For our general tips and videos about growing Tomatoes, click Tips for growing Tomatoes.
For FAQ concerning Blight Tomato disease, click Late blight tomato-disease.
Care of Plants On Arrival -
Your plants have just spent up to 3 days without light or water and may have yellow leaves or show evidence of wilting. Through years of shipping experience, we have found that more than 98% of these plants will survive and thrive if you follow the simple care instructions below.
1. Please take your plants out of the shipping box as soon after their arrival as possible, taking care not to damage any stems or leaves as you free the plants from the cardboard packaging.
2. If the soil is dry, water gently but thoroughly from above or set the pot in a saucer of water for an hour or so -- just long enough for the soil in the pot to become thoroughly moist, but not soggy.
3. Place your plants in bright but indirect light indoors or, if temperatures permit, outdoors in the shade, sheltered from the wind. Don't put your plants in full sun right away because their leaves are tender after the trip and could be burned (sunscalded) or fall off if exposed to too much sun too soon. Allow your plants to adjust gradually over the next few days to increasing amounts of sunlight.
4. We've tried to time the shipping of our young plants so that they arrive at or near the frost-free date in your climate zone. If, however, the weather is still raw and a frost seems likely, transplant your plants into larger pots, taking them outside during the day when the weather is mild and bringing them in whenever frost or blustery cold weather threatens. Young plants are more tender than mature plants, and even if the last spring frost is already past, near-freezing temperatures and cold spring winds are capable of killing your new plants. Expose your young plants to outdoor conditions gradually, giving them a chance to harden off before they're planted out. When the weather does settle and both days and nights become reliably mild (night-time temperatures should remain above 50°F), then it's time for planting out.
Planting out: When the weather is warm and settled, choose a planting location in full sun with rich, fertile soil and good drainage. To reduce soil-borne disease problems, plant tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers where you haven't grown them or potatoes in the past 3 years. Dig a hole that will generously accommodate the plant's root ball, and mix compost or aged manure and a handful of low-nitrogen, organic fertilizer into the planting hole. If the weather is hot and sunny, plant in the cool of morning or wait until late afternoon to minimize stress.
To remove a plant from its pot, flip the pot over, tap on its bottom, and slip the plant out. Do not pull the plant out by its stem. Loosen the root ball and tease the roots apart if they are matted or tangled. Set the cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, and squash into their holes so that the tops of the root balls are level with or just slightly below the surrounding soil. For the tomatoes, cut off all but the top 2-3 branches, lay the stem and roots at an angle in a trench about 4-5in deep, then cover the stem with soil, leaving the branches and leaves above ground. Tomato plants will send out roots along the buried stem, accelerating their growth. Grafted Tomatoes should be planted at soil level so that the graft line, indicated by green tie tape, remains above ground.
Push soil back into each planting hole and firm the soil around each plant to eliminate air pockets. Water thoroughly to further settle the soil. Keep the soil around the plants moist but not soggy and provide shade (with row cover, cardboard, or lath) for the first few days. Transplant shock is not uncommon, but within a week or less the plants' roots will regain their ability to provide moisture to the foliage. Remove shading once plants perk up.
Continuing care: If rain is scarce, water your vegetable plants deeply and regularly (weekly, or more often in hot, dry weather).
Once the fruits of peppers and tomatoes start to ripen, water only if plants start to wilt; withholding water at this stage will result in better-flavored fruit. No additional fertilizer is needed, but a mulch of compost or aged manure won't hurt.
Plants can also be foliar fed throughout the season with a kelp- and/or fish-based product, but avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, which promote lush growth at the expense of fruit production. Provide cages or supports for the tomato plants. Stake pepper plants so heavy yields don't break their branches.
Learn the whys and hows of pruning Tomato plants in a fully illustrated article from Fine Gardening magazine. Click here.