Here in the deep south in zone 8 or 9 – ish we are starting our fall tomato plant crop! We planted our seeds in starter cells at the end of July! Who would have thought, right? This crop will basically be an end of summer beginning of fall crop for us. This is our first year trying tomatoes this time of year but I hear they are tastier and delicious tomatoes! So read on for some easy and simple beginner gardening tips on how to grow fall tomato plants!
When we began planting our seeds a few weeks ago in our starter cells we kind of got carried away….we have 72 cells started…a few of the cells didn’t take so give or take we have about 65-70 tomato plants started! If all of these tomato plants grow and produce we’ll be canning tomatoes and putting lots in the freezer – which I’ll talk about on a later blog post, stay tuned!
We started our garden from scratch this past spring and fell in love with gardening! We babied our plants and garden and had quite a crop! It truly takes time and patience!
How to grow fall tomato plants
Planting Zone – First start by looking up what planting zone you are in for your region – this will help you know when to start your seeds to get tomato plants going.
First Frost Date – Many times you have to look up your average first frost date and work backwards on timing the start of your seeds to place them in the ground. For some reason we like to get a little head start according to our frost date. No rhyme or reason to why we do that, I think we are more anxious to get going on our garden again!
Seed Cell Starters – We like to start our seeds in the cell starters so we can keep them close to our house to keep them watered and babied. We can also protect them from the heat by keeping them in the shade. Here in the south the heat can be so brutal to your plants and tiny plants as well.
When to transplant tomato plants?
Transplant from cell starters – Next once our tomatoes get a bit bigger we’ll transplant from the cell starters into larger containers – honestly last season I had a ton of red solo cups we used to transplant into so we didn’t have to buy larger containers!
Transplant tomato plants into the garden – You can set your previous transplants out in your garden space to get them acclimated before you actually plant the plant into the ground. This basically prevents shock to your plant and root system. Gradually acclimating your plants will create a healthier plant in the end.
Once your tomato plants are approximately 4-6 inches tall you are ready to plant them into the ground.
Tips to grow Huge tomato plants
1- Keep the suckers pulled off of the plants. The suckers are only doing what they say “sucking” nutrients from the plant and keeping it from growing vibrantly. These little suckers are small little shoots growing between two of your branches. Keep those picked off.
2 – Epson salt/ Water combo: As the plants start to blossom begin to pour a combo of epson salt and water around the base of your plants.
If you know it’s going to rain toss a small handful around each plant and let the rain soak it into the roots.
You will yield so much more by taking the time on this step. Your plants will love the magnesium – I pinky promise!
3 – Pinch back the base of the plants as they grow: As your plants grow keep the base trimmed back so the stems and leaves grow at the top around the blossoms. See our picture below for a little more detail on this one!
4 – Spray your plants with milk/water: To prevent bugs – spray 1/3 c. powdered milk with 1 cup water – mix that well – then add 4 more cups of water to dilute. Place this in a spray bottle and spray the stalks, the top of the leaves and the underneath and around the base of the plant really well. Just do this at the beginning of the season. It worked for us, we had VERY little bugs around our tomato plants in the spring/summer garden.
Tie up tomato plants
Don’t forget – as your tomato plants grow they will need to be staked up. You can tie them up with some twine and bamboo sticks, you can get the tomato cages…really it doesn’t matter as long as you are supporting these plants.
Not sure when to harvest your tomatoes? Here are some great tips on knowing when your tomatoes are ready to pick!
If you are new to gardening – stay tuned and I’ll be sure to update this post as the season goes and keep you informed on how we’re doing!