1. Did You Choose the Right Variety?
It may seem simple, but the kinds you plant must be climate-appropriate. Choose cool-climate varieties for regions with shorter growing seasons and hot-climate varieties for very warm regions in order to ensure they can still produce fruit in summer.
Certain tomatoes are more sensitive to illness than others, so seek for variety descriptions that guarantee disease resistance, such as blight resistance. You may also want to seek out varieties known to give an early harvest, heavy yields, and, of course, superior flavor—or all of the above!
Let’s review four criteria:
- Climate: If you reside in a northern, colder environment, your tomatoes may have a shorter growing season. Look for varieties that are for cool climates and short seasons such as ‘Early Girl’ (matures only 50 days after planting); most other short-season varieties will be cherry tomatoes. There are also tomato varieties that are heat-tolerant and best for hot Southern gardens such as ‘Heatmaster’ and ‘Arkansas Traveler’. To find the variety with the qualities you’re searching for, use Bonnie Plants’ Tomato Chooser.
- Type of tomato Do you want tomatoes to go with your pasta and sauce? Or are you a fantastic slicer? Or maybe bite-sized? Romas, plum, or “paste” tomatoes are excellent for cooking because they contain plenty of flesh for sauces. Beefsteaks are chunky and juicy, so are great in salads and on burgers. Cherry tomatoes have the most delicious flavor and are ideal for snacks and youngsters. Check our guide on how to cultivate cherry tomatoes!
- Growing habit Tomatoes may be determinate or indeterminate. Learn the difference and remember that indeterminates must be staked early to avoid disease!
- Determinate or “bush” varieties At around 3 feet tall, the plant stops growing. These compact plants bear fruit all at once and are ideal for producing sauce or preserving (when you need a large quantity of tomatoes at once). Most bush tomatoes like a cage, and others grow well in pots.
- Indeterminate varieties will continue to bear fruit throughout the season until the plant is destroyed by frost. These plants get quite large and will need definitely some kind of tall supports (at least 5 feet) so stake, or cage plants early. Fruit and foliage that sprawls on the ground are more susceptible to disease, and your crop will suffer as a result. Indeterminates are great for salads and sandwiches, since they produce fewer fruit at a time, but for a longer period of time.
- Disease-resistance Tomato names are frequently followed by capital letters that represent disease resistance. Take close attention to these letters, particularly if you have already experienced one of these illnesses in your environment. Choose blight-resistant tomatoes if you live in a humid temperate area. Hybrid examples are ‘Iron Lady,’ ‘Defiant’, ‘Mountain Magic’, ‘Mountain Merit’, and ‘Jasper’. Heirloom varieties include ‘Lemon Drop,’ ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry,’ and ‘Mr. Stripey’ (also known as ‘Tigerella’). ‘Jasper’ is a delicious red cherry. Check our post on choosing the correct tomato to prevent blight.
2. Did You Provide Heat and Sunshine?
Tomatoes like the heat. Avoid planting tomatoes in the ground too soon. The soil temperature must stay continuously between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (15 and 18 degrees Celsius). Preheat the soil with black plastic a couple of weeks before planting. If it’s still iffy, protect seedlings from the cold with sheets or row covers.
Tomates adore the sun! A position in full sun (that means an average of at least six hours a day) gives the best results in most areas, though if you’re in a hot climate you can get away with dappled shade.
- If you are planting from seeds . It is vital to offer strong, direct light when sowing yourself. (Note: If your frost date has passed, it is too late to start tomatoes from seed. Invest in transplants instead.) Northern gardeners should use grow lights 14 to 18 hours a day for seeds and young seedlings to offer an early boost and encourage upright development. Without adequate light, your plants will be spindly and will not thrive. Discover how to grow tomatoes from seed.
- Planting seedlings or transplants in the ground If your seedlings were developed inside or in a greenhouse, do not just place them in the chilly earth outdoors. To prevent cold shock, outdoor tomatoes must first acclimate to outside circumstances. If the plants have been in a greenhouse, harden them off over a two-week period. Begin by letting plants outdoors for a few hours every day, then gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside, avoiding windy days. If temperatures are expected to fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), bring plants indoors. Plant outdoors just after all frost threat has gone.
When planting in the ground, choose your sunniest spot with at least six hours of direct sunshine a day. For tomatoes, sunshine is like water and they’ll soak it up and produce more fruit! Likewise, make sure your tomatoes aren’t overcrowded so that the sunlight can reach their bottom leaves. Put little plant seedlings 30 to 48 inches apart in rows 48 inches apart.
3. Did You Provide The Right Growing Conditions?
- Before planting, provide lots of organic stuff. Quality garden compost or well-rotted manure, applied lavishly, can supply enough nutrients to last the entire season, and will help with retaining moisture—a lifesaver during the heat of summer! Beef up your soil two weeks before putting your tomato plants outside! 1 foot deep in the soil, mix with old manure or compost.
- Tomato plants also need space – not only to reach their full potential, but to encourage a good flow of air between plants, which should help to reduce the threat of disease. Most of the time, this implies allowing at least two feet (60cm) between plants.
- Lastly, don’t plant tomatoes in a garden bed that has previously grown the same plant family (for example, potatoes, eggplants, or peppers).
4. Did You Plant Deeply and Provide Support?
Most plants must be planted at the same depth at which they grew as a seedling or young plant. But, not tomatoes! Plant tomatoes a bit deeper than they arrive in the container, right up to the bottom few leaves! Since tomatoes root along their stems, this method aids in the development of stronger roots.
Tomatoes may be planted much deeper due to their ability to generate new roots anywhere along their stems. Planting deeper allows us to grow stronger, more robust plants that are ready to flourish. Plant deep at every stage: when transferring seedlings into their own pots by sinking them right up to their lowest leaves, and again when planting them into their final growing spots. Don’t be hesitant to insert plants rather deeply into their planting hole—or to remove a few low branches in the process. That may seem contradictory, but it will result in better plants!
Dig a trench for leggy transplants and place the stem sideways, gradually bending upward. Remove the lowest branches and cover with dirt up to the first set of leaves. This additional root development will result in a stronger, more robust plant.
One of the reasons why growbags and other small containers aren’t appropriate is that they may not provide adequate support. If you are using growbags, be sure to buy bigger, well-filled bags; plant only one or two tomatoes per bag (depending on its volume), not the often-recommended three; and add an extra depth of potting mix using a special planting ring or by pushing in a wide pot with the bottom cut off it.
Tomato plants spread spontaneously. It’s one of the reasons they produce roots from their stems—it enables them to draw up more moisture and nutrients wherever they touch the soil to fuel growth. But, fruits that come into touch with the ground quickly spoil, which is why we train them up off the ground.
For determinate or bush tomato varieties that don’t grow as tall, a robust stake may suffice. Nevertheless, indeterminate or vine tomatoes must be sustained over their full length and are frequently tied up on a regular basis. To keep these plants firmly supported, use sturdy bamboo canes, garden twine pulled tight, or tall tomato cages.
5. Did You Mulch Your Tomatoes?
Don’t forget to cover the area with mulch! It aids in moisture conservation (tomatoes like water!) and prevents soil-borne disease spores from being sprayed up onto the plants. There are many good mulches to choose from—shredded pine bark, straw, shredded leaves, grass clippings, composted leaves, or even a thick layer of newspaper. Surprisingly, red plastic has been proven to improve tomato fruiting by 12 to 20%. For additional information, see our Mulching Handbook.
6. Did You Remove Leaves and Suckers?
“To pinch or not to pinch?” is a contentious issue. All tomatoes have suckers or side shoots that form between the main stalk and the side branches during the early growth of their plants (the crotch joint).
- You definitely do not want to pinch determinate (bush) else you will only have a few fruit clusters. Since determinates bear fruit only on the ends of their branches, never clip them off, or you won’t get any fruit at all!
- However, most gardeners do pinch indeterminate tomatoes (the kind that continues to expand). You can pinch out the side-shoots or suckers when they are young and tender. The best time is first thing in the morning when the plant is turgid. Just use your fingers to snap them off.
The pros to pinching Most gardeners pinch once a week, allowing one or two suckers to develop so that each becomes a leader with its own leaves, blooms, and fruit. Some professionals, such as Mel Bartholomew (creator of “Square Foot Gardening”), remove all suckers. Numerous sites recommend plucking lower suckers and the oldest leaves from the stem’s base. Fungus issues are reduced since the leaves are normally shadowed by the rest of the plant and are closest to the soil. Spraying with compost tea on a weekly basis seems to help prevent fungal illness. Find out more about compost tea.
The cons to pinching Pinched plants produce bigger tomatoes and bear sooner, but they produce less tomatoes in total. Over-pruning can cause sunscald—a yellow sunburned patch that eventually blisters. Unpruned plants produce around twice as much fruit as trimmed plants, but the fruit takes longer to mature. Pruning has an impact on taste as well. The more leaves a plant has, the more photosynthesis occurs, resulting in more sugars in the fruit. The overgrowth of foliage shadows the fruit and insulates it from the summer heat, causing it to mature more slowly and increasing its flavor.
Bottom-line: Experiment. Of course, if the foliage on your plants is so thick that no fresh air can reach the center of the plant, it definitely needs to be pinched. If your indeterminates are reaching for the stars, you can also top them above the highest blossoms to keep them in bounds and encourage green fruit to ripen.
7. Did You Water Consistently?
Watering is one area where accuracy is critical! Tomato plants need 1 to 2 inches of water every week. Yet, not all at once. Aim for consistent moisture as plants are establishing and then, once they begin to set fruit, let the soil or potting mix just-about dry out between waterings. It’s OK if the foliage shows early indications of withering before watering, but don’t overdo it.
Water rushes into the developing fruits, causing them to split, due to inconsistent watering (seesawing between dust-dry and sodden soil). Plants that are water-stressed extract calcium from the fruit and transfer it to the shoots to keep the plant developing. Blossom-end rot, a frequent tomato disease, is exacerbated by inconsistent moisture, excess nitrogen, and high soil acidity.
Watering is most effective in the early, when plants are most sensitive to moisture. Water thoroughly. A soaker hose is an efficient solution; just position the hose in the garden and pile mulch up and over the hose.
8. Did You Feed Them Well?
The best tomatoes come from plants that have access to all of the nutrients they need.
Most gardeners, in addition to preparation the soil with organic matter (compost), apply a slow-release organic fertilizer to the soil at planting time, or apply frequent liquid feeds using a product particularly made for tomatoes (which often contains added calcium).
We all have small tricks under our sleeves for boosting tomatoes!
- One gardener I know adds a handful of bonemeal to the ground (which adds phosphorus and calcium). Note: pH testing is important because if your soil has a pH of 7 or higher, bone meal will be relatively ineffective. Bone meal with high nitrogen soil additives can also help balance out high nitrogen fertilizers like rotted manure.
- Another gardener crushes up eggshells and adds them in and around your planting holes for added calcium and to avoid blossom end-rot. (Look below for further information.)
- Another popular trick is to add a pinch of Epsom salts to the ground. Added early in the season, Epson salts can increase germination, early root and cell development, photosynthesis, plant growth, and also prevent blossom-end rot.
- Some folks side-dress the plants a dose of liquid seaweed or fish emulsion or feed their tomatoes compost tea to keep heavy-feeding tomato plants happy. Soak one part organic compost in one part water, let sit for 24 hours, filter the “tea,” and use to nourish plants.
Just stay away from high nitrogen fertilizers unless your plants have yellowing leaves. Too much nitrogen will result in luxuriant leaf growth but little or no fruit. If the leaves on your plant are purple, they are calling for more phosphorus. This vitamin is crucial for fruit production.
9. Did You Defend Against Disease?
- Blossom-end rot is a frequent ailment caused by a lack of calcium in the fruit. The most common cause of blossom-end rot is erratic watering, which makes it difficult for the plants to absorb all of the nutrients they need. Consider utilizing eggshells, which are high in calcium, to increase the calcium content of your soil. First, sterilize the shells by popping them into a warm oven for 20 minutes, or microwave on full power for two minutes. Smash them up and sprinkle them into and around your planting holes. Shells take a while to break down, but you can speed this along by grinding them up to increase the surface area, or even dissolving the grounds in water to water on at planting time. Aim for around two eggshells per plant.
- Blight is a significantly more dangerous danger. This pathogen may wipe out an entire crop in a matter of days. Watering at the base of plants to prevent soaking the foliage can also help minimize difficulties. Many gardeners may even pluck the lowest leaves to promote ventilation and reduce splashback while watering. Mulching with clean, dry organic materials, such as straw, may also help to decrease splashback. If blight is often an issue in your region, you may discover that you can only produce tomatoes effectively in a greenhouse or under other protection.
- Then there are the tomato hornworms ! They have a relentless ability to strip foliage. They’re also quite adept at concealment! Do what you can to pick them off as you come across them, or deal with them once and for all by heading out at night with a blacklight or UV light, which will show them up as clear as day—or rather, clearer than day!
Pro Tip: Use aspirin to prevent illness! This little tablet activates the immune system. Spray your plants with a solution of 600 milligrams of aspirin per gallon of water. They’ll believe they’re under assault and will fortify their defenses for the rest of their lives, making them less vulnerable to genuine threats like blight! Moreover, spraying aspirin on your tomatoes is supposed to increase their flavor and even vitamin C content. It will also make plants more resistant to drought and cold.
You may encounter more issues as you cultivate your tomatoes. Tomatoes will attract pest and disease but if you keep your eye out for them, you can avoid many problems. Further information about tomato illnesses and disorders may be found here. And also see how to think ahead and troubleshoot tomato problems.
10. Did You Harvest and Store For Maximum Flavor?
Tomato harvesting is an art form in and of itself. Harvest when the tomato is red and somewhat soft to the touch. Don’t put it off till it’s soft! Or you can actually harvest earlier when the tomato is half green and half pinkish-red (called the breaker stage) and ripen off the vine with no loss of flavor, quality, or nutrition.
- If you want to choose a vine-ripe tomato, pluck it in the afternoon if possible. The warmth of the sun will have developed all those rich aromas, and if you’ve watered in the morning, the fruits will have had time to really concentrate that flavor.
- If you harvest earlier at the breaker stage, this could lighten the fruit load on the plant and reduce the chance of cracked fruit. This might be useful in hotter climates. If you don’t want to pick (and consume) too many tomatoes at once, store them at colder temps. You can speed up or slow down the process by raising the temperature to an optimum eighty-five degrees or lowering to a minimum of fifty degrees.
Tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator since the taste will be destroyed. Tomatoes may be stored at room temperature for 4 to 7 days. Partially ripened tomatoes should not be refrigerated either; refrigeration stops the ripening process. Keep them on the countertop and aim to eat, cook, or process them within the next few days!
Easy Ways for Raising Millions of Tomatoes
What is the best way to grow tomatoes in garden?
Tomatoes need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun to bring out their best flavors. You will need to stake, trellis, or cage most tomato plants to keep them off the ground. Make a support plan before you lay out your plants, and then add that support immediately after planting. Give each plant adequate space to thrive.
What’s the secret to growing good tomatoes?
6 Secrets for Growing the Tastiest Tomatoes
- Plants thrive on good soil. Enrich soil with Tomato-tone and compost every other week to keep plants supplied with essential nutrients.
- Remove damaged plants. …
- Water well. …
- Cover the soil. …
- Protect plants from heat. …
- Remove tomato suckers.
Are tomatoes better in pots or ground?
Overall, if you have the choice of growing tomatoes in the ground or in containers, plant them in the ground. Tomatoes grown directly in the soil need less maintenance. They are also less prone to catch tomato illnesses and will provide a larger crop for you.
Is it better to grow tomatoes in pots or grow bags?
You can happily grow three tomato plants in a grow bag, or a single tomato in a 20cm pot, but they will be much healthier, happier and more productive if they have a bit more space to put their roots out, so if you can, grow two plants to a grow bag or give a single plant a 30cm pot. That will make a huge impact.