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The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most popular edible plants that hobbyist gardeners grow. But while this plant is generally easy to grow, there are some mistakes you can make when growing tomatoes.

The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Growing Tomatoes

The 9 Biggest Tomato Growing Mistakes

There are a few common pitfalls you can make while growing tomatoes. Here are nine mistakes to avoid:

  1. Poor Planting
  2. Crowded Spacing
  3. Incorrect Soil Nutrients
  4. Improper Watering
  5. Lack of Staking
  6. Bad Pruning
  7. Inadequate Containers
  8. Incompatible Companion Plants
  9. Forgetting Mulch

Below, you can learn how each of those mistakes can be detrimental to your tomato crop. After we cover those, we’ll answer a few other questions gardeners ask about growing tomato plants. 

Poor Planting

At times, gardeners get their tomato-growing wrong from the onset. If you don’t know how to plant a tomato properly, you can’t expect to meet success. When growing tomatoes, you must plant them in the correct place and at the ideal time.

Planting Tomatoes in the Wrong Place

The best location for a tomato plant is one that receives direct sunlight for the entire day. Tomato plants that get less than six hours of light per day produce smaller yields and have weaker growth habits. The same is true if you choose to plant your tomato plants in nutrient-deficient soil. 

Planting Tomatoes at the Wrong Time

Most tomato plants need 50 to 100 days of warm weather to mature into a fruit-producing plant. Planting too early risks exposing your plant to frost, which will likely kill it. By contrast, if you plant too late, there won’t be enough time left in the season for your plant to develop. Late spring is usually the best time to plant.

Crowded Spacing

When you plant multiple tomato plants too close together, they will begin to compete for sunlight and nutrients. Dense planting also increases the odds of disease. Overlapping leaves prevent moisture from evaporating properly. Give each of your tomato plants about two feet of space for the best results.

Incorrect Soil Nutrients

Don’t allow your tomato plant to grow in soil that lacks nutrients. You can add compost and similar materials to ensure that’s not the case. You can also fertilize twice per month until your plant begins to produce fruit. However, excessive amounts of nitrogen can encourage your plant to allocate its energy towards growing foliage rather than fruit.

Aim to give your tomato plant a balanced fertilizer or one that is higher in phosphorus and potassium. Tomato plants also enjoy receiving other supplemental nutrients like calcium and magnesium. Without a proper blend of nutrients supplied at the right time, you may notice disease and defects in your tomatoes.

Improper Watering

There are a few mistakes you can make while watering a tomato plant. Here are a few of the most widespread tomato watering errors gardeners make:

  • Too much water: When your tomato plant receives too much water, it will wilt and become discolored.
  • Overhead watering: Watering your tomato plant from above leaves too much moisture on the leaves, which can lead to disease.
  • Inconsistent watering: Tomato plants enjoy consistent watering. By default, you should give your tomato plant water at the same time of the week.

While those watering mistakes are prevalent, you can’t circumvent them by not watering altogether. Tomato plants still need plenty of water each week to thrive.

Recommended Tomato Watering Systems

Lack of Staking

The structure of a tomato plant is not all that strong. As such, you’ll need to support your tomato plants with stakes or with a cage. Tomato plants that grow without the support of a physical structure are prone to falling over. Once a tomato plant falls over, its fruit can spoil or become food for slugs in your garden soil.

Bad Pruning Habits

Allowing suckers and low-growing stems to remain on your tomato plant is another opportunity for your plant to contract moisture and disease from the ground. Likewise, the pruning tools you use should be sterile as another way to keep your plant safe from infection.

Some gardeners also make the mistake of pruning their tomato plants too early. In most scenarios, you should wait until your tomato plant is about one to one and a half feet tall. By that time, it will be mature enough to respond to your pruning cuts with new growth.

Inadequate Containers

Tomatoes that grow in containers that are too small or have poor drainage are destined to fail. Pots that lack space will cause your tomato plant to become rootbound. Containers that don’t drain properly lead to root rot.

The best containers are ones that have plenty of space into which your tomato plant can expand its roots. They also allow water to permeate through them, avoiding waterlogging. Fabric grow bags tend to perform best in both those categories compared to other container styles.

Incompatible Companion Plants

While there are a few companion plants that will aid the growth of your tomato plant, there are some plants that you should never allow to grow nearby. Here are a few popular plants that you should not grow close to a tomato:

  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Potatoes

The plants in the list above can hinder your tomato plant’s growth and may increase the likelihood of an infestation. Thankfully, there are better options you can grow in your garden beds beside your tomatoes.

What are the Best Companion Plants for Tomatoes?

Although some plants have a negative impact on your tomatoes, others are entirely beneficial. Here are a few of the best companions for tomato plants:

There are numerous other plants that will aid your tomato plants, each of which offers unique benefits. While some will help reduce the odds of disease, others support pollination and weed control.

Forgetting Mulch

While mulching is common practice in landscaping, many gardeners neglect this standard planting chore. If you forget to spread a healthy layer of mulch around your tomato plants, you cannot expect to see the best results. Mulch helps to maintain the consistent soil moisture that tomatoes love and helps regulate soil temperature as well.

Several types of mulch work especially well for tomato plants. Organic materials like wood mulch, grass clippings, and straw help add nutrients to the soil that your tomato plants will put to good use.

FURTHER READING



Tomato Growing FAQs

Since we’ve covered some of the most prominent mistakes you can make while growing tomatoes, let’s address a few other questions gardeners have on the topic.

What’s the Secret to Growing Great Tomatoes?

The secret to growing great tomatoes is meeting all their basic requirements for sun exposure, soil nutrients, and soil moisture. It can also help to add Epsom salt and crushed eggshells to your soil when planting your tomato plant. Those amendments help ward off magnesium and calcium deficiencies, respectively.

How Long Do Tomato Plants Live?

In their native tropical climate, tomatoes are a perennial plant that can live for multiple years. However, in other parts of the world, tomatoes grow as annual, as they are unable to survive cold winters. In those colder regions, the lifespan of a to

How Long Do Tomato Plants Take to Grow?

The time it takes your plant to reach an age at which it can produce fruit will vary based on the tomato variety you grow. Most plants take around 70 days to reach that maturity. Once you begin to see tomato fruits forming on your tomato plant, you can expect it to take about another month for them to be ready for harvest.

What Makes Tomatoes Grow Faster?

Regular fertilization is one way to boost the growth rate of your tomato plants. The fertilizer you use should have a balanced mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to guarantee your plant gets all the essential nutrients it needs. Soil temperature can also play a role. Warm soils create the ideal setting in which your tomato can grow as fast as possible.

What Happens if You Over Fertilize Tomato Plants?

Although fertilizer is generally beneficial to plant growth, too much can be detrimental. When you over fertilizer a tomato plant, it will become extremely long and leggy. The plant may also put forth fewer fruits depending on the type of fertilizer you use. 

What are Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes?

Determinate and indeterminate tomatoes are two broad groups of popular tomato species. A determinate tomato plant tends to produce ripe fruit at a single point during the season. By contrast, indeterminate tomatoes put forth their fruits over a longer portion of the growing season. Indeterminate tomato plants also tend to be larger, while determinate tomatoes stop growing at a moderate height.

Final Thoughts on the Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Growing Tomatoes

While there are plenty of mistakes you can make, tomatoes are often easy to grow. But before you set out to grow some in your garden, make sure you review the seven tomato growing mistakes we’ve just outlined above.

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