mar 1- 8 Mar 1- 7 Apr 13-27 Apr 19-27
How many months does it take for tomatoes to bear fruit?
Tomatoes may be harvested in 60 to more than 100 days, depending on the cultivar (see more about varieties below). Due to their relatively long growing season requirements (and late planting date), most gardeners plant small “starter plants” or transplants instead of seeds after the weather has warmed up in spring.
What is the most efficient way to grow tomatoes?
More Sun Equals More Fruit
Plants should get seven hours of sunlight every day. Let your plants to develop as well. Put seedlings 30 to 48 inches apart, with rows separated by 48 inches. Leaving space between tomato plants will let light into the lower portions of the mature plants, improve air flow and help prevent disease.
What is the right time to plant tomatoes?
Tomato seeds may be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the final average frost date (August 27th in Gauteng) if maintained in a warm place inside or in a hothouse.