Quick Answer: How To Take Care Of Tomato Seedlings?
The transplanted tomato seedlings require constant care to produce healthy fruits. They require consistent watering, appropriate watering, regular support, pruning often, and mulching to grow well. They require constant measures to prevent a plethora of diseases and pest attacks. With proper care and regular fertilizing, your plants may yield bountiful tomatoes.
This is a complete guide on taking care of tomato seedlings in your garden.
I have taken tips from my ten-plus years of growing different tomato varieties to come up with a guide.
Shall we dive into the guide?
How To Take Care Of Tomato Seedlings?
I love fresh home-grown tomatoes.
Starting to grow your own tomatoes may allow you to choose from tens and hundreds of heirloom and hybrid varieties.
Also, it gives you flavorful and organic fruits enhancing the taste of many dishes.
Whether you are growing tomatoes in garden beds or pots, they need proper care after transplanting to yield flavorful fruits. They may be started from seeds or transplants.
You may start growing from seeds indoors, about 6-8 weeks before the late frost date. You may transfer the grown seedlings outdoors. If you are in US, check out our state wise detailed guides on best time to sow seeds.
The transplanted seedlings require regular watering, feeding, providing support, pruning, and disease control to produce healthy fruits.
Watch this video for more information:
1. Watering Tomato Plants
Consistent watering is required for the growth of tomatoes. You may water generously during the initial days of transplanting and two inches per week during the growing season.
You may water deeply around the base of the plants immediately after transplanting. Continue watering generously for the first few days of transplanting.
It helps in allowing the roots of tomato seedlings to come into contact with the garden soil and minimizing transplant shock.
Water the tomatoes in the early morning to have moisture throughout the hot day.
The tomato plants require about two inches per square foot in a week during the growing season.
But, they don’t like when it is too wet. So, do not overwater the tomatoes. Also, avoid splashing on the leaves to reduce the incidence of soil-borne pathogens.
Here are some great tips to water tomatoes –
2. Add Fertilizer Regularly
You may use balanced fertilizers at the time of planting. Amend the soil with organic matter and compost for additional nutrients. Add light fertilizers after the first fruit has formed.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require a constant supply of nutrients. They need nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, boron, sulfur, and iron for effective fruit yield.
You may add about three pounds of fertilizers when you plant the tomatoes in the garden. You may amend the soil with compost or organic matter, including fishmeal, chicken manure, and crushed eggs.
You may use balanced fertilizers if the soil is lacking in nitrogen. Take care not to use too much nitrogen as it may affect fruit yield.
You may add light fertilizers every one to two weeks after the first fruit has grown, until the end of the harvest period.
3. Supporting Tomato Plants
Tomato plants require support to grow upright and reduce their susceptibility to soil-borne diseases. You may choose cages, stakes, or trellises depending on the tomato variety.
Tomato plants tend to sprawl on the ground. You may require support to help plants grow upright and reduce their susceptibility to diseases.
The different types of support systems employed are caging, staking, or trellising.
Determinate varieties require two or three-foot-tall supports whereas indeterminate varieties require supports that are five feet tall.
Using Cages, Stakes, and Trellis
You may purchase cages or make your own using wire mesh or wire reinforcement wires.
Take care to provide openings of 6 inches square to allow easy harvesting. You may place cages after planting the seedlings.
Stakes should be 1 ½ inch in diameter, 6 feet tall, and inserted to about 12 inches into the ground.
Give a space of 3-4 inches from the stem of tomato plants.
You may tie the plants to the stake using weather-resistant twine at 8-12 inch intervals.
One of its variations is the Florida basket weave suitable for both determinate and indeterminate varieties.
Stakes are inserted into the soil and the tomatoes are sandwiched between two walls of twine. It prevents tomato plants from falling out.
Some gardeners do not use ties if the main stem is trained through the center of the spiral.
A trellis is hanging support for tomatoes. It trains the plants to grow vertically and maximize fruit production.
There is no need to bend to access the fruits.
4. Pruning Often
Pruning involves removing the lower leaves and suckers along the main stem. It may help in reducing the incidence of diseases, improving fruit yields, and prolonging the harvest season. It is suitable for indeterminate plants.
Pruning of the tomato plant growth may improve the fruit yields, reduce disease problems, and prolong the harvest season. It depends on the growth habitat of the tomatoes.
Also, you may prune the staked indeterminate pants as they grow up. Remove the suckers along the main stem just above the first set of leaves.
It will help in increasing photosynthesis and reducing sunscald.
For smaller bush types, do not remove side shoots as they may affect the fruit yield. You may use stakes if having heavily-laden branches.
I came across this useful video on pruning tomatoes for maximum yield:
5. Add A Layer Of Mulch
Mulch around the tomato plants to improve the soil and grow tomatoes better. You may use organic and plastic mulches for tomatoes. Avoid spreading mulch materials very close to the stem of the plant.
Mulching may help in reducing evaporation, weed growth, and soil-borne diseases.
There are different options for mulch that may be cost-effective.
- Shredded leaves– Shredded leaves may work as excellent mulch. You may use composted fall leaves to provide excellent protection from weeds and increase moisture retention. Do not use hay as mulch as it contains weed seeds.
- Grass clippings– You may spread dried grass clippings evenly around tomato plants. Don’t go very close to the stem of plants as it prevents them to have access to water. Avoid using wet grass as it will stick together.
- Black and Red plastic– Most commercial growers use red and black plastic as mulch to retain heat and increase tomato plant yield. It may shorten the interval from planting to harvest by a week.
I prefer using organic mulching as they are readily available and cheap for use.
You may mulch about 2 inches thick around tomato plants immediately after planting when the soil is warm.
Make sure to leave some space around the tomato stem for easy access to water. Take care not to mulch thickly as it may prevent nutrient uptake by the plants.
If you are new to mulching, here is a useful video on how to and why to mulch tomato plants:
6. Effective Disease Control Measures
Few diseases and conditions affecting tomato plants are a blight, blossom end rot, fruit cracks, and fusarium wilt. They are prone to attack by root-knot nematodes, aphids, hornworms, or cutworms. Keep an eye for infections and take action immediately.
The tomato plant is susceptible to various pests, including aphids, cutworms, whiteflies, and hornworms.
Keep an eye on these pests and pinch off the affected foliage.
A few common diseases that may affect your tomato plants are
|Blight||Brown, dry rot near the soil line. Drooping of leaves||Crop rotation|
|Blossom end rot||Water-soaked spots on the blossom end due to calcium deficiency||Lime the soil according to the soil analysis.|
|Fruit cracks||Drought followed by heavy rain or overwatering||Follow regular watering and adequate mulch.|
|Fusarium wilt||Fungal infection causes the drooping and wilting of lower leaves.||Use resistant varieties and pathogen-free soil.|
|Root-knot nematodes||Affected plants are stunted, discolored, and eventually die||Use disease-free plants.|
|Sunscald||Decay of fruits causes fungi to invade damaged tissue||Cover over-exposed fruits.|
Are you interested to know more, watch out this video:
Tomato leaves may turn white due to vulnerability to cold and extreme sun damage. If the plants are moved suddenly from indoors to outdoors, it may shock the plants and turn the leaves white. It may also be because of certain fungal diseases.
Yes. Your plants may need some shade when it gets too hot or your area has a long summer. You may use sheets or burlap over the support system to shade plants.
I am sure this guide will be helpful for you to take care of your tomato seedlings.
I am interested to hear about your experiences in growing tomato plants, do share with us!
If you find this article helpful, please share it with your friends!
Happy Tomato Growing!