Best to plant your tomatoes when the soil temperature is consistently
about 55-60ºF. Typically this is in mid to late May.
Tomatoes planted too early may survive but will not thrive until the warmer
The tomato transplants offered by Catalpa Ridge Farm are locally grown
and will provide you with an excellent transplant which has good root
development & has been hardened-off to the climate.
The key to having a good transplant that will take well when you go home & plant it, is having a good
This photo shows good root development on a transplant that has just
removed from it’s pot. A plant with too many roots is not good as it becomes
pot bound and the roots wrap around themselves and will not spread into
the soil. A plant having few roots may develop slower with the sometimes
unpredictable spring planting season with low soil & air temperatures.
You want your tomato plants to receive at least 6-8 hours of sun per day.
Soil & soil amendments:
Plant tomatoes in well-drained organic soil with a pH of 6.0 - 7.0. For best results, test the pH of the
garden soil to determine what amendments, if any, are needed. Best to choose an organic potting
mix to mix into your soil. Prepare the soil so it is loose. If you need to fertilize a 5-10-5 mixture or the
5-5-3 fertilizer (which will not burn your plants) we have available is recommended. You want to
fertilize at the time of planting. This encourages good flowering & fruit production with out too much
foliar growth. You can fertilize again when the first flowers appear, but DO NOT fertilize after that as
you will get too much plant growth which will decrease fruit production.
Make sure you remove any blossoms early fruit as you want the energy to go into
producing good roots in the ground, not on making a tomato too early. Remove
any stems that will be below the soil surface and bury the transplants up until just
the top two sets of leaves is above the soil line. This may seem weird, but it will
promote better root development. Roots will actually develop along the stem in
the ground and better roots means more tomatoes for you.
Allow 2-3’ between plants. In your prepared soil, place the plant in a shallow hole
(you may also lay the plant at an angle in a shallow trench). The plants will right themselves as they
Try to plant your transplants on a cloudy, overcast day or early in the morning or in early evening.
Water the transplants before removing them from their container and of course handle them with
care, as you do not want to break the stem.
Once planted, firm the soil well around the root system of the plant, water them fully and if you have
mulch available, mulch at least 2-3” deep. This will keep the soil moist and of course discourage
Water well after planting and a general rule is to water 2-3 times per week. Be generous, watering
until the soil is moist but not soggy about 8-10” deep. Try to water early in the morning as any
moisture left on the leaves overnight can promote disease. Too little water one day and soaking the
next can lead to dropped blossoms & cracked fruit.
Staking or Caging (from: www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/envirohort/426-418/426-418.html)
Plants should be staked or caged. Though it requires more initial
work, this makes caring for tomatoes easier than letting them
sprawl. Since they are off the ground, fruit rots are reduced,
spraying is easier and may be required less, and harvesting is
much less work. For staking, space them 24 inches apart in rows
3 feet apart. Use wooden stakes 6 feet long and 1 1 /2 or 2
inches wide. Drive them 1 foot into the soil about 4 to 6 inches
from the plant soon after transplanting. Attach heavy twine or
strips of cloth to the stakes every 10 inches. As the plants grow,
pull the stems toward the stakes and tie loosely. Prune staked
tomatoes to either one or two main stems. At the junction of each
leaf and the first main stem a new shoot will develop. If plants are
trained to two stems, choose one of these shoots, normally at the
first or second leaf-stem junction, for the second main stem.
Remove all other shoots, called suckers, weekly to keep the plant to these two main stems. Pinch shoots off
with your fingers. Tomato plants may also be set along a fence or trellis and tied and pruned in a manner
similar to that used with stakes.
Growing tomatoes in wire cages is one method popular among gardeners because of its simplicity. Cage-
growing allows the tomato plant to grow in its natural manner, but keeps the fruit and
leaves off the ground. Using wire cages requires a large initial expenditure and a large
storage area, but many gardeners feel that the freedom from pruning and staking is
worth it. The cages, if heavy duty, will last many years. Be sure to get fencing with at
least 6 inch spacing between wires so that you can get your hand inside to harvest the
tomatoes. If tomato plants in wire cages are pruned at all, once is enough; prune to
three or four main stems. Wire-cage tomatoes develop a heavy foliage cover, reducing
sunscald on fruits and giving more leeway when bottom leaves become blighted and
have to be removed. Many staked plants are nearly naked by late summer. Caged
plants are less prone to the spread of disease from plant handling, since they do not
have open wounds and must be handled less frequently than staked plants. However,
it helps to space the plants somewhat further apart (3 feet is good) to allow good air
circulation between plants; humidity is higher because of the foliage density, and
diseases, such as late blight, spread rapidly in humid situations. If well-nourished and
cared for, caged tomatoes can produce exceptional harvests and make up for the extra space with high
production. This type of culture is especially suited to indeterminate varieties.