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Growing Tomatoes – 3 Big Mistakes To Avoid That Hurt Plants & Your Harvest!

When it comes to getting the most from your tomato plants this year – it’s important to avoid three of the biggest and most common tomato growing mistakes gardeners often make that not only hurt the growth of their plants, but more importantly, the overall harvest they eventually produce!

Whether you grow your tomatoes in a traditional garden, a raised bed, or in pots or containers – there are a few key needs plants require to maintain their health. At the top of that list are water, nutrients and sunlight. Without all three, plants simply can’t survive – let alone produce a good crop of tomatoes.

Quite importantly, how a plant is cared for as it grows impacts how these three important needs are met. And, in a very big way! Which is exactly why avoiding the three miscues below is important to grow strong plants – and a big crop of tomatoes.

bare soil around tomato plants - growing tomatoes
As you will see below, leaving the soil bare around plants is never a good idea. Not only does it let moisture evaporate, it can also harm plants in even more serious ways.

3 Big Growing Mistakes That Hurt Tomato Plants

1. Leaving The Soil Around Plants Bare

One of the biggest mistakes of all when it comes to growing tomatoes is not giving plants a protective layer of mulch. Even if you are growing your tomatoes in containers and pots – a light layer of mulch can make a huge difference in your plant’s performance!

Leaving the soil bare under your growing plants can lead to a whole host of issues for tomato plants. First and foremost, a thick layer of mulch helps to minimize weeds and the chore of weeding. Weeds are not only unsightly, they also steal valuable nutrients from the soil. Nutrients that your tomato plants need to grow and produce.

But mulch does so much more than just prevent weeds. It also help keep moisture in the soil. Bare soil can quickly dry out from the hot sun, but a layer of mulch helps to keep that moisture in at the root level of tomato plants, right where they need it most.

tomato growing mistakes
No matter how you grow your tomato plants, a layer of mulch underneath them can provide huge benefits for them!

Even more, mulch helps to regulate the soil temperature. It keeps the soil from overheating on extremely hot days, and yet, helps hold the heat in through cool nights. By doing this, it keeps the roots of your tomato plant steady. Which is exactly what they need for optimum growth!

One More Reason To Mulch Tomato Plants – 3 Growing Mistakes That Hurt Tomato Plants

Perhaps most importantly of all, a layer of mulch can help keep your tomato plants safe from blight. Blight is caused from spores that live in the soil. And if left bare, those spores can easily splash up onto the leaves of plants when it rains or you water, infecting your plants in the process. See: How To Stop Tomato Blight – 3 Simple Secrets To Keep Your Plants Safe!

How much mulch is enough? In a traditional garden or raised bed setting, plants should have at least four inches of mulch to be effective. 6 inches is even better. For containers, one to two inches is best to help hold in moisture and keep the plants from drying out too fast.

As for best choices – straw, shredded leaves and grass clippings all work great for mulching tomato plants. To really make your mulch powerful, put a few inches of compost around your plants. Every time you water or it rains – the compost nutrients will leach to the roots below!

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2. Stepping On Your Plant’s Root Zone – 3 Growing Mistakes That Hurt Tomato Plants

Another common mistake made in the vegetable garden that many gardeners don’t even think about is stepping on or too close around the root zone of their plants. And for tomato plants, that can really have a negative impact on their health, growth and their ability to produce a sizable harvest!

The roots of a tomato plant are its lifeline. They not only anchor the plant to the ground, they are also responsible for absorbing air, water and nutrients from the soil that the plant needs to grow and produce.

The roots of a healthy tomato plant can easily extend 12 inches out from each plant. And when those roots become smashed from heavy foot traffic, the soil around them compresses down on them. Once that happens, it becomes difficult for the roots to breath or absorb food and water – and the plant suffers.

When watering, weeding, fertilizing or harvesting, always take care to stay away as far from the root zone area of your tomato plants as possible. Leaving the soil loose and undisturbed allows the roots to grow freely – and gives your plant the best chance of success.

3. Fertilizing Incorrectly – 3 Growing Mistakes That Hurt Tomato Plants

To reach their full potential, tomato plants need nutrients. And even if they are planted in the best soil possible, they usually need more than the soil can provide to really produce a sizable harvest.

Select a fertilizer that has a higher ratio of phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen. This will promote better fruiting and not just plant growth.

The best way to give your tomato plants the extra nutrients they need is with fertilizer. But, and this is often where gardeners make a critical mistake, the type of fertilizer you feed your plants – and how you fertilize your plants can make a big difference between success and failure.

When it comes to the type of fertilizer to use – select a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen. Yes, nitrogen will green up your plants and help them grow. But too much of it makes the plant only grow stems and foliage – and not concentrate on fruiting.

Phosphorous, on the other hand, is what plants use to produce blooms and eventually fruit. Potassium is important as well for plant health and ripening. When powering tomato production, these two are more important than nitrogen.

Look for fertilizers with an N-P-K ratio (Nitrogen, Phosphorous & Potassium) in the 3-4-6 to 5-10-10 range that will provide more phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen. This will still give enough nitrogen for plant power – but keep the plant concentrating more on fruiting. Affiliate Product Link: Espoma Organic Tomato-Tone

Take A Low & Slow Approach – 3 Growing Mistakes That Hurt Tomato Plants

When it comes to fertilizing tomatoes, more is not always better. It is better to give your plants a steady but lower diet of energy than just a few big doses of fertilizer throughout the growing season.

how to tie up tomatoes
Higher levels of phosphorous and potassium will help your plants produce more fruit!

Too much power all at once can send the plant into a growing frenzy. But instead of helping to produce more tomatoes, the plant uses all of the extra energy to grow more stems and leaves – all at the expense of producing more blooms and fruit!

The best ways to fertilize your plants is by taking a steady and slow approach. Fertilize every ten to fourteen days with a lighter dose. Use half of the recommended rate as this will help to not overpower the plant. But by fertilizing more regularly, it supplies constant steady energy to stay healthy and produce fruit.

Here is to growing your best tomato crop ever this year!

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