By this time of the season, you're likely preparing for a delicious tomato harvest that you've been anticipating since you first planted your veggie garden. As tomatoes grow, they can pose problems ranging from blossom end rot to splitting fruit, along with their regular care and maintenance. But with the correct care practices, you can enjoy the best tomato of your life—and we all know you don't find that every day in the grocery store! Here's everything you need to know to prevent these issues and how to prepare for your well-anticipated tomato harvest.
Blossom End Rot: What Is It?
Blossom end rot is a physiological disorder induced by drought, freezing, and other stressors to your tomato plant. Tomatoes impacted by this disease likely haven’t been watered consistently over time. Unfortunately, the disease will not go away once it has attacked your crop, which is why it's best to prevent it from the get-go.
How to Prevent It
Tomatoes are thirsty fruits that require watering at least once daily or every other day, receiving about 1.5 inches of water per week. Tomatoes grown in containers need more water than garden tomatoes. Test your calcium levels and adjust as needed to prevent future blossom end rot in your tomato plant.
Tomato Fruit Splitting: Why Does It Happen?
While every gardener can try their best, most tomato growers know that you can’t always prevent a tomato from splitting. Heavy torrential downpours can always occur during the summer months, showering down on your tomatoes and potentially causing them to split. Tomatoes split due to inconsistencies in the amount of water they receive, which is why the best way to prevent this is with a consistent watering schedule!
How to Stop Tomato Splitting
Mulching is an excellent way to protect your tomato plant from splitting because it helps them maintain consistent soil moisture levels. Planting your tomatoes in raised beds will also provide them with proper drainage, another essential requirement in regulating your moisture levels. Pick tomatoes early if you’re expecting heavy rain, and enjoy your fruit a little sooner than expected!
General Tomato Care Best Practices
The best place to plant tomatoes is in a location with at least six hours of full sun per day.
Fertilizing your tomato plant every month or so throughout the growing season will help them stay well nourished and continue producing strong yields.
Aim for consistency in moisture levels of your soil. Keep soil moisture levels constant by laying a thick layer of compost around outdoor tomatoes during wet weather.
Disinfect your tomato tools to prevent other diseases from transferring to your plant.
Mulch, mulch, and more mulch!
Remove dead, damaged, or diseased leaves from your tomato plant as soon as you notice them.
Hydrate your plants in the morning at the ground level. Water that makes its way to the leaves will be able to dry before the heat of the day, preventing damage to your tomato plant.
When to Harvest Tomatoes
Tomatoes take anywhere from 60 days to over 100 days to mature, depending on the variety you plant. Timing is everything with achieving a perfect harvest, especially to get that perfect juicy tomato you started this journey for in the first place! It's generally best to harvest tomatoes early since once they take on a greenish-pinkish color, known as "the breaker stage," they can be picked and ripened off the vine without losing flavor, quality or nutrition. Feeling your tomatoes will also help you determine whether they're ready for harvest or not. Tomatoes that are ripe and ready to pick should be firm to the touch but have some give when gently squeezed or pressed with a finger.
Tomatoes are one of Mother Nature's best gifts. Once you've harvested your juicy, delicious tomatoes, you can incorporate them into a variety of different dishes like homemade pasta sauces, bruschettas, and summer salads. To help you achieve the best harvest from your tomato plant in Pennsylvania, visit us at Lehigh Valley Home and Garden in Allentown today!