Those juicy, red tomatoes are a treat in every kitchen, and if they’re homegrown, they’re easily the star of every recipe you cook. While harvest time is the most delightful time of summer for many gardeners, it can seem like forever to come to that. Planting the seeds, waiting for them to sprout, and the countless day’s seedlings take to grow into mature plants can seem like a drag. If only there were a way to fast-forward the growing season and bring the day when you can start picking ripe tomatoes!
Continue reading to understand some of the most common reasons for the slow growth of tomatoes. You’ll also find tips on how to make tomato plants grow faster.
Reasons For Slow Growth Of Tomatoes
Before moving on to the tips to speed up growth, let’s check out some reasons why your tomato plants might be growing slower than usual.
Underwatering and overwatering can both cause tomato plants to grow slower than normal. Infrequent, deep watering encourages root growth, helping plants grow faster and healthier. Always water at the bottom of the plants to avoid drenching the leaves and making them vulnerable to fungal diseases. Water early morning or late evening so the soil can absorb all the moisture instead of losing it to evaporation.
Tomatoes need nutrient-rich soil with a pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.8 to grow optimally. An imbalance of nutrients or an improper pH can cause the plants to grow slower than anticipated. Till the soil to several inches deep to make it lighter and incorporate plenty of compost and other organic matter, so there are enough nutrients to support a speedy growth for the plants.
An incorrect pH can also cause a nutrient imbalance in plants, so make sure it’s within the range. Order a soil test or get a soil pH test kit to check the soil’s pH. If it’s below the range, raise it by adding lime and if it’s higher than the recommended range, lower it by adding sulfur.
Temperatures below 55°F can slow down the growth of tomato plants. Plant your tomato crop outdoors once all dangers of the frost have passed. If the temperature drops unexpectedly, row covers can help protect against the damage to some extent.
Temperatures above 86°F can also slow down growth and prevent fruit sets. Mulching the ground and using shade cloths to protect the plants from the sun can help resume normal growth on the hottest days of summer.
Some varieties naturally mature slower than others. Heirlooms generally mature slower than most hybrids. Some can even take over 90 days to mature. Make sure you check the seed packet to understand when to expect the harvest.
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How To Make Tomato Plants Grow Faster – Tips For A Speedy Growth
If you’ve found the reason for the slow growth of your tomato crop, it’s easy to address it and speed up the development for an earlier harvest. However, even if there isn’t any evident reason why your tomato crop is making you wait so long, here are some tips that can help pull out a faster harvest:
1. Preheat Soil
Tomato plants are warm-season crops and grow best in warm soil. If the garden bed is cold at the time of planting the seedlings or seeds, tomatoes will grow slowly. Cover the soil with black plastic a couple of weeks before the planting date to help the ground warm up faster in spring. The extra warmth you added with this method will pay off with an earlier harvest.
2. Plant Deeply
When planting transplants in the garden, bury them deeper in the ground than their depth in the existing container. Bury the stem and leaves in the soil, leaving only a few top leaves exposed above the soil. Planting deeply will allow roots to grow from the stems. More roots will develop a stronger and faster-growing plant.
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3. Water Deeply
Tomato plant roots can and shout go deep therefore water the plants and make sure the water goes all the way to the bottom of the roots. I use makeshift funnels to make sure the water gets in deep.
4. Mulch After The Soil Has Warmed
Don’t apply mulch too early after planting the new transplants. Allow a month after transplanting until the soil warms up nicely with the sun before applying organic mulch. A 2-inch layer of straw, grass clippings, or shredded leaves will help conserve moisture and allow faster growth of plants.
5. Check Soil Calcium Levels
Lack of calcium can cause all manner of problems including blossom end rot. Before you plant out check the calcium levels using a soil testing kit. If you don’t have enough calcium here are a few ways to add more calcium into the soil.
- Use a calcium fertilizer
- Add Lime to the soil (in the fall)
- Add Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
- Use Eggshells – grind up or add eggs from kitchen waste into a composter
- Bone meal
- Foliar sprays
- Wood ash
6. Prune The Plants
Once the plant is tall enough, about 3 feet at least, remove the bottom-most leaves of the plants since they make the plant prone to fungal diseases. Also, pinch out the suckers – stems that appear from the intersection of branches. They pull away the plant’s energy, so when you pull the suckers out, all the extra energy will be utilized for the faster maturing of fruits.
7. Don’t Spray the Foliage
Avoid spraying the leaves with water as this increases the chance of airborne diseases. Water from the base, I am fortunate enough to have a greenhouse, and it’s well worth the investment to keep the rain off the tomatoes. I will often grow some tomatoes outside vs indoors and the outside ones nearly always get diseases.
Tomato plants are heavy feeders and will grow faster with a steady supply of the required nutrients. Regular applications of an organic tomato fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen can help develop fruits faster.
It’s very easy to cram lots of tomatoes in the same space to increase yields but don’t be tempted! Check the seed packets and stick to the spacing. Lack of airflow around plants causes them to complete and also encourages certain airborne diseases.
always provide something for them to grow up. Twine, trellis it doesn’t matter just something to keep them off the damp floor away from water and pests.
keep your tomatoes at a consistent temperature. This is another reason why a greenhouse is a sound investment. Tomato plants don’t like drastic environmental changes as they shock the plants.
12. Water Little And Often
When it comes to watering be consistent. This is another tip from the experts! if you look at what professional growers are doing you will see drip feeders. This is a simple investment and can even be a simple upside-down drinks bottle with a pinhole in the lid get creative and recycle to make your own.
13. Choose The Right Variety
Check the packaging and make sure you choose a disease-resistant variety this will save you lots of time and effort in the long run.
Make sure the position of the tomato plants has lots of full sunlight.
Repot often early on this process disturbs the roots and as you progressively pot up into bigger and deeper pots this will encourage a stronger root system. I usually switch 3 or 4 different-sized pots when starting from seed.
Fast-Maturing Tomato Varieties
If you don’t want to wait too long before picking fresh, homegrown tomatoes, choose fast-maturing varieties. Here are some fast-maturing cultivars along with their expected days to harvest.
- Bloody Butcher – 55 days
- Stupice – 60 days
- Sungold – 60 days
- Betalux – 60 days
- Sub Arctic Plenty -55 days
- Early Girl – 59 days
- Tigerella (heirloom) – 55 days
Now that you know how to make tomato plants grow faster, it’s time to take your gardening game to the next level. Choose the best varieties, plant them at the correct time and practice all the tips to speed up the crop’s development to enjoy a faster and bigger harvest.