For many gardeners, there isn't another vegetable that represents summertime better than the tomato. Whether you toss freshly sliced tomatoes on top of a pizza waiting to go into the oven, or chop them up to complement a cool, crisp salad, tomatoes are one of the most versatile and tasty of summer vegetables. While even novice gardeners can have good luck growing tomatoes, there are some gardening secrets that will help you reap heartier and more plentiful crops.
While it might seem like the more stems on the plant, the larger crop of tomatoes it will yield, the fact is that too many stems, or suckers, as they're called, weaken the plant by leaching too many nutrients away from the main stems. It's better to pinch off suckers from the main stems (those that grow between the joint of two branches) to provide for robust plant growth and more tomatoes.
Tomato plants produce vigorous, deep-reaching roots, and since they are generally placed in full sun during the hottest months of the year, potting the plant in shallow soil can lead to premature wilting and sunburn. By planting the plant in deeper soil, at least up to the first three leaves on your plant, you help ensure the roots will thrive in the coolest part of the soil.
Infrequent or irregular watering can lead to a condition known as blossom end rot. Blossom end rot renders the tomato inedible by producing large blackened spots on the bottom of the fruit. According to the University of Illinois Extension, watering consistently and thoroughly helps to ensure you avoid this problem. Consistent watering also keeps the plant from wilting, which can cause the blossoms to fall off before they bear fruit.
For the best results, tomato plants should be planted in an area of your garden that gets at least six hours of sun a day; less than that and you won't get the most productive harvest possible from your plant. Tomato plants are very portable and grow well in containers, so even if you don't have a patch of ground in your garden that gets full sun most of the day, you can still enjoy a bounty of tomatoes by planting in containers. Another advantage of container gardening is that you can place the containers near your watering source. Since tomato plants require frequent watering, planting them nearest to your water source will make it more convenient to water them properly, which is a crucial component to growing healthy tomato plants.