‘Number one reason’ gardeners end up ‘killing’ their tomato plants

Gardening: Homebase shares tips to help grow tomatoes

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Tomatoes are by far the most popular crop to grow in home gardens. But whether gardeners choose to grow them in a traditional garden, raised beds or in containers, how and when people put their tomato plants into the soil on planting day can make all the difference between starting the plants down the road to a success or putting them at risk of failure right from the start. To avoid failure the planting tomatoes, gardening experts at National Garden Bureau have shared their top tips

The experts revealed that planting too early for this warm-weather crop is “the number one reason” for these plants not being able to survive.

They argued that although the plants might survive if gardeners keep the young plants warm with a cloche or other protective cover, tomatoes are not frost-hardy and “will die” if exposed to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero degrees Celsius) without protection.

When the soil is still cold, the roots of tomato plants do not act or perform to the best of their abilities.

Because of this, they do not absorb nutrients or water from the soil well. As they sit and lag in the soil, they also become extremely vulnerable to rot, mould and other diseases.

However, it depends on what sort of temperatures gardeners are dealing with. The experts said: “Tomatoes can tolerate the 40s and even high 30s Fahrenheit (five to 10 degrees Celsius) but don’t necessarily ‘enjoy’ being grown in those temperatures and shouldn’t be in them for long.

“Tomatoes are warm-weather crops and should be set in the garden when the weather has warmed and the soil temperature is above 60°F (16°C).”

For gardeners growing tomatoes from seeds indoors need to be hardened off properly before planting in the ground, urged the pros. 

They explained: “It is important to harden off any tender plants before placing them in the garden by exposing them gradually to the harsh outdoor conditions.”

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They advised putting young plants outside where they will receive morning sun but be protected from wind, and move them inside at night. 

Continue this for about a week, and then begin to leave them outside on nights when the temperature does not drop below 50°F (10°C). After a week or two, the plants should be ready to transplant.

To plant tomatoes “properly”, the experts advised: “Remove the lower leaves off of the stem and bury the stem about two thirds deep. 

“The portion of the stem that is buried will form roots, which will allow more water and nutrient uptake, making the plant stronger and sturdier. 

“Tomatoes are one of the easiest garden plants to grow. They need as much direct sunlight as possible to produce the highest yield.”

 Native to the tropics, tomatoes require warm temperatures for good growth, so wait until the nighttime air has warmed to about 16 degrees before transplanting them. 

The gardening experts warned: “Planting tomatoes too soon will only slow them down or end up killing them.”

For those starting their tomato plants off from seeds, they should be started five to six weeks before planting outdoors.

The garden gurus recommended: “Plan around the frost dates in your area but play it safe. 

“For instance, if your last spring frost date is predicted to be April 18, consider waiting an extra week before planting tender crops, like tomatoes, in the garden. 

“Plants started earlier are difficult to manage and do not necessarily lead to better or earlier harvests. 

“Often if the tomato plants are spindly from not enough light indoors, they will not survive being transplanted.”

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