Dave of Dave’s Garden fame doesn’t think much of what he calls “fake, store bought tomatoes with their thick skins”. That’s why so many people choose to grow their own sweet and tasty tomatoes at home, he says. Dave’s video (4:29) offers some useful tips, mainly for getting the tomato plants in the ground and how to manage their growth. Remember that most tomatoes are vine varieties and can get out of hand if you do not trellis them properly.
Dave’s quite right in saying you can’t just throw seeds in the ground and expect them to grow. You can buy plants from a garden center or nursery, but Dave believes you should take advantage of the thousands of heirloom, open-pollinated seeds available and sow them yourself. This should be done six to eight weeks before the final frost in your area.
You should plant the seeds in potting soil in plastic containers and place the containers under a growing lamp indoors, in a shed, laundry or kitchen — anywhere you can find space. Put the light as close to the containers as possible. Keep the soil moist (not sopping wet) and maintain a good air flow in the vicinity of the containers. In six to eight weeks you will have beautiful little tomato seedlings.
Locate your tomato garden where the plants will get a minimum ten hours sunlight per day. Take into account that tomato plants need consistent irrigation — not too much, not too little. Make a generous, deep hole for each plant and plant the seedling right up to its neck so that only top cap of leaves shows. This encourages the stem to sprout roots and leads to a healthy and robust plant.
Dave warns against just leaving the tomato plant to grow. It would simply spread all over the ground and what fruits it produced would simply rot. You have to raise them off the ground. There are three ways: staking, fencier staking and caging. A stake can be simply a piece of bamboo. You train each plant up a stake. A fencier stake is a fancy metal one which allows you to tie the plant to the stake. Dave’s favorite, though, is a cage, which is simply a bit of rolled fencing. Dave says he made 40 of these from a $100 roll of fencing (that’s $2.50 each) and they last “forever”. You have to use a length of rebar to weight it down and secure it in the soil so it doesn’t blow away in high winds. And obviously you have to prune away superfluous growth to prevent the tomato plant from spreading. Look at this great video about pruning tomatoes.