Want to give your young tomato plants a jump start and get them growing fast? As garden season gets into full swing, many gardeners are planting their tomatoes and already dreaming of the big, juicy harvests they hope will come from their plants this summer.
But to get those big yields, it’s vital to get young transplants growing fast – and right from the start. After all, getting your plants to grow healthy and strong early is the key to having them produce more blooms and fruit later.
But for many gardeners, getting their plants to grow right after planting can be a difficult task. Instead of growing bigger stems and leaves, newly planted plants often sit stagnant for days and weeks at a time. And let’s face it, nothing is more depressing than watching your just-planted tomatoes sit in the soil and not grow!
When tomato transplants first go in the ground outdoors, they can often struggle the first few weeks. And for several different reasons. Sometimes Mother Nature can be to blame. While other times, let’s just say, gardener error might play a role in the issue as well.
But the good news is that both can be overcome. And in the process, get your plants growing strong and fast. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the biggest reasons tomato plants struggle to grow early on – and how to overcome those issues to get your plants roaring off to a fast start!
How To Jump Start Tomato Plants – 4 Simple Secrets To Success
#1 Giving Your Plants The Right Amount Of Water
One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make with their tomato plants is how much water they give them. Especially right after they plant them. Surprisingly, more often than not, the issue is not that they are underwatering – but instead, watering their plants too much.
It is true that tomatoes need a fair amount of water to survive and thrive. But when the soil around the roots of a tomato plant becomes overly wet and stays wet, it can cause all sorts of growing problems. Especially when plants are very young.
Soggy roots swell with moisture. And when they do, they become unable to absorb nutrients from the soil. The result is a plant that sits in place with little to no growth at all. Even worse, the leaves often yellow and the plant begins to wilt.
Listen In Below To Our Podcast On How To Jump Start Your Tomato Plants For Even More Great Tips!
Unfortunately, seeing this, many gardeners think the plant must need more water – and they water even more. Of course, when they do, the problem only gets worse.
Before watering your plants, check down in the soil to see if there is still moisture. Many times, the surface of the soil will dry out, but underneath, there is still plenty of moisture for the roots. And if you continue to water, you will water log the roots and stunt your plant’s growth.
For young plants, watering every day a little is usually necessary for the first few days as they establish. But after that, only water when the soil at the root level begins to dry out. And when you do water, water deep. This makes the roots drive down in the soil instead of staying on the surface. The deeper your roots grow, the better your plants will!
One of the best devices of all to know if your soil is dry at the root level is an instant read soil meter. The long probe goes deep down and instantly tells you the moisture level. They also happen to be great for knowing when to water hanging baskets and container plants too! Affiliate Link: 4-in-1 Soil Moisture Meter
#2 Power Up Your Plants With Fertilizer – How To Jump Start Your Tomato Plants
Tomato plants need a lot of energy to grow and produce. A lot! And even if the soil you are planting in is rich and fertile, young plants can benefit greatly from small doses of extra early power.
This will not only help them recover from the shock of transplanting, but help their roots grow fast and establish deep in the soil. But what, how and when you give your tomato plants extra nutrients is the real key to success!
The best fertilizer to use on young tomato plants is a liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers absorb through a plant’s roots and foliage. Even better, they absorb and go to work quickly. The best options for liquid fertilizing young tomato plants are compost tea, worm casting tea or a high quality organic commercial fertilizer.
Allow your plants to establish in the soil after planting about seven days before first fertilizing. If using compost or worm casting tea, apply a quarter gallon per plant. If using a commercial liquid fertilizer, mix at half strength and apply a quarter gallon per plant.
Commercial fertilizers tend to be stronger, and it’s better to give tomato plants lower doses of regular energy than a big dose all at once. Compost and worm casting tea will not overpower plants, so a full-strength dose is fine.
For young plants, especially ones that might be struggling, re-apply every seven days for four weeks. This will be more than enough to power them up and get them off and running. Affiliate Product Link: Performance Organics For Edibles
#3 Dealing With Cold Soil / Cold Air Temperatures – How To Jump Start Your Tomato Plants
Nothing will make tomatoes more lethargic than cold soil and cool air temperatures. And unfortunately, both can be quite the common occurrence in the spring and early summer.
Tomatoes are warm weather plants. They simply do not perform well in cool weather or soil – and that is exactly why it’s so important to always wait until the soil warms up before planting. For optimum growing, tomatoes need to have the soil at a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, sometimes even with the best planning, Mother Nature has the final say. But the good news is that if your plants are in the ground and a cold snap arrives, there are a few things you can do to keep your young tomato plants growing – and not just sitting stagnant.
For starters, remember that mulch is an insulator. And if you did happen to plant in cool soil, or you have an extended cold snap, it actually can keep the soil colder longer if left in place.
For this reason, instead of mulch, place black plastic on the soil around your plants for a few days or even a week or two if your weather is cool and / or your soil is still cold. The black plastic will absorb the suns rays and quickly warm the soil up. Then, once it warms, put your mulch back around for the remainder of the summer.
The longer you allow your plants to remain in cold soil – the more they will sit. And when they sit, the chance of mildew and rot increase dramatically.
You can also place a plastic jug filled with water (old milk jugs work great) about six inches away from each tomato plant. They will absorb heat during the day, warming the soil below. Then, at night, they will release that heat in the air around plants, providing even more warmth.
#4 Start Pruning Early!
Last but not least, as your plants start to grow up, begin to prune their lower leaves off early. Keeping your plants pruned at the bottom will allow air and light to get to the soil below. Both light and air are critical factors in helping plants power up through photosynthesis.
In addition, keeping the lower leaves off of your plants will also help keep soil-born diseases like blight spores from splashing up on your plants. As plants reach full size, prune up at least 12 inches to keep the air and light coming in.
Here is to energizing your tomato plants early on – and to growing an amazing harvest of tomatoes this year! For more on tomatoes, check out our article How To Avoid The Three Biggest Tomato Planting Mistakes.
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