You’ve heard all of the horror stories about starting a tomato garden, including insect infestations, fungal diseases in plants, and low tomato production. Well, there is one secret to avoiding all of these problems, and that is having good, healthy soil for your tomato plants. Having the right soil will ensure that your plants get the proper nutrition, water supply, and protection against pests and disease.
One of the first things to consider in regards to your garden soil is getting it to the proper pH. pH is just a fancy way of saying how acidic or alkaline a substance is, and it is easy to test your soil to find out just where it falls on this scale. You can obtain pH testing supplies at most garden shops, nurseries, and home improvement stores. The ideal pH for tomato plants is in the high 6’s to 7.0, which is just slightly on the acidic side of the scale. If your test determines that your soil doesn’t fall in this range, there are steps you can take to get it where it needs to be. Garden soil that is too low in pH can be treated with ground limestone to make it more alkaline. Conversely, alkaline soil can be made more acidic by adding substances like peat moss, pine needles, or sawdust.
Good, healthy, soil for tomatoes should also contain lots of nutrients for those hungry plants. Ideally, you could plant a totally organic garden and add no artificial fertilizers, but in reality some fertilizer will really help to grow a better, more fruitful garden. The good news is, if you keep your soil full of nutrient-rich compost, you will need to add very little fertilizer. Compost is best described as organic “fertilizer” which is made up of the partially decomposed remnants of such things as food waste, clipped grass, leaves, cardboard, and manure. Some of the benefits of properly “composted” soil include better disease resistance, fewer insect pests, reduced need for fertilizer, and fewer toxins in the soil. Add a shovel of compost to your garden on a regular basis during the season, and that should be plenty of added nutrients for your tomato plants. If you happen to live in a desert area, or a location with rocky ground, mixing compost with the soil is the primary way to make the land arable.
While we are talking about soil for tomato plants, you might be wondering where the best location for your garden might be. If you have the luxury of being able to select a spot, your best bet would be a location that gets good sunlight all day. Ideally, your tomato plants should get between six and eight hours of sun every day to grow to their full potential. Many successful gardeners also recommend planting your tomatoes in front of a tall fence or wall to help keep them warm. It will enhance the sunlight that gets to your plants. I would also recommend avoiding planting on a slope or the side of a hill, as tomato plants don’t seem to like windy or breezy locations.
Remember that old saying, “prevention is the best medicine?” Well that definitely holds true in the tomato gardening world. By having the proper soil for tomato plants to flourish, you will also be taking great steps in avoiding many of the problems associated with gardening such as fungal infections, nematodes, and other common pests that ravage tomato gardens. Remember these important tips and you will find that your plants grow healthy, and provide you with an abundant crop of tomatoes each and every summer!