It’s time to plant tomatoes again and Tomatomania offers an amazing variety of hybrids and heirloom tomatoes to please any gardener. Scott Daigre, founder of what he calls the largest and most fun tomato seedling sales, created Tomatomania back in the 1990s at Hortus, a specialized nursery in Pasadena. Since then he has been bringing pop-up tomato sales to tomato lovers all over the region. This Wednesday, April 6: (Wed) Tomatomania will be at Los Angeles Arboretum for a Class and Sale.
Daigre recently offered his best tips on raising tomatoes to the Hancock Park Garden Club. Here are the highlights of his talk on how to raise the best, most prolific plants.
- Look for sunlight — Before you plant, find a sunny spot in your yard because tomatoes need eight hours of sunlight. Six hours is considered the minimum. Also, be sure to plant them far apart if you can, 6 feet is considered optimal. Tomatoes do best where there is enough space for air circulation for the entire plant.
- Amend your soil – Daigre recommends amending the soil every time you plant and finding a new location each year. “Make last year’s pests have to look around this year,” said Daigre. He cautions against buying the “cheap stuff.” Daigre says look a compost mix with long list of ingredients. Don’t use steer manure either, use an organize mix like Dr. Earth.
- Dig deep and plant deep — according to Daigre, tomatoes are really weeds and they love a deep rich soil to spread out their roots. Surprisingly, he recommends burying about two-thirds of the seedling when you plant. Ideally, you want to start with a plant that’s no more than 3″-4″ tall. And, pick off any flowers on the seedling, this will allow the plant to put its energy into building a root system since it’s not quite ready to make fruit.
- Water deeply and infrequently — ideally, you should be soaking the root ball each time you water. Make sure the water percolates down allowing the roots to follow the water. If your plants look wilted on a hot day, they don’t always need water. Instead Daigre recommends shading them with an outdoor umbrella. Too much water dilutes the flavor of tomatoes.
Tomatoes can be grown in the ground or in pots. Daigre recommends paper pots because they don’t heat up like plastic or terra cotta. Compressed paper pots will keep the roots cooler and they can be used for several seasons.
For more of Scott’s tips, visit Tomatomania. If you missed one his sales, you can still get great tomatoes in our local nurseries. Sunset Nursery offers a very good selection, nearby Orchard Supply Hardware offered reliable plants even late in the season last year.
Either way, get started with something and soon you’ll be enjoying one of the easiest and best crops! Cherry tomatoes are reported to be the easiest to grow. The variety “Sun Gold” was cited by Hancock Park Garden Club tomato maniacs as the sweetest, too.