Here Is My Tip!
I have found that a good way to grow tomato plants in the zones 4-5 is to buy good quality (thick) weed barrier landscape fabric and the pins for the fabric to hold it in place.
I use the thicker fabric and not the plastic kind as the plastic tears too easily and does not do as good a job. The black color of the fabric draws heat from the sun to warm the soil as well as help to protect the plants from weeds.
I have my garden prepared and choose a spot where I would like to plant the tomatoes. I then lay down the weed barrier landscape fabric securely fastening it into place. I then take scissors to cut an "X" where I want to put each plant. I plant the tomato up to just below the bottom leaves of the plant for a deep root system.
I leave the fabric exposed to the sun and do NOT cover it with mulch. If you have poor tan soil then be prepared to feed them weekly with a good plant food. A great thing about this fabric is that I usually find that at the end of the gardening season I can take up the fabric and pins and reuse them the next year.
For times of drought or needed water conservation or just to make sure your tomatoes roots are getting the needed even moisture save your 2 liter soft drink bottles with the lids. Turn the empty bottle upside down and poke holes in the bottom. Then plant the bottle right side up. You want at least half of the bottle buried in the earth within a couple inches of your tomato plant (3-6 inches should do). Take the lid off and fill with water and quickly recap. The water will slowly (depends on how many holes and how big of holes you poked in the bottle) leak out of the bottle and to the roots of your plant where it is needed. This way you can keep a more consistent moisture for your tomato plants.
Inconsistent watering can cause scarring of and cracks in the tomato fruit. Don't worry about the water from the garden hose being too cold for this. The plastic bottle will allow the sun to heat it up so your plants will actually be receiving warm water to their roots. I do not recommend feeding tomato plants this way with plant food unless you dilute the plant food first. Remember you are sending this straight to the plants roots unfiltered by dirt.
Since tomato plants are heavy feeders they take a lot of nutrients out of the soil. So remember each year to put them somewhere different in the garden. What I usually do is rotate planting green beans and tomatoes. Where I put the green beans this year is where I will plant the tomatoes next year. Since green beans actually put nitrogen back into the soil I plant them where the tomatoes were the previous year. This allows me to keep my small garden growing year after year without having to give the ground a rest.
If you have comments regarding this article, or would like to share your own experience, and observations with Town & Country Gardens' readers, just send us an email ( to email@example.com ), please.
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(Jasmine&Roses) My father in law does this method, with tomatoes, and bell peppers, here in zone 7. He always gets great crop, year, after year!
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Special Thanks to Town & Country Gardens Contributors: antoinette_qtks, blogger, bulabean, dive-angel (Karin), flickr, Jasmine&Roses, Rita Crane Photography. Rita Crane, daughter of LIFE magazine photographer Ralph Crane. Her work can be seen on Flickr at Rita Crane Photography or on her website., Wikipedia, W.D. Williams
Here Is My Tip!