Tomatoes are a Jersey garden staple, but they can be tricky to grow, especially for first-time gardeners. Check out these tips from SJ Mag’s gardening expert Toni Farmer to get those delicious tomatoes just right.

Beware of blight
Blight – The soil-borne disease can be a death sentence for your tomatoes if it’s left alone. While you can’t fully get rid of it, you can manage it. One way to keep your tomatoes healthy is by cutting off the infected leaves. But make sure you clean your scissors with disinfectant between each cut or you could risk spreading the blight to the rest of the plant.

Save banana peels
Here’s a secret: tomatoes love calcium and need a lot of it to grow. A good way to naturally give your plants calcium is with an old banana peel. As the banana peel decomposes, it will release calcium to your plants and help them stay healthy through the season.

Loosen your soil
Before you place your seeds, take some time to turn over your soil. Plants need space to grow, so loosen the soil and make sure it isn’t compacted. 

We’ve all done it – you grab your hose and water your soil for about a minute then call it a day, but that’s not going to be good enough for your tomatoes. When you don’t water enough, your tomato roots might grow in the shallow part of the soil (the only part that’s wet), but you want them growing deep. So every now and then, turn up your soil to check that the water is reaching further down.

Save your pizza boxes
One way to make those pizza boxes recyclable is to reuse them to keep blight away from your tomatoes. Place an unfolded pizza box (or other cardboard) on top of your soil where you plan to plant your tomatoes. It will keep any blight-affected soil from being blown onto the tomato leaves and transferring the disease. Then, soak the box and cut a hole in the middle for your seeds.



Watch SJ Mag’s Marianne Aleardi and Toni Farmer tackle tomatoes (and other gardening projects) in our Facebook series “The Goal is to Become a Gardener.” 

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June 2023
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