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Wondering how to make tomato plants produce more fruit?
It all starts with healthy seedlings, planting in the right conditions, and caring for tomato plants the right way. Don’t worry it really isn’t difficult, try these simple tips for increasing tomato plant yields per plant.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables to grow in home gardens and for good reason. Nothing tastes as good as a fresh sun-warmed tomato.
But if you have been growing tomato plants and not getting a lot of tomatoes you might be starting to feel frustrated and thinking it’s not worth the work.
But there are simple things you can do to help your tomato plants grow more tomatoes.
How To Make Tomato Plants Produce More Fruit
Avoid Root Bound Seedlings
When seedlings are grown in small cell packs or pots for two long their roots run out of room to spread out.
When this happens they start to grow in circles around the edge and bottom of the container.
Plants that are kept in this condition for too long can struggle to grow quickly in the garden.
If you are growing your own tomatoes from seed make sure to pot them up often so the roots keep growing normally. While if you are buying tomato seedlings try to avoid buying ones that are heavily root-bound.
If your tomato seedlings have already become root bound when you are planting gently tease the bottom of the roots apart to loosen them and encourage them to start growing out instead of curling around.
Plant In Warm Soil
Tomatoes are warm-weather plants and as excited as you are to get your garden planted in the early spring, tomatoes will do better if you wait until the soil has warmed first.
When your soil temperature has reached 55 to 60 F (12.7 to 15.5 C) it’s warm enough to plant warm-season crops like tomatoes.
If you want to get a jump on the growing season then using a black plastic mulch to warm the soil for a week or two before planting can help.
Protect Plants In The Early Season
In the early summer you can still get cold spells and if you take the time to protect your tomatoes from cold temperatures and wind it can really help to give them a boost in the garden.
This time of year we often worry about frost but even a cold wind can do a lot of damage to seedling causing the leaves to turn white and set back the plants.
Using floating row covers or plastic tunnels are great options to add warmth but if you have just a few plants to protect staking around them and using a clear bag cover like this one has really helped our tomato plants to grow quickly in the early garden season.
Plant Tomatoes Deep
Tomatoes will grow roots along their stem so planting tomatoes deeper into the ground can help encourage the plant to grow a better root system.
If you have ever grown a tomato plant and forgot to trellis it then found it grew like crazy and formed roots where the vines touched the ground you’ll understand that those extra roots were helping to feed the plant.
But letting tomato plants sprawl on the ground makes harvesting harder and can cause more pest problems.
Instead, try planting them deeper into the ground.
There are two ways you can do this you can dig a horizontal trench and plant the tomato seedling laying on its side with just the top left uncovered or dig a deeper hole and plant it deep enough to almost come up to the bottom set of leaves.
Feed With Phosphorous
While nitrogen is an important part of fertilizing for plant growth don’t forget to make sure your tomato plants have enough phosphorus.
Nitrogen helps plants to grow a lot of foliage while phosphorus encourages root growth and flowers.
If you often grow huge tomato plants but don’t get many tomatoes it could be they are not getting enough phosphorus (the middle number on fertilizers) to encourage flowering.
Tomato plants need an inch of water a week to grow well so keep an eye on how much rain you get and if it’s not enough supplement with watering.
In dry conditions, you will want to make sure you don’t let the soil dry out too much. If the top 10 inches (25.4 cm) of soil has dried out and you are only giving 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water a week to your plants it will encourage their roots to stay near the top of the soil.
You really want the plants to grow deeper into the soil. This helps them to grow into stronger plants.
If you are facing these conditions water deeply, even if you have to do it over a few days. After that, you can go back to watering at about 1 inch (2.54 cm) a week as needed.
Mulching is an important part of growing a vegetable garden. Mulching can help the soil to keep an even temperature and hold in moisture.
If you are using a no-dig gardening or Back to Eden gardening style then you’ll already have mulch added to your garden. But if you are starting from scratch making a garden in the spring wait until after your soil has warmed up to add the mulch for the first time.
If you mulch before the soil has warmed up you could actually keep your soil cooler for a longer time. The exception to this is if you are mulching with black plastic.
Prune Lower Tomato Leaves
One simple thing you can do to help your tomato plants grow well is to keep the leaves pruned off the bottom foot of the plant.
This helps to protect the plants from fungus that can be splashed up onto the leaves when it rains.
Wait until your tomatoes are a few feet tall and then start trimming off the leaves that are closest to the soil.
This is best done on vining tomatoes as pruning bush tomatoes can reduce their yield but even they can benefit from the careful removal of lower leaves that are close to the ground.
Increase Tomato Pollination
Tomatoes are self-pollinating plants but that doesn’t mean that they won’t benefit from a little help.
Tomato flowers are pollinated when the flowers move, often just having a gentle wind is enough to pollinate tomato plants.
If your garden is in a place that is sheltered by the wind or if you are growing in a greenhouse giving the plants a gentle shake every day can help with pollination. We found a big difference in the fruit set when we started doing this in our greenhouses.
Encouraging bees and other pollinating insects in your garden by planting flowers and herbs can also help with pollination.
We all want to harvest as much as possible from our gardens. Making sure that your tomato plants get the best care will help them to produce more tomatoes but remember that each variety grows and yields differently.
Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.