The Plant Man: April is the perfect time for growing delicious tomatoes

By Steve Kawaratani

“The tomato offers its gift of fiery color and cool completeness.”

–Pablo Neruda

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Photos courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

Between remnants of the rainy season, April is forecast to bring sunny skies and moderate temperatures to Laguna, ideal for growing the perfect homegrown tomato. Our coastal climate offers the perfect locale for harvesting tomatoes that are exceptionally tasty. Whether you have a vegetable plot or cultivate in containers, your tomatoes will enhance your salads, sandwiches and culinary experiences.

Selecting the right tomato variety is the key to a successful harvest; choose varieties that are hybridized for our mild spring and moderate summer weather. Favorites like “Early Girl,” “Celebrity” and “Better Boy” produce full-sized fruit, and cherry tomatoes, such as “Sungold” or “Super Sweet 100” will provide an abundance of sweet, bite-sized treats. When selecting tomato plants, look for healthy seedlings with strong stems and spot-free leaves to avoid disappointment.

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Cherry tomatoes perfectly complement the plant man’s dinner

Tomatoes require at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily and should be protected from constant wind. They prefer well-draining soil enriched with a quality planting mix and mulch to improve soil structure and fertility. If you’re planting in containers, use 15-gallon containers and a potting soil formulated for vegetables to ensure proper drainage. Fertilizer formulated for tomatoes should be applied monthly.

Tomatoes prefer consistent moisture, but overwatering can lead to issues such as root rot or mushy tasting fruit. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, while allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Consider using drip irrigation to provide deep, thorough watering without wetting the foliage, to decrease the risk of disease. To conserve moisture and deter weeds, apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your tomato plants.

As your tomato plants grow, providing adequate support is essential to encourage healthy growth and prevent damage from untimely wind or heavy fruit. Install stakes or cages at the time of planting to give your plants their necessary support. As they grow, gently tie the main stem to the support structure using twine or soft strips of fabric. Pruning unproductive or weak stems will direct the plant’s energy towards fruit production.

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Planting mix and mulch is essential for cultivating homegrown tomatoes

It’s been sung that “There’s only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” While this may be true, April is the perfect time to nurture and enjoy the bounty of your tomatoes throughout their season. May the flavor of fresh, fiery red tomatoes from your garden elevate your joy and appreciation of growing your own produce. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani, a regular columnist with Stu News Laguna, has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at plantman2@mac.com or 949.494.5141.


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