How to Grow Prize-Winning Tomatoes
By Hannah English (Originally written in 2007 – Hannah’s grandfather, Mr. J.L. English, passed away in 2017)
My Grandfather, “Granddaddy,” as he is known by many friends and family, is said to have the best, most delicious tomatoes around town. Every summer everyone always looks forward to his juicy, delicious tomatoes to put on their BLT’s. I wanted to get down to the real story about how he grows and takes care of his tomatoes. With these tips you don’t have to have a green thumb to plant tomatoes.
Steps to planting tomatoes:
- Buy the plants at a nursery. My grandfather suggests buying Super Fantastic or Fantastic plants. He believes that Better Boys’ seeds are too big and they have “too hard of a core.”
- Prepare the garden soil by plowing, chopping or digging so that the soil is loose. Add bags of soil amendment from Pike’s or composted mulch from your leaf bin. Mix thoroughly in the ground where you plan to plant your tomatoes.
- Once you have the plants, you can begin putting them in the ground. Make sure you have a place where your tomatoes can get a lot of sun. Dig a hole about 3-4 inches deep in the prepared ground. Make sure to space them out about 2-3 feet apart from each other.
- Place 2-3 tablespoons of Epsom salts in the soil you removed from the hole. Epsom salts add magnesium to the plants.
- Put three tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer in the hole.
- If you have real cow manure, place a shovel full in the hole where you are planting the tomatoes. (If you don’t have cow manure then you can use bagged and composted cow manure from Pike’s)
- Fill the hole with water.
- When the water is absorbed, put the plant in the hole, Granddaddy likes to put the plant deep enough in the hole so that an inch or two of stem is under ground – depending on the plant’s size. Roots will come out on the stem.
- Scoop dirt back in the hole.
- When you are done planting, pack the dirt around the plant.
- Mulch with straw.
- Water your plants a lot. Tomatoes like to be watered. Soaker hoses work well when watering.
- After six weeks, put 3 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer around the plant and water it in.
- If you see any worms or caterpillars on the plant, pick them off by hand. Granddaddy does not like to use insecticide. He has purple martins (migratory bird) that help keep the insects in his garden under control.
- Pick the tomatoes when they are ripe.
- Eat Up! Enjoy a scrumptious BLT with your own tomatoes
- When caring for tomatoes, you should place a tomato cage around your plants to keep them standing up. The cages are made of wire.
- Growing tomatoes takes patience while waiting for them to grow.
- When the tomatoes feel soft and their color is glossy red and even, that means they are ripe and you may pick them.
- The best time to plant your tomatoes is after the last frost in the spring. You may wait to plant them as late as June.
All in all planting tomatoes is not that hard! I hope you enjoy learning as much as I have from my Granddaddy!