With the official start of spring, it’s time to start thinking about growing your own backyard tomatoes. If you’re an expert backyard tomato grower already, we invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments section below. If you’re a beginner, this five-step process might help you get started.
Step 1: Choose the right seeds
There are countless varieties of tomato seeds available on the market. Choose based on your taste preference, but also choose based on what grows well in your geographic location. For best results, try to talk to a neighbor or a friend in the area who has been growing for a long time. They might be able to provide you with useful tips that could prevent you from learning the hard way!
Step 2: Plant indoors
We don’t know about your backyard, but there’s definitely still snow in ours! If you’re starting with seeds, the key to growing your tomato plants in colder climates is to start growing them indoors. Plant your seeds in the soil of one large container and move them to an area where the temperature is between 75-80 degrees. Once they begin to pop through the soil, put them on a well-lit windowsill or opt to use growing bulbs, and your plants will be ready to spring into action!
Step 3: Seedlings
After about a month, your plants will grow a few inches tall; they are now seedlings! They’ll need to be moved into bigger pots where they’ll have the opportunity to establish strong root systems that don’t tangle with the other plants. Gently dig the plants out of the soil of the container and place into the soil of a new container. Make sure to bury the plants up to their “necks.” Finally, keep them indoors until the temperatures outside are agreeable and appropriate for planting.
Step 4: Hardening off
The last frost, especially in Maine, can be a little later in the year, compared to what you might expect. In more northern parts of the country, it can be as late as the official start of summer!
When temperatures at night are consistently in the 50s, it’s time to start “hardening off” your plants. To do this, bring the plants outside in their pots and let them sit in the sun for a few hours at a time, then bring them back inside. Each day, extend their duration in the sun by a few hours until they’re out in the sun all day. This process is essential in avoiding plant shock from transplanting.
Step 5: Transplanting
The moment we’ve all been waiting for: transplanting! Your young plants get to dig their roots into your backyard for the first time.
If your plants are taller than six inches, cut off any small branches on the bottom of the stem to make sure you can bury the entire stem up to where the leafy branches start.
Then, dig a hole deep enough so that the plants can be transplanted, almost to the branches, take the plants out of their pots, water thoroughly and place your support around the plant. We found this great article on various support systems you can use in your garden – some even double as pieces of art!
These are just the basic steps to starting your own backyard tomato garden. In addition, you’ll need to choose between determinate and indeterminate plants, you might need to find fertilizer for your soil and of course you’ll want to water often!
If you’re an expert tomato grower, feel free to share some of your tips and tricks in the comments below. If you’re a beginner, we want to hear all about your first attempt. Happy growing!