Growing tomatoes can be a gratifying experience, homegrown tomatoes taste so much better than any you would find in a supermarket. However, even experienced gardeners can make mistakes when cultivating these delicious and nutritious plants. To ensure a bountiful harvest, it’s essential to be aware of some common pitfalls and learn how to avoid them.
In this article, we will explore eight common tomato-growing mistakes and guide you on preventing these issues. From improper watering techniques to incorrect pruning, I hope to cover all of the more common mistakes growers make!
1 Not Pruning Vine Tomatoes
Neglecting this task may lead to many issues, such as smaller fruits, fewer fruits and an increased risk of disease and pest infestations.
When you don’t prune, tomato plants produce smaller fruits & less of them because they but more of their energy into growing foliage. This foliage also competes for light, a particular problem if your plants are close together.
Furthermore, the excess growth creates the perfect environment for tomato diseases and pests to thrive.
To effectively prune your vine tomatoes, follow these steps:
Removing suckers, which is what you can see in the photo above, is commonly referred to as pinching out. Removing all suckers and growing the plant up one main stem is also known as a single leader plant.
In the UK we tend to grow our plants as a single leader, but growing two leaders (where you let one side shoot develop into a secondary main stem) can also be practised.
2 Planting Shallow
Planting shallow is a common mistake when growing tomatoes. When the seedlings are not planted deep enough, they can struggle to establish a strong root system, leaving the plants vulnerable to various issues.
Tomatoes are unique in that they have the ability to develop roots from their stems when buried deeper in the soil. This characteristic allows the plants to establish a more robust root system, enhancing their ability to uptake water and nutrients from the soil. A deeper root system also strengthens the plants to better withstand strong winds and heavy fruit loads.
To avoid this mistake, make sure to plant your tomato seedlings deep enough, you can go right up to or even past the first set of true leaves. Remove any leaves that will be buried underground to prevent potential disease issues. By doing this, you’ll encourage the development of a strong root system, promoting healthier and more vigorous tomato plants.
3 Inadequate Support
Tomato plants, particularly indeterminate varieties, can grow quite tall and require proper support to prevent them from collapsing under their own weight. Inadequate support can result in broken branches, reduced air circulation, and increased disease susceptibility.
There are several methods to provide proper support for your tomato plants. The most common is using string, stakes, cages, or trellises.
When supporting your tomato plants, remember that the structures should be in place before the plants begin to show signs of needing them. This will prevent damage to the plant and make it easier to guide its growth.
4 Not Feeding
Tomato plants are hungry and to get the most out of them you will want to regularly feed them as they grow. This is not essential and if you have good soil then you can get a good crop without feeding, but you will not be maximising your tom production.
Start by adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to your soil, as this will help improve soil structure and provide essential nutrients.
The easiest way to feed tomatoes is with a dedicated tomato feed. Just make sure you don’t start using it too early, as these are high potash feeds they should be used once the plant has started fruit production and not earlier.
5 Not Watering Regularly
Consistent and proper watering is crucial to the health of your tomato plants. Not watering regularly can lead to issues such as blossom end rot and fruit cracking, which will negatively impact your tomato harvest.
It’s essential to make sure that your tomato plants are receiving an adequate amount of water. Ideally, they should get around 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of water per week, either from rainfall or manual watering. A lack of water can cause the plant to become stressed, stunting its growth and affecting fruit production.
On the other hand, over-watering can also be detrimental to your tomato plants. Excess water can lead to root rot and cause the fruit to become waterlogged, reducing flavour and increasing the risk of splitting.
The most important thing is maintaining uniform soil moisture levels to help prevent watering-related issues. This can be achieved by watering regularly, using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system, which allows water to seep slowly into the soil, reaching the roots without over-saturating the surface.
If you are using grow bags then this can be a serious problem and I recommend getting one of these special collars below.
- Specially designed pot for growing in growbags
- Set of 6, measuring 26 centimetres across, so three fit neatly on a growbag
- The inner and outer watering troughs make feeding and watering easy
6 Not Knowing Your Tomato Type
There are two main types of tomato plants, determinate and indeterminate. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial as they grow in completely different ways and one needs pruning and training while the other doesn’t!
Determinate tomatoes are also known as bush tomatoes. They are much more compact than indeterminate tomatoes and don’t require pruning or training.
They will grow into a bush and set their fruit all at once. Once they have fruited, they will stop growing. You get a one-time harvest. You shouldn’t prune or train these tomatoes, this will actually be detrimental.
These are vining or cordon tomatoes. They will keep growing taller and taller until killed by frost.
They produce tomatoes as they grow and will keep producing until they die. These tomatoes should be pruned and trained.