So, the tomato plants you’ve been babying since spring are growing by leaps and bounds and getting ready to start producing those juicy, delicious fruits. Although it may feel like it, your job as tomato gardener is nowhere near over! Your plants need help now just as they did at the start. Read on to learn what your tomatoes need from you mid-season.
When your tomatoes start blooming, it’s important to feed them a quality fertilizer specifically formulated for tomatoes. At this stage they need less nitrogen (which promotes stem and leaf growth) and more phosphorus and potassium.
If you don’t have a tomato-specific fertilizer at your garden store, check the nutrient levels in the fertilizers that are available. The three numbers on the bag refer to the nitrogen (N) level, the phosphorous level (P) and the potassium level (K). Your ideal fertilizer for this stage will have less nitrogen and more phosphorus and potassium. A rating of 5-10-10 or 4-7-10 is ideal.
Plan to fertilize every three weeks until the end of the season.
You might also enjoy our post on how to fertilize tomatoes.
Watering is more important than ever when your tomato plants start producing fruit. Have you ever seen a tomato grow perfectly for weeks then suddenly one day, it has a giant crack down the middle? This is caused by uneven watering, and it’s totally avoidable.
The tomato fruit takes in water just as the stem and leaves do. If the plant goes too long without water, then suddenly gets too much, the fruit will soak up that much needed water until it can’t hold it anymore and burst at the seams, forming that unsightly crack. It’s more important than ever to keep your watering consistent at this time. Check the soil daily to be sure your plants are getting enough, especially on very hot days.
Staking and caging
While this is really something that should be done as soon as growth starts, it may not be too late to stake or cage your tomatoes. Tomatoes grown upright tend to be healthier and produce more fruit that is easier to harvest.
These are proven winners that are great for determinate tomato varieties that won’t outgrow the cage. They’ll keep your plant upright and allow for easy harvest. If you have an indeterminate variety (won't stop growing until something stops it) you may want to use a stake or trellis instead.
Tying tomatoes to long stakes in the ground is another great option for keeping them upright. If you choose this route, make sure your ties are soft and wide enough to hold the plant without cutting into the stem. Cloth scraps work great for tying tomato stems.
Tomato trellises are made by placing two posts at opposite ends of a row of tomatoes. String or wire is woven between the plants and tied to each post to keep plants upright. This method works great for indeterminate plants that can grow as big as 8 feet tall.
Pruning tomato plants helps to ensure the plant’s health and vigor. Plants are at their best when all of their leaves are able to reach the sun. Pruning enables more room for air circulation, more sun for each leaf, and allows the plant to focus more on flower and fruit production than on leaf and stem production.
To prune your tomato plant:
Look for suckers, these grow out of the crotch that is formed when a branch grows out of the main stem. Cut these suckers off at the base every time you see them growing. Although the suckers can grow to produce flowers and fruit, the resulting fruit will be lower in quantity and quality than if they were pruned.
Follow these mid-season tomato care tips and you’ll be well on your way to a bountiful harvest in just a few short weeks!
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