Grower Kirill Yurovskiy: Secrets of Growing a Rich Tomato Crop

There’s nothing quite like the taste of a perfectly ripe, juicy tomato fresh from the vine. Whether you crave sweet cherry tomatoes for salads, classic red slicers for sandwiches, or meaty romas for sauces, growing your own tomato crop allows you to enjoy the superior flavor of homegrown tomatoes at their peak. With a little knowledge and care, you can produce an abundant harvest of vibrantly colored tomatoes bursting with rich, complex flavors far beyond what you’ll find at the grocery store.

While tomatoes can be an incredibly rewarding crop, they do require some attentiveness to thrive. But don’t worry – by following these simple secrets from seasoned tomato growers, you’ll be well on your way to tomato growing success!

Secret #1: Choose the Right Tomato Varieties

The first step to a bountiful tomato crop is selecting varieties suited to your growing conditions and culinary needs. When browsing seed catalogs or nursery shelves, look for tomato varieties described as:

  • High-yielding
  • Early maturing
  • Heat/drought tolerant
  • Disease/crack resistant

These characteristics will give you the biggest and most reliable crop in the face of summer heat, dry spells, and pest or disease issues. Different tomato varieties also have different growth habits – compact for containers and patios, indeterminate for sprawling vines, or determinate for controlled bushy plants. Match the plant size and habit to your available space.

Additionally, consider fruit characteristics like shape, size, color, and intended use. For rich sauces, romas or other paste tomatoes have fewer seeds and less water content. For slicing onto sandwiches or burgers, you’ll want large, meaty rounds. Cherry and grape varieties make convenient snacks or salad additions. And if you want to make a multicolored statement, choose a rainbow mixture of red, yellow, orange, purple, and striped tomatoes.

Secret #2: Prepare the Perfect Soil

Like all plants, tomatoes need the right soil conditions to put down healthy roots and obtain vital nutrients. Nutrient-rich, well-draining soil is ideal. Amend heavy clay or poor soils by mixing in aged compost or manure before planting. This will improve both drainage and fertility.

Tomatoes also prefer a slightly acidic soil pH between 6.0-6.8. If your soil is too alkaline, add soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate to lower the pH. A soil test kit from your local nursery can tell you if any other amendments like calcium, phosphorus or potassium are needed. Source:

Secret #3: Plant Properly and Provide Support

Wait until after your last predicted spring frost to transplant tomato seedlings outdoors. The cold can stunt or kill them. Harden off plants for a week before transplanting by leaving them outdoors in partial shade during the day, then bringing them inside at night.

When planting, dig a hole much wider than the rootball and deep enough to allow you to plant the stem horizontally, with just the top leaves exposed. This encourages stronger root development along the buried stem. Space plants 2-4 feet apart in rows, staking or caging each plant for support.

As plants grow, prune away all suckers (side shoots) from the main stem up to about 3 feet. This directs energy into developing the main stem and fruit. Stake or cage plants, tying new growth to supports regularly to keep the plants off the ground and improve air circulation.

Secret #4: Give Them What They Crave

Tomato plants are heavy “drinkers” and “eaters” – providing consistent water and nutrients is critical for big harvests. Water deeply once or twice a week, maintaining evenly moist (but not saturated) soil. Inconsistent watering can lead to cracking, blossom end rot, and other problems.

When the first fruits are grape-sized, start feeding plants with a balanced vegetable fertilizer or compost tea every 1-2 weeks. Look for fertilizers higher in phosphorus to encourage plentiful blossoms and increase fruit size. Potassium-rich amendments like greensand can also boost overall vigor.

Secret #5: Combat Pests and Diseases Organically

Growing lush tomato plants often means combating some common pests and pathogens. A few organic solutions can keep problems from escalating:

  • Rotate crops yearly to prevent disease buildup
  • Space plants for good airflow to discourage fungal diseases
  • Remove and destroy any diseased leaves or fruits
  • Set out traps for hornworm caterpillars and handpick them
  • Spray with neem oil or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for caterpillars
  • Use row covers to exclude pests like bean beetles
  • Dust plants with diatomaceous earth for slugs and soft-bodied insects

With some watchful care, most pest and disease issues can be kept to a minimum without resorting to harsh chemical controls.

Secret #6: Maximize the Flavor Potential

With the right tomato cultivars and growing techniques, you can coax out incredible tomato flavors in your backyard patch. A few keys for ultra-tasty fruits:

  • Let tomatoes ripen fully on the vine before picking
  • Avoid overwatering, which dilutes flavors
  • Make sure plants receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day
  • Don’t over-fertilize, especially with high nitrogen sources
  • Try growing in raised beds or containers with high-quality potting mix
  • Harvest tomatoes in the morning when sugars are most concentrated

Some gardeners also claim that certain products like blossom set sprays or sprays with amino acids can further intensify tomato flavors. Experiment to see what works best for your palate!

Secret #7: Preserve the Bounty

If you grow tomatoes right, you’ll likely be overloaded with ripe fruits in mid-summer. Stretch your harvest into fall and winter by preserving tomatoes at their peak:

  • Freeze whole or chopped tomatoes
  • Can tomatoes as sauce, salsa, or juice
  • Dry tomatoes into chewy sundried snacks
  • Make flavorful tomato jam or marmalade

With a simple water bath canner, you can easily put up jars of colorful jewel-toned tomatoes to enjoy all year long. Or keep it ultra-simple by freezing whole tomatoes – just core and freeze on baking sheets before transferring to containers.

With these tips, you’ll be able to cultivate an impressive crop of some of the most vibrantly flavored tomatoes imaginable. There’s simply nothing else like plucking a perfectly ripe, sun-warmed tomato off the vine and experiencing those deep, satisfying fresh-from-the-garden flavors. So get ready to revel in summer’s ultimate bounty!

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