Before you start growing your first tomatoes, there are a few basic gardening concepts to bear in mind. When planning the location and layout of your garden, these considerations can make a huge difference.
First off, tomatoes grow best under healthy conditions. These conditions are formed by a combination of water, sunlight, good air circulation, and protection from pests. High grade soil with plenty of rich organic material is critical.
The soil is the “diet” of the tomato plant – it’s the source of all the nutrients that end up in the tomatoes. So, if your soil is depleted, it will result in poor tomato growth. There are many organic fertilizers available to improve the soil. These natural fertilizers replace the nutrients that plants use as they grow, restoring the soil to a balanced state.
The Golden Rule of tomato gardening is “Compost, Compost, Compost!” This rich organic material is the basis of rich organic soil. Best of all, you can make free fertilizer at home with a simple compost pile. To find out exactly what properties your soil has, check with your local University Extension agent and mail in a soil sample for testing at a local lab.
For more information on soil pathogens and chemical imbalances, skip ahead to the section titled Expert Tips: Troubleshooting Tomatoes and Tomato Plants. These problems will also show up on the Tomato Troubleshooting Cheat Sheet.