The tomato is a fruit-producing garden plant that grows well in northern Michigan home gardens due to the adequate summer rainfall amounts the area receives. The growing season in northern Michigan starts in late May and runs through the middle of September. The humid climate is desirable, as it helps tomato plants grow quickly. Tomatoes that grow well in northern Michigan are the short-season varieties such as Celebrity, Better Boy, Champion, Early Girl and Fantastic.
Prepare a garden bed for the tomato plants by testing the soil pH. Tomatoes grow best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.5. Work ground rock sulfur to a depth of 6 inches with a tiller to lower the pH number. Water the soil generously and let it rest for a minimum of two weeks.
Increase the nutrient value of the soil by working 100 lbs. of composted manure into the soil for every 100 square feet. Use a tiller to work the compost to a depth of 6 to 10 inches.
Plant the tomatoes in a northern Michigan garden once the soil reaches a temperature of 60 degrees F and there is no longer a risk of frost. This occurs in mid to late May.
Dig a planting hole for the tomatoes that is several inches deeper than the seedling container. Remove the seedling from the container and set the plant in the hole so the first set of leaves on the stem is approximately 1 inch above soil level. This will force new roots on the stem to strengthen the plant.
Apply a 10-20-10 fertilizer to the tomato plants once they have grown to one-third the mature size. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil making sure to leave a 2- to 3-inch gap between to start of the fertilizer and stem of the tomato. Do no sprinkle fertilizer on the foliage. Apply a generous amount of water to dissolve the fertilizer and assist with absorption.
Place a 2- to 3-inch layer of dry grass clippings around the tomatoes shortly after planting. Mulch will reduce weed growth and increase the soil moisture. Excess weeds will limit air circulation around the plants and create an environment for disease.
Water the soil around the tomato plants to keep it evenly moist during the summer growing season. Tomato plants require a minimum of 1 inch of water each week. Northern Michigan rainfall amounts tend to be adequate for tomato growth; however, the soil moisture needs monitoring to prevent the plants from wilting during drought periods.
Place tomato cages around the tomato plants and train the plant around the structure as the branches grow. This will prevent the branches and fruit from touching the moist soil, which causes fruit and leaf rot.