With a few fundamental factors in place, anyone can raise great tomatoes in their South Jersey garden.
SUNLIGHT: The first fundamental is sunlight, preferably a minimum of 7-8 hours a day of full sun, the more the better.
SPACE: Do not crowd your plants too close together. Leave 4’-5’ between plants. You will get more production and larger fruit if you give your plants room to grow.
SOIL: Good, loamy, well fertilized soil makes a huge difference in the strength, production, and longevity of your plants.
Dig a deep hole, pinch off the plant’s lower branches, spread the roots, and drop the plant into the hole. Backfill with a mixture of a quality soil conditioner, (such as BUMPER CROP) and a handful of organic tomato vegetable fertilizer, burying several inches of the plant’s stem in the process. Additional roots will soon emerge from the buried stem portion, strengthening its base and enabling it to absorb more water and nutrients over the course of the growing season.
Create a shallow depression around the base of the plant 18 inches or so across which will prevent water run off and channel it to the root system below.
SUPPORT: Most varieties are indeterminate, which means their vertical growth is almost unlimited. To take advantage of this fact support your plant with the tallest and strongest cages that you can afford. A quality cage will last for many years and support your plant and its fruit, keeping it off the ground, allowing maximum sun exposure, air circulation, and easy access for pruning and picking.
SUCKERING: If left unpruned a tomato plant will produce an extra branch, called a sucker, at the intersection of each fruiting branch and main stem. These suckers will create excess vegetation that will take more from the plant than they give. Many, but not all, should be removed. Simply inspect your plant several times a week and pinch or prune the young suckers as they grow to an inch or two long. Discard them.
1) Water: As much as possible concentrate your watering efforts to the depression at the base of the plant. Sprinkling water from above, and thus wetting all of the foliage, makes the plant more susceptible to diseases and blights. If you must water this way, do so in the morning so the plant can dry off during the day. How often you water will vary with how much rain your plants receive, ambient air temperatures, and moisture levels of your soil. Do not overwater as “wet feet” for long periods of time are not healthy for the root system and too much water will lead to splitting fruit.
2) Fertilizer: Fertilize around the base of the plant with a handful of organic tomato vegetable fertilizer once a month throughout the growing season, watering it in to the soil.
Good luck with your garden preparations!