Today's discussion is Tomato Care 101, or what you should be doing with your tomato plants out in the garden this time of year.
First of all, let's talk about fertilization. You don't want to start regular tomato fertilization until you see the first set of tomatoes the size of marbles appear on the vine. Most of the tomatoes in our area at least have tiny green tomatoes by this time. If you fertilize before they have those small green tomatoes, you'll have a lot of green leaves and few tomatoes. After the tomatoes start setting, fertilize tomatoes every 2-3 weeks.
Hopefully, you have some kind of mulch under those tomatoes to keep a uniform moisture content. This is especially important when we get into the dryer portions of the summer. Mulch can also lessen the chances of blossom end rot. This occurs when the calcium in the soil doesn't get up to the little tomatoes as they are forming because there isn't sufficient moisture or calcium in the soil to get it there.
You might want to start suckering your tomato vines about now. Suckering will cause earlier maturing of your tomatoes, as well as producing bigger tomatoes. Suckering is nothing more than pinching or cutting out the small stem that grows between the leaf and the stem. Be careful to not sucker off the flower clusters or the top most part of the plant.
Keep an eye out for the dreaded early blight that will start with browning of the lower leaves, and will work up the plant until it engulfs the total plant. When that happens, your tomato growing season will come to a quick end. Mulching, pruning out infected leaves, and preventive fungus sprays to control early blight are highly recommended.
One last comment. If you do everything right, you should have a bumper crop of tomatoes. The last hint is to harvest the tomatoes before they are fully ripe. This can be done by picking the tomatoes as they just start turning on the bottom and placing them in a partially shaded area until ripe.