What gardener doesn’t dream of that first sweet juicy vine-ripened tomato? After all this is Wisconsin, where winters can be long and brutal and summers way too short. So we plant with great expectations, and then watch and water and wait for those beautiful red jewels.  Sometimes along the way we discover there’s more to growing them than just digging a hole and dropping them in the ground.So we’ve put together some gardening tips to help you grow sweet delicious tomatoes.

Maintain soil moisture by watering tomato plants deeply at least twice a week.  Be sure to apply enough water to soak the soil six to eight inches deep.  Keeping soil moisture levels will also help prevent blossom-end rot, the dreaded small black spot on the bottom of the tomato which spreads throughout the fruit. It is believed to be caused by a calcium deficiency in the cell walls of the tomato.  If a plant is growing and water is moving nutrients along through the cells, the fruit keeps growing.  If water becomes limited, the fruit can't stop making new cells fast enough so some don’t get enough calcium and later on you get decay.  Bonide’s Rot-Stop helps correct this problem.

To conserve soil moisture during the hot, dry days of July and August, apply a 3 inch layer of mulch around your tomato plants. We suggest straw, although you can use grass clippings if your lawn is chemical free. 

Tomatoes are "heavy feeders."  Be sure to get on a regular fertilization schedule.  We suggest Tomato Tone by Espoma for organic gardens or Miracle Gro’s Tomato Plant Food.

Watch the leaves of your tomato plants for signs of leaf spot diseases. They appear first on lower leaves and can be effectively controlled if leaves are removed as soon as leaf spots are seen.  Practice good garden hygiene here – don’t touch the good leaves, or any other plants, after you handle the diseased leaves until you wash your hands well.  Chemical control is also possible with a fungicide containing copper.  Bonide’s multi-purpose fungicide can be used on your tomatoes as well as other garden plants.  They also have a good insecticide to prevent damage from a variety of insects.

Our spring was cold and wet, and so far summer has been windy and humid, far from ideal tomato growing conditions.  But if you keep your plants watered, mulched, and fertilized; and a close eye out for disease, you’ll soon be enjoying BLT’s and fresh Caprese salads.