Ever wondered how gardeners grow those massively tall tomato plants that yield hundreds of pounds of produce?
Yeah, I used to wonder that, too.
But, through years of experimentation, I have a fool proof way to plant and then grow tomatoes (and peppers! I use this exact method for them, too!) to get maximum yields!
So, without further ado, here are my tomato planting secrets!
How to Plant Tomatoes to Get Maximum Yields
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Start with a clean, well mulched garden.
So, if you’ve read anything on my blog, you may be familiar with this post- how to have a weed-free garden. It’s always to the easiest to start with a clean slate, let me tell ya!
Dig a deep hole.
I used to dig these puny holes with my garden trowel. Take it from me, break out the shovel and dig that sucker deep. Put some muscle in it 😉
If you’ve heavily mulched your garden, you’ll need to clear away a bit of the mulch to get down to your compost/dirt.
If you laid down a weed barrier, such as cardboard, you will need to dig right through that to get your hole deep enough.
After a few years of using my cardboard/manure/mulch method, you’ll end up with amazing, awesome compost underneath your newest cardboard layer. Even if this is your first year using this method and you need to dig down into dirt, that’s OK.
Just make that hole deep- like a foot or so.
Dump in my recommended amendments.
This is my secret weapon. You need crushed eggshells (see this post for how I make it from my saved eggs), Epsom salts, and potting soil. After I dig my deep hole, I dump in a handful of eggshells, a handful of Epsom salts, and a cupful (like a large solo cup or a sour cream container- it’s not an exact measurement!) of potting soil.
Either add water to the hole or soak your tomato plants well before planting.
This is pretty self-explanatory, right? To give your tomatoes their best start they need water! If there’s no rain the forecast for that night, I’ll add water to the hole or make sure my plants have had a good soaking in their pots before I put them in the ground.
Remove any leaves or branches that might end up underground.
Tomatoes can grow new roots from anywhere along their stems and branches, but if you leave extra leaves on that end up underground, it can cause disease in your plant. I remove anything that I think might end up underground and only leave a little bit of the top of the plant sticking out.
Plant your tomato!
Now we finally get to the planting part!! Stick your plant in the ground and cover with your remaining dirt/compost.
Cut the bottom out of a milk jug and nestle it over your plant.
Tomatoes are super sensitive to cold temperatures, so to give my babies a little head start and extra loving, I put a plastic milk jug over them. This creates a greenhouse environment, which they love! It also protects them from our frequent Kansas hailstorms and severe weather!
I take off the milk jug when the plant gets tall enough that a little bit of leaf starts to grow out of the top.
Pull mulch up around the milk jug.
This helps to keep that jug in place. In Kansas we have many days with extreme wind (like today! Gusts over 50 mph!), so I leave only a little bit of the milk jug sticking out of my deep straw.
Water when needed and watch your tomatoes grow!
This is the second most satisfying part of gardening, right? The first being picking your produce, of course! I don’t cage my tomatoes until after I pull the milk jugs off. When I do, I use 5 foot tall cages made from concrete wire (you know the stuff you use when you pour concrete?) and I stake them with t posts.
Enjoy your tomatoes (and peppers! Remember, I use this exact same method for all of my peppers and I end up with abundant peppers every year!).
What questions do you have for me? Comment and give me your tomato planting method!
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Hi, is it too late to add Epsom salt to my just planted tomato plants? They were planted in holes dug deep, enhanced with garden soil and some well aged composted horse maneur. Thank you! Susan
I wouldn’t think so! I would add it anyway, shallowly, around the plant.
Enjoyed your tutorial on tomato and pepper planting. You never mentioned anything about taking off certain branches off the plant in order to produce more. I never do that but should I start to do that or not.
I have tried pruning my tomatoes and honestly don’t ever see much difference, so I usually don’t bother with it.
How do you deal with blight? I usually lose all the leaves on my plants starting about a month after planting. They get black spots on the leaves then turn brown and ugly.
I have struggled with this some, but only during super wet growing seasons. We had one summer that had very little wind (extremely unusual for our area!) and lots of rain and moisture in the air. My plants couldn’t get enough air flow and I ended up with a fungus infection of some sort. I don’t have any great advice, unfortunately….. I just try to space my plants out so they can get good air flow.
I rake up my lawn clippings and place around the base of my tomato and pepper plants. It works great at keeping the weeds down and stops mud from splashing up on the plants when it rains which also causes blight. Also keeps moisture to the roots and composts too. I started doing this a couple years ago and made a big improvement.
What if tomato plants were bought in a bucket from Home Depot? It says to keep in the bucket.
Awesome well rounded clear & to the point article! Thank you 🙏🏼
Thanks for this article. Never knew growing tomatoes would benefit from EPSOM SALT.
Cold you please explain the essence of a combination of the eggshells and EPSOM salt in the ‘deep’ hole at the time of transplanting the nursed tomato plant. Secondly, do you have to leave the mulch over the entire garden or only around the layout of the tomato plants?