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 days 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 pH in the range 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 the damage to some extent.
Temperatures above 86°F can also slow down growth and prevent fruit set. Mulching the ground and using shade cloths to protect the plants from the sun can help resume normal growth in 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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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 plant’s energy, so when you pull the suckers out, all the extra energy will be utilized into the faster maturing of fruits.
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.
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.