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Tips for growing your own tomatoes

Submitted by Jace Goodwin, Sequoyah County Agent for the OSU Extension Office

Monday, February 5, 2024 - If you are growing tomatoes from seed, it’s just about time to start sowing your seeds indoors. The recommendation is to start tomato seeds 4 to 6 weeks before planting outdoors. A good target date to think about planting outdoors is after April 15.

But this is Oklahoma, and you might get away with planting a little earlier if you protect your tomatoes. I like to start my seeds a little early, so I have nice big plants when it’s time for them to grow outdoors.

Tomatoes are a warm-season crop and one of the most popular crops grown by home gardeners.

Here are a few tips for growing a good quality tomato:

· Start with soil that is high in organic matter and loose so the root system can grow vigorously.

· Tomatoes are a heavy feeder of fertilizers, especially nitrogen, so get a soil test done before planting and incorporate the recommended fertilizer into the soil. Additional nitrogen may be needed if it rains a lot and leaching has occurred.

· When deciding which tomato varieties to grow it’s to your benefit to find one that is nematode and wilt-resistant.

· Provide protection from cutworms and other possible pests during the transplanting season. One method for protecting against cutworms is to cut a straw to about 3 inches long and make a slit lengthwise in the straw, then wrap the straw around the stem of the tomato at ground level. Another method is to use an empty toilet paper roll and wrap it around the stem.

· Mulch around the plants to help control soil moisture and temperature.

· Apply supplemental water as needed, drip irrigation is preferred because it is usually consistent. However, just because you have a drip system doesn’t mean it is working properly. You need to check your system regularly because emitters get clogged, electricity gets interrupted throwing off timers, and little rodents love to chew on the irrigation tubing.

· Control insects and spider mites if numbers are increasing from week to week.

· Control disease issues early, don’t wait until several plants are infected.

· Windbreaks may be helpful in hot, dry weather.

· Keep records of the varieties you grew so you know what worked and what didn’t work.

· Tomatoes grow best when nighttime temperatures are above 60 degrees and day temperatures are below 90 degrees.

· Tomato blooms won’t set to fruit if daytime temperatures are above 95 degrees, and nighttime temperatures are above 70 degrees, tomatoes need a cooling-off period

· “Cat-faced” fruit may occur if nighttime temperatures are in the 40’s or low 50’s. (“cat-faced” fruit is gnarly, irregularly shaped fruit)

Jace Goodwin, Sequoyah County Agent for the OSU Extension Office

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