Loving those tomatoes and want to harvest even more? Perhaps your patch is a small one and you want to make the most of it - or maybe you’re into freezing, bottling, and storing enough to carry you through the winter. Whatever the reason, these tips will help you to make the most of your tomato harvest. Let’s get started!
1. Choose the Right Varieties
Unproductive varieties rarely see the light of day, so most tomato varieties that you can buy will bear reasonably well. However, there are a few standouts. Here are a few examples to check out.
Roma is a jam or sauce tomato, but you can use it for just about anything. The mid-sized fruits are borne in clusters. It’s an oldie, but a goody!
Cherokee Purple takes off like a rocket ship. You’ll need tons of space for it because they get big - with a harvest to match. Plus, you get fruits with that gorgeous, deep-coloured flesh.
Stupice is great for getting an early start since it’s one of the more cold-tolerant varieties - and it starts fruiting faster than most other tomato varieties. The fruits are medium-sized and borne in profusion.
Black Krim is the juiciest of our examples - not great for sauce, but perfect for salads and snacking - plus the colour is both beautiful and unusual. Expect huge fruits and a sweet flavour.
2. Start Sowing Early
The sooner you can start harvesting, the more you’ll get out of your spring and summer crops. Getting an early start means sowing indoors before the last frosts, planting out your strongly growing seedlings as soon as you’re fairly confident they’re over. But that’s just the start. If you really want to grow an unforgettable harvest of tomatoes, succession plant for a continuous supply.
3. Awesome Soil Prep
Poor soil means poor harvests. Improve the texture and nutrient content of your soil by digging in plenty of compost and well-composted manure. In poorly-drained, heavy soils, let your beds be slightly higher than the surrounding soil since this will improve drainage. This is probably the most physically demanding of your gardening jobs, but it’s well worth the effort.
4. Timely Transplants
Whether you’re sowing in containers or are hoping to replant thinned-out seedlings that were sown directly in the soil, limiting root disturbance will help to keep your plants growing at their best.
Any kind of shock will limit the potential of your plants, and transplant shock can be a big setback. Transplant seedlings when they have one or two pairs of true leaves and give transplants a bit more water during the first week or two after transplanting. If the sun is harsh, provide extra shading if possible.
5. Fantastic Feeding
A seedling that doesn’t get enough nourishment during the early stages of its life can never reach its full potential. Begin with weekly liquid feeds as soon as your tomatoes are up and growing.
Once your tomato plants have grown a bit bigger, you can switch to something stronger in either an organic or inorganic fertiliser. However, liquid feeds every second week are always safe: you can’t burn your plants and the nutrients are instantly available. To keep things easy, go for a balanced feed - but if you’ve been using high nitrogen fertilisers, switch to something with more potassium content as the flowering time approaches.
6. Water Well
Watering well doesn’t necessarily mean watering more often - it means watering when water is needed. Don’t let the soil dry out too much, but don’t keep it constantly sopping wet. To get this just right, you’ll need to learn how to work with your soil and your climate.
Get your hands dirty and feel the soil with your fingertip. If it feels like a squeezed-out sponge, it’s perfect and you can wait a little longer. When you do water, water thoroughly, letting the water sink into the soil and not just dampening the surface. Once again, feeling the soil will help you to see whether you’ve got the water down to the root level where you want it.
7. Give Them Some Support
Tomato plants need some support. Even if the plants can stay upright, they’ll flop over once the fruit starts to get heavy. If you use stakes, use soft ties, and don’t fasten them too tightly. Make a figure eight shape to prevent the stems from chafing against the stakes. As an alternative, consider making some wire tomato cages. They’ll hold your plants upright without the need for tying.
7. To Prune or Not to Prune?
Tomatoes often make new shoots near the base of the stem. If you want big fruits, you should prune them out to keep the plant's energy focused on the older shoots and your developing crop. However, if you don’t prune them out, the shoots will produce tomatoes in the end. Nevertheless, the general opinion is that pruning when needed makes for a better harvest.
8. Summer Shading
Harsh summer sunshine can scorch your fruit. That’s one of the reasons why commercial tomato growers usually use light shade cloth to protect their crops. As a bonus, it will help to keep birds off, but if your shading excludes pollinators, you’ll need to agitate your plants to encourage pollination. Just give them a little shake!
9. Remove Damaged Fruit and Sickly Plants
There are some fruits that you know you’ll never eat. Don’t leave them on the vine. Pick them to encourage your plants to try again and to limit the possible spread of plant diseases. The same goes for sickly-looking plants. If they’re diseased, removing them as soon as possible can prevent any infections from spreading.
10. Go Beyond Your Patch
There’s no law that says you should only plant tomatoes in your veggie garden. You can even grow them in pots. So, if you have some plants to spare, spread them around. It’s also a way of hedging your bets. If something goes wrong in one part of your garden, you might still get a crop from another part.
However, be aware that you should not plant tomatoes in the same soil over and over again. Grow unrelated crops on soil that has been used for tomatoes for the next two years before planting tomatoes again.
A Memorable Harvest
Do you have fond memories of past harvests? We hope that our tips will give you another gardening year to remember - and so many tomatoes that you’re giving them away to eager friends and neighbours. Have fun trying different varieties too, we have over 100 to choose from! Success starts here.