The proper way to plant tomatoes in New Jersey
If you have a veggie garden in New Jersey it's almost a requirement to grow tomatoes. I would bet good money that most New Jerseyans who get into growing their own food, did so chasing the irresistible sweetness and texture that can only be found in Jersey grown tomatoes.
In the video I showed you how I plant my tomatoes. Here's why each step matters.
Step 1 - Wait until May 15th:
This year was a good example of why you really should hold off on putting tomatoes in until at least May 15th. Even as I write this, temperatures are back down in the 50s after hitting 90 this week. Tomatoes do not like the cold, and an overnight frost could very well kill them. So why risk it and why stress them out by trying to get them in early? If you are afraid that your local greenhouse will run out of the varieties you want, buy them early and keep them in a sunny windowsill until Dan Zarrow is predicting overnight temps in the 50s. Some years I don't even put them in until June.
Step 2 - Give them space:
Something I didn't touch on in the video is how tomatoes need a lot of room. They will get bigger if you give them space, you will get more tomatoes if you give them space, and you will have less disease and pests if you give them space. So give them space! This is a popular rookie mistake thinking that you can jam a ton of plants into one area. Sunshine and air flow will be restricted creating the potential for more disease and pests. Plus, their roots will compete with each other for nutrients and moisture. You will actually get more tomatoes in the same area with less plants then overcrowded sad ones. It's hard to do but try to imagine the full-grown size of the plant and space accordingly.
Step 3 - Add crushed eggshells to the soil:
Have you ever gone to pick a tomato that looks perfectly ripe, but to your surprise the bottom is all rotten and gooey? This is called Blossom End Rot. It is caused by a deficiency in calcium in your soil, and is usually triggered by over watering. Save up some eggshells every morning leading up to planting day and crush some into the bottom of each hole when planting your tomatoes. This will add much needed calcium and help the tomato to develop its full flavor potential. If your tomato goals exceed your egg eating abilities, you can always use a tomato fertilizer after planting to ensure they have enough calcium.
Step 4 - Promote root growth:
Tomato plants are pretty unique in that any part of their stem will grow roots if it’s exposed to soil. Finding large transplants and planting them deep will help to promote a huge network of roots. Plus ripping off the bunched up roots that form at the bottom of the pot will encourage them to grow out and downward instead of staying all bunched together. A large network of roots means more availability to nutrients and water throughout the summer.
Step 5 - Water less than you think:
Water daily for a few days, and then start cutting back. After a week or two, give your tomatoes one good soaking every 4-7 days, but only if nature hasn't done so for you already. You want the roots to follow the water down into the soil as the ground drys out. Also as I mentioned in the video, there's no need to water the leaves as that only promotes fungus and disease. Get a long watering wand which you can easily use solely at the base of the plant.
Follow these planting tips and you will be well on your way to growing some of the biggest, tastiest, and sweetest Jersey tomatoes you have ever had. Be brave and I promise you will be rewarded. Happy gardening!