Grow the best tomatoes on the block

The weather outside this week has been frightful and we are (not so patiently waiting) to plant our tomatoes and other warm season vegetables. One of our veggie experts, Donna, has put together some simple tips for vegetable success. Donna grows so many vegetables she’s basically a one-woman produce department!

Pick the perfect site

Most warm season veggies, like tomatoes and peppers, need lots of sun. Make sure you plant them in a place where they will get 6-8 hours of sun. Plants also need good air circulation and well-drained soil. Don’t plant them too close together.

Give them the perfect soil

The ideal pH for a vegetable garden is 6.5-6.8. Mix in TGP Garden Mix and Espoma® Garden-tone to give your plants a healthy start. For tomatoes, you can use Espoma® Tomato-tone. It has calcium to help prevent blossom end rot and to produce consistently plump, juicy tomatoes. It’s also important to rotate your crops. Try not to plant the same type of crop in the same place more than once in 3-4 years. This will help you avoid soil-borne diseases and replenish nutrients.

Choose the perfect plants

Look for plants that are compact and healthy looking, not stretched or with yellow leaves. Unless you’re planning to can or freeze your harvest, a good rule of thumb is 1-2 plants per person in the household who will be eating tomatoes.

These are just some of the heirloom varieties that we carry:

Plant them right

These sun-loving plants need to be planted when soil temperatures reach about 60℉. If you were super efficient last week and they are already in the ground, it’s ok, just make sure to cover them with newspaper if temps dip below 40℉ at night. To plant tomatoes, pick off the bottom few leaves and bury the stem about 3-4” inches from where it sits in its plastic pot. The plant will grow roots from that point down and give them a stronger root system. Trench planting is also an excellent way to plant tomatoes.

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining types and need to be caged or staked when planted to keep them from sprawling all over the ground. They can grow up to 3-6’ tall and produce throughout the season, once mature.

Determinate tomatoes should also be staked or caged to keep the tomatoes off the ground but grow to a set height and produce all their tomatoes at once within a shorter window of time. The smaller varieties are great for containers. Be sure to use a container that is 14” or larger to give the tomatoes enough space. Each variety we carry is labeled on its sign whether it is a determinate or indeterminate variety.

Maintaining Healthy Plants

Water your tomato plants immediately after planting and check the soil every day for the first 2 weeks. Tomato plants need about 1-3 inches of water per week. Water in the morning at the base of the plant. Don’t water from above, wet leaves can trigger some common tomato issues. To give your plants a mid-summer boost, spread a couple of handfuls of nutrient-rich compost around the base of each plant and water well.

Mulch your garden beds with newspaper topped with mulch to help suppress weeds and maintain moisture. Or try some companion planting. You can plant basil, marigolds, chives, or bee balm to your garden as they improve the growth and flavor of tomatoes.

Prune indeterminate tomatoes by pinching off suckers. This helps the plant produce better fruit and a stronger stem. If you miss one and it gets larger than a pencil, you can leave it on the plant. Do not prune determinate tomatoes as this will reduce production.

Troubleshooting tomato problems

If you see a lot of yellow leaves, it could either be not enough or too much water. Your plants could also not be getting enough calcium. If yellow leaves are only at the bottom of the plant, all is ok. Just pinch them off. If you see cracking or bursting it’s because the internal growth was faster than skin growth. It can be caused by over-fertilization or extreme fluctuations in soil moisture and temperatures. If you see powdery mildew it’s probably because they are too close together and not getting enough air circulation. You can use a fungicide to correct the problem but be sure to read the instructions before applying.

Stop in this week to pick out your tomatoes, peppers and all your vegetables and herbs so you can get your edible garden started. For more tips and information, pick up a copy of our vegetable gardening handout.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plants in right places.