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Ultimate guide to growing tomatoes

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes 2023


Tomatoes are found in many kitchens and gardens around the USA. With their juicy, sweet flavor and versatility in cooking, it’s no wonder that they’re one of the most popular vegetables to grow. In fact, they are liked by a whopping 89% of the population! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, growing tomatoes can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. This ultimate guide will take you through the basics of tomato growing, from selecting the right variety and preparing the soil, to planting, caring for, and harvesting your crop. Whether you’re looking to grow a few tomatoes for your kitchen or start a full-fledged tomato garden, this guide will provide you with the information you need to be successful. It’s actually one of our favorite vegetables (although it really is actually a fruit, go figure!) to grow because of it’s simplicity and abundant growth. So, let’s get started!

A brief history of tomatoes

The history of the tomato is a long and interesting one that sprawls across several continents. They’re thought to have originated in South America, specifically in the region that is now Peru and Ecuador. The natives to this region, the Incas, have been cultivating tomatoes for thousands of years as a staple food in their diets.

From South America, tomatoes were introduced to Europe by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. To start with, they were grown as ornamental plants and were not widely consumed as a food which we find fascinating. I mean did they just not like the taste or was no one brave enough to try them at first? Anyway it was not until the late 1700s that tomatoes started to become popular as an actual food in Europe.

In the United States, tomatoes were first grown by early settlers in the late 1700s, but they were not really sought after until the mid-1800s. The widespread cultivation of tomatoes was actually helped by the development of the railroad system, which made it easier to transport fresh tomatoes from the farm to the market.

Today, tomatoes are one of the most grown and eaten vegetables in the world. They’re grown in a variety of climates and are used in a wide range of dishes, from salads and sandwiches to sauces, soups, and stews. All over the world they are a popular ingredient in many cuisines, including Italian, Mexican, and Mediterranean and personally we could not possibly imagine a world without tomatoes!

Benefits of Growing Your Own Tomatoes

Firstly, growing tomatoes is fun! Secondly there are a whole host of other benefits which make them one of the most widely grown home vegetable in the world. Here are some of the key reasons why growing tomatoes is important:

  1. Fresh, Nutritious Food: Growing your own tomatoes provides you with fresh, nutritious food that is free from the chemicals and preservatives found in many store-bought varieties. 
  2. Health: Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and growing your own ensures that they are grown without the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals. By controlling the growing conditions and inputs, you can ensure that your tomatoes are grown with the health of you and your family in mind.
  3. Saves Money: Growing your own tomatoes can save you money in the long run, especially if you’re able to grow enough to preserve for the off-season. This also helps to reduce your grocery bill and dependence on store-bought produce.
  4. Flavor: Tomatoes grown in your own garden often have a sweeter and more intense flavor than those purchased at the grocery store – at least that’s what we have found! Nothing tastes as good as homegrown!
  5. Variety: When you grow your own tomatoes, you can choose from a wide variety of heirloom and hybrid tomato varieties, allowing you to experiment with different flavors and textures that would not normally be available in your local grocery store – this is probably the most fun part for us!
  6. Environmental Benefits: Growing tomatoes at home reduces the need for transportation, storage, and packaging associated with commercial farming, which can help to reduce the carbon footprint of the food we eat.
  7. Connection to Nature: Growing tomatoes gives you the opportunity to connect with nature, to learn about the natural world, and to appreciate the cycles of life and growth (really good to involve the kids here). It’s a great way to spend time outdoors, to get some exercise, and to experience the satisfaction of growing your own food.
  8. Increased Biodiversity: Growing a variety of crops, including tomatoes, helps to support biodiversity by providing habitats for beneficial insects and other wildlife.
  9. Sense of accomplishment: There is a great sense of pride and satisfaction in growing your own food, especially when your tomatoes finally ripen and are ready to be picked. This is why we think that they taste better than the shop ones – it’s the taste of satisfaction!

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes is designed as a comprehensive resource to help both beginners and more experienced gardeners successfully grow and harvest healthy and abundant tomato crops. Here we cover a range of topics, from selecting the right soil and tomato varieties, to understanding the optimal climate for growing your tomatoes, to techniques for staking, pruning, and harvesting. So, yes there is more to growing tomatoes than putting the seeds in the ground.

In this guide, our aim is to help you learn about the importance of things like, consistent watering, providing adequate light and nutrition, the best soil preparation and how to prevent and treat common tomato pests and diseases. With step-by-step instructions and practical tips, this guide offers a wealth of information to help you maximize your tomato yields and enjoy the delicious and nutritious fruit of your labor. This article, The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes, is an essential resource for anyone looking to grow and harvest a bountiful crop of beautiful tomatoes.

Choosing the Right Tomato Variety

the ultimate guide to growing tomatoes

Understanding the different types of tomatoes – Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes

When it comes to growing tomatoes, one of the key decisions that gardeners and farmers face is whether to grow determinate or indeterminate tomatoes. Understanding the differences between these two types of tomatoes can help you make the best choice for your garden or farm. Luckily it is not hard to determine (sorry about the pun but I couldn’t resist) which is best for you.

Determinate tomatoes, also known as bush tomatoes, are compact, bushy plants that grow to a certain size and then stop growing. They produce all of their fruit at once and typically have a shorter growing season than indeterminate tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes are ideal for gardeners with limited space, as they take up less room and can be grown in pots or raised beds. They are also a good choice for gardeners who want to grow tomatoes for canning and preserving, as they produce a large crop all at once, making it easier to harvest and process the tomatoes.

Indeterminate tomatoes, also known as vining tomatoes, are more sprawling and continue to grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season. These tomato plants can grow to be several feet tall and may require staking or a trellis to support their growth so they don’t become a tangled mess on the ground. Indeterminate tomatoes are a good choice for gardeners who want a longer growing season and a continuous supply of fresh tomatoes. They are also ideal for those who want to grow heirloom or unique varieties of tomatoes, as indeterminate plants can support a larger fruit set and a wider range of flavors and colors.

When choosing between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, it is important to consider your own gardening preferences and the conditions in which you will be growing your plants. If you have limited space, determinate tomatoes, the bushy ones, may be the best choice. If you have more space and want to grow a continuous supply of fresh tomatoes, indeterminate tomatoes may be the better option.

So whether you’re growing tomatoes in your home garden or on a large scale, it is important to understand the differences between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Now you know the pros and cons of each type of tomato, you should be able to make the best choice out of these two for your garden.

Heirloom vs Hybrid Tomatoes

This is the next thing to consider when choosing what type of tomato to grow. Heirloom tomatoes and hybrid tomatoes are two different types of tomatoes, each with its own unique characteristics.

Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated varieties that have been passed down through generations. They are prized for their unique flavors and traditional growing characteristics. Heirloom tomatoes often have a more irregular shape, thinner skin, and are more prone to cracking and disease compared to hybrid tomatoes. However, they are more flavorful and many gardeners prefer their taste.

Hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, are created by crossing two or more different varieties of tomatoes. The resulting offspring is then stabilized to produce consistent fruit with specific desirable traits, such as disease resistance, uniformity in size and shape, and improved yield. Hybrid tomatoes are generally more vigorous, have a longer shelf life, and are less susceptible to disease compared to heirloom tomatoes.

Both heirloom and hybrid tomatoes have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice will depend on your own preferences. If you prioritize flavor and traditional growing characteristics, heirloom tomatoes may be the right choice for you. However, if you’re looking for a more reliable and consistent crop, hybrid tomatoes may be a better option.

Heirloom Examples

Here are some examples of popular heirloom tomato varieties:

  1. Brandywine: This is a large, pink beefsteak tomato with a rich, sweet flavor.
  2. Green Zebra: This is a green tomato with yellow stripes that has a tangy, zesty flavor.
  3. San Marzano: This is a medium-sized, red tomato with a firm flesh that is commonly used in Italian cooking.
  4. Bloody Butcher: This is a medium-sized, deep red tomato with a sweet and juicy flavor.
  5. Mortgage Lifter: This is a large, pink beefsteak tomato with a sweet, rich flavor.
  6. Aunt Ruby’s German Green: This is a large, green tomato with a tangy, sweet flavor.
  7. Yellow Pear: This is a small, yellow tomato with a sweet, juicy flavor.
  8. Cherokee Purple: This is a medium-sized, dusky purple tomato with a sweet, rich flavor.

Hybrid Examples

Here are some examples of popular hybrid tomato varieties:

  1. Big Boy: This is a large, juicy tomato with a sweet flavor and good disease resistance.
  2. Early Girl: This is an early-maturing tomato with a sweet flavor and good disease resistance.
  3. Better Boy: This is a large, juicy tomato with a sweet flavor and good disease resistance.
  4. Celebrity: This is a medium-sized tomato with a sweet flavor and good disease resistance.
  5. Rutgers: This is a medium-sized tomato with a sweet flavor and good disease resistance that is commonly used for canning and sauces.
  6. Sweet 100: This is a cherry tomato with a sweet flavor and good disease resistance.
  7. San Marzano Redorta: This is a medium-sized, red tomato with a firm flesh that is commonly used in Italian cooking.

These are just a few examples of heirloom tomatoes. There are of course,  many more varieties to choose from, each with its own unique flavor, color, and growing characteristics.  Personally we love growing a bunch of different ones at the same time for variety.

What are the most common varieties to grow?

best tomato varieties

Tomatoes come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. Understanding the different types of tomatoes can help you make the best choice for your garden or kitchen. Here are some of the most common types of tomatoes:

  1. Beefsteak Tomatoes: These are large, meaty, and juicy tomatoes that are typically used for slicing and serving as a main ingredient in sandwiches, salads, or on their own.
  2. Cherry Tomatoes: These are small, round tomatoes that are sweet and juicy. They are often used in salads, as a snack, or as a garnish.
  3. Roma Tomatoes: These are oblong-shaped tomatoes that are meaty and low in moisture. They are ideal for making sauces, soups, and stews, or for drying.
  4. Heirloom Tomatoes: These are older, traditional varieties of tomatoes that have been passed down from generation to generation. They come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors and are prized for their unique flavors and textures.
  5. Grape Tomatoes: These are small, round tomatoes that are similar in size and shape to grapes. They are sweet, juicy, and often used in salads or as a snack.
  6. San Marzano Tomatoes: These are a type of Roma tomato that is widely used for making tomato sauce, as they are meaty and low in moisture.
  7. Green Tomatoes: These are unripe tomatoes that have not yet turned red. They are often used in recipes that call for a tart or tangy flavor, such as fried green tomatoes.

When choosing tomatoes, consider the type of tomato that best fits your needs and the dish you want to prepare. Are you putting them just in salads or canning them or are you a lover of having them in italian stews. Whatever your preference is, keep the end game in mind when deciding which are the best tomatoes to grow. Also remember that different varieties of tomatoes will have different flavor profiles, textures, and uses, so it is always a good idea to try different types to find the one that you like best.

What are the Best Tomato Varieties for Different Climates

Tomato varieties can be divided into categories based on their suitability for different climates. Some of the most common categories are:

Determinate Tomatoes: These are smaller, bushier tomato plants that produce a single crop all at once. They are well-suited for cooler climates and short growing seasons. Examples of determinate tomatoes include Roma, San Marzano, and Celebrity.

Indeterminate Tomatoes: These are larger sprawling tomato plants that continue to grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season. They are ideal for warm climates with long growing seasons. Examples of indeterminate tomatoes include Beefsteak, Big Boy, and Brandywine.

Cherry Tomatoes: These are small, sweet tomatoes that are perfect for snacking and salads. They are well-suited for all climates. Examples of cherry tomatoes include Sweet 100, Sungold, and Yellow Pear.

Heirloom Tomatoes: These are older, traditional tomato varieties that are grown for their flavor and unique characteristics. They are well-suited for warm climates with long growing seasons. Examples of heirloom tomatoes include Green Zebra, Brandywine, and Arkansas Traveler.

It’s important to note that tomato varieties can also be affected by local weather patterns and soil conditions, so it may be necessary to experiment with different varieties to find the best fit for your specific climate. As I said before, we are a big fan of planting several varieties at once not only for diversity but to see which ones will grow best in your garden.

Overview of Factors to consider when selecting tomato varieties

When selecting tomato varieties, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Climate: Choose tomato varieties that are well-suited for your local climate. Some tomatoes are more heat-tolerant, while others are more cold-tolerant.
  2. Growing conditions: Consider the amount of sun and water your garden gets, and choose tomato varieties that are well-suited for those conditions.
  3. Purpose: Are you growing tomatoes for fresh eating, canning, or cooking? Different varieties have different qualities that make them better suited for specific uses.
  4. Maturity time: Some tomato varieties mature earlier or later than others. If you want to have fresh tomatoes as soon as possible, choose an early-maturing variety. If you want to have fresh tomatoes for a longer period of time, choose a variety with a longer growing season.
  5. Disease resistance: Different tomato varieties are resistant to different diseases. If you have had problems with diseases such as tomato blight or mosaic virus in the past, choose a variety that is resistant to those diseases.
  6. Flavor: Different tomato varieties have different flavors. Some are sweet, while others are tangy. Choose a variety that has a flavor that you like.
  7. Size and shape: Tomatoes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from cherry tomatoes to beefsteak tomatoes. Choose a variety that is the right size and shape for your intended use.
  8. Space: Consider the amount of space you have for growing tomatoes. Some varieties are determinate and have a compact growth habit, while others are indeterminate and continue to grow taller throughout the season.

By taking all of these factors into account, you can select the tomato varieties that are best-suited for your garden and your individual needs. The good thing is that once you have figured this all out, you can have many happy years of growing and eating your favorite tomatoes.

Preparing the Soil for Planting

how to grow the best tomatoes

Importance of Soil Preparation for growing tomatoes

Soil preparation is a critical step in growing tomatoes because it lays the foundation for healthy and productive plants. A well-prepared soil provides the necessary nutrients, moisture, and structure for strong root development, efficient water and nutrient uptake, and optimal growth and fruiting. We often see people just buying seeds or seedlings and not considering what the plant needs, to do well. It’s not rocket science though and the more prepared you are the more successful your tomato crop will be. Some of the key factors to consider when preparing soil for tomatoes include:

  1. Soil pH: Tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. If your soil is too alkaline, you can add sulfur to lower the pH.
  1. Fertility: Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require a fertile soil with adequate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can amend the soil with organic matter such as compost or aged manure to boost fertility.
  1. Drainage: Tomatoes don’t like water-logged soils and can suffer from root rot if the soil doesn’t drain well. Adding organic matter can improve soil structure and help with drainage.
  1. Weed control: Weeds compete with tomatoes for moisture, nutrients, and light. It’s essential to remove any existing weeds and to mulch the soil around the plants to prevent new weeds from sprouting.

How to Test For Soil pH For Growing Tomatoes

There are several ways to test the soil pH for growing tomatoes. Here are the most common methods:

  1. Soil Test Kits: These are commercially available test kits that measure the pH level of soil by using indicators such as litmus paper or pH-sensitive solutions. Simply follow the instructions included with the kit to obtain a reading.
  1. pH Meter: You can use a pH meter, which is an electronic device that measures the pH level of the soil by measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil solution. Simply insert the probe into the soil and take a reading.
  1. Home-made pH test: You can also make a simple soil pH test using vinegar and baking soda. To do this, take a small sample of soil and add a few drops of vinegar. If the soil fizzes, it indicates a high pH (alkaline) and if there is no reaction, it indicates a low pH (acidic). To test for a more precise pH level, mix a small amount of soil with water and add a pinch of baking soda. If the mixture fizzes, the soil is alkaline, if it doesn’t, it is acidic. 

Unless you use it a lot or have one lying around then a pH meter is probably overkill for the home gardener so we would so for the Soil Test Kit or the homemade method is great if your kids are into science experiments! 

If the soil pH is too low (acidic), you can amend it by adding lime. If the soil pH is too high (alkaline), you can amend it by adding sulfur or by growing tomatoes in raised beds filled with compost.

How to Fertilize The Soil Before Planting Tomatoes

To fertilize the soil before planting tomatoes, you can follow these steps:

  1. Soil Test: The first step is to determine the soil’s nutrient content as we just covered above with the pH levels.
  2. Organic Fertilizers: For a more natural approach, you can use organic fertilizers such as compost, well-rotted manure, or bone meal. These should be incorporated into the soil several weeks before planting.
  3. Chemical Fertilizers: If your soil lacks specific nutrients, you can use chemical fertilizers such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These can be applied as granules or liquids and should be incorporated into the soil according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Time of Fertilization: The best time to fertilize the soil is just before planting or transplanting the tomatoes. If you are planting seeds, you can also fertilize the soil before sowing.
  5. Amount of Fertilizer: The amount of fertilizer required depends on the type of fertilizer, soil type, and tomato variety. Generally, a balanced fertilizer with equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is recommended.

Note: It’s important not to over-fertilize the soil, as this can lead to excessive green growth and reduce fruit production. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines when applying fertilizers to your soil.

Improving Soil Drainage

Poor drainage can lead to waterlogged soil, which can harm the roots of the tomato plant and even cause it to die. Here are our top tips for improving soil drainage and growing the best tomatoes possible.

  1. Choose the Right Soil

The first step to improving soil drainage is to choose the right soil in the first place. Tomatoes prefer well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter. Look for soil that contains a mix of sand, silt, and clay. You can also add compost or other organic matter to your soil to improve its texture and drainage.

  1. Use Raised Beds

One way to improve soil drainage is to use raised beds. This method allows excess water to drain away from the roots of the tomato plant. Raised beds can be constructed using wood, concrete blocks, or other materials. Make sure to fill the beds with well-draining soil. You can check out our Ultimate Guide to Raised Garden Beds here.

  1. Add Drainage Material

Another way to improve soil drainage is to add drainage material to your soil. This can include materials such as sand, gravel, or perlite. These materials help to break up the soil and allow water to drain more easily. Be sure to mix the drainage material thoroughly into the soil before planting your tomatoes.

  1. Use Mulch

Mulch can also help improve soil drainage. It helps to regulate soil moisture and prevents excess water from accumulating around the roots of the tomato plant. You can use a variety of materials for mulch, such as straw, leaves, or wood chips.

  1. Avoid Overwatering

Overwatering is a common mistake that can lead to poor soil drainage. To avoid overwatering, water your tomatoes deeply but less frequently. In other words, give them a good soaking but not too often. This will help the water to penetrate the soil and reach the roots of the plant. Also, be sure to water in the morning to allow excess moisture to evaporate during the day.

The more attention you pay to the quality of your soil the more successful you will be in your growing efforts so don’t skip these steps.

Planting Tomatoes

When to Plant Tomatoes

I think we have established that tomatoes are a favorite crop for home gardeners because they’re easy to grow and produce delicious fruits. However, knowing the right time to plant tomatoes is essential for a successful harvest so here are our top tips.

  1. Wait for the Right Temperature

Tomatoes are heat-loving plants and require warm soil and air temperatures to grow properly. Planting too early can result in stunted growth or even death. Wait until the soil temperature has warmed to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature consistently stays above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In most areas, this means waiting until after the last frost date in the spring.

  1. Choose the Right Type of Tomato

The best time to plant tomatoes can also depend on the type of tomato you want to grow. Determinate tomatoes are compact and grow to a specific size, while indeterminate tomatoes can grow quite large and need more time to produce fruit. If you’re growing determinate tomatoes, plant them a few weeks after the last frost date. If you’re growing indeterminate tomatoes, it’s best to wait until the soil temperature has reached at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit before planting.

  1. Consider Your Climate

Climate also plays a role in determining the best time to plant tomatoes. If you live in a cooler climate, you may need to wait longer to plant your tomatoes. Conversely, if you live in a warmer climate, you may be able to plant earlier in the season. It’s always a good idea to check with your local extension office or gardening community for advice specific to your region.

  1. Time for a Second Crop

If you want to extend your tomato growing season, you can plant a second crop later in the summer. Choose a variety with a shorter time to maturity and plant them about 100 days before the first expected frost in the fall. This will give the tomatoes enough time to mature before the colder temperatures arrive.

Basically the best time to plant tomatoes is after the last frost date and when the soil temperature has warmed to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Choosing the right type of tomato and considering your climate are also important factors to keep in mind. By following these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to a bountiful tomato harvest.

 Is it Better to Plant tomato seeds or tomato seedlings?

Both planting tomato seeds and tomato seedlings have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things to consider:

Planting Tomato Seeds:

  • Pros: Planting tomato seeds allows for a wider variety of tomato options, and the ability to control the entire growth process from the very beginning.
  • Cons: Starting tomatoes from seed can be a more time-consuming process, requiring additional time and effort for the seed to germinate and grow into a seedling.

Planting Tomato Seedlings:

  • Pros: Tomato seedlings are already established and will produce fruits earlier in the season than plants grown from seed.
  • Cons: There may be fewer varieties of tomato plants available as seedlings at garden centers. Additionally, seedlings may be more expensive than planting seeds.

Ultimately, the decision to plant tomato seeds or seedlings comes down to personal preference and availability. If you want more control over the growing process and a wider variety of options, starting tomatoes from seed is a great choice. If you prefer to save time and have a head start on the growing season, then planting tomato seedlings is a good option. Regardless of which option you choose, with proper care and attention, you can expect to grow all the tomatoes you need.

What is the proper spacing for tomato plants

The proper spacing for tomato plants depends on the variety and the type of support system you plan to use. Here are some general guidelines:

Determinate Tomato Plants:

Determinate tomato plants are compact and bushy, and typically grow to a height of 3-4 feet. These plants do not require as much space as indeterminate tomato plants. You can space them 2-3 feet apart in rows that are 3-4 feet apart.

Indeterminate Tomato Plants:

Indeterminate tomato plants are tall and vining, and can grow up to 6-8 feet or more in height. These plants require more space to grow and produce fruits. You can space them 3-4 feet apart in rows that are 4-5 feet apart.

Support Systems:

If you plan to use stakes or cages to support your tomato plants, you can space them slightly closer together than if you plan to let them sprawl on the ground. When using support systems, you can space determinate tomato plants 2 feet apart and indeterminate tomato plants 3 feet apart.

By following these general guidelines for spacing tomato plants, you can ensure that your plants have enough room to grow and produce a healthy harvest. Additionally, proper spacing can help to prevent diseases by improving air circulation around the plants which is definitely an important consideration..

Staking and Supporting Tomato Plants

Without proper support, tomato plants can become unwieldy, take up too much space, and produce fewer fruits. That’s why staking and supporting tomato plants is essential for maximizing yield. 

Benefits of Staking and Supporting Tomato Plants:

  1. Increased Yield: Staking and supporting tomato plants can increase yield by allowing for more fruits to develop on the plant. When tomatoes are left to sprawl on the ground, they can become crowded and shaded, leading to a decrease in yield.
  1. Improved Air Circulation: Staking and supporting tomato plants can improve air circulation around the plants, which can help prevent diseases such as blight and other fungal infections. Proper air circulation also helps to dry the leaves of the plant after rain or watering, which can reduce the risk of disease.
  1. Easier Harvesting: When tomato plants are staked and supported, the fruits are easier to see and pick. This makes harvesting faster and more efficient, and reduces the risk of damage to the plant and fruit.

Methods for Staking and Supporting Tomato Plants:

  1. Stakes: Staking tomato plants involves driving a wooden or metal stake into the ground near the base of the plant and tying the stem to the stake as it grows. This method is simple and effective, and allows for good air circulation and easy harvesting. Stakes should be at least 6 feet tall and made of sturdy material to support the weight of the plant.
  1. Cages: Tomato cages are made of wire mesh and are placed around the plant to provide support as it grows. Cages are a popular choice for indeterminate tomato varieties and can be used year after year. Cages allow for good air circulation and easy harvesting, but can be more expensive than other methods.
  1. Trellis: Trellising tomato plants involves using strings or wire to support the plant as it grows vertically. This method is ideal for indeterminate tomato varieties, as it allows the plant to grow tall while taking up less space in the garden. Trellising allows for good air circulation and easy harvesting, but requires more maintenance to tie the stem to the string or wire as it grows.

Staking and supporting tomato plants is a simple and effective way to increase yield and improve the health of your plants. Whether you choose stakes, cages, or a trellis, providing support to your tomato plants will give you the best possible results.

Caring for Tomato Plants

Watering Tomatoes

One of the most critical aspects of growing healthy tomato plants is proper watering. 

Why Proper Watering is Important for Tomato Plants:

  1. Growth and Development: Water is essential for plant growth and development, and tomato plants are no exception. Proper watering ensures that the plants are receiving the necessary nutrients and moisture to grow strong stems, healthy leaves, and produce juicy fruits.
  1. Disease Prevention: Over-watering or under-watering tomato plants can lead to diseases, such as root rot, wilt, and blight. Proper watering helps to prevent these diseases by keeping the soil and plant at the ideal moisture level.
  1. Fruit Quality: Water is essential for the formation and development of tomato fruits. Insufficient watering can lead to smaller, misshapen, and less flavorful fruits. Proper watering ensures that the fruits are plump, juicy, and bursting with flavor.

Helpful Tips for Watering Tomato Plants:

  1. Water Consistently: Tomato plants need consistent watering to stay healthy. Inconsistent watering can lead to stress on the plant and a decrease in yield. Water deeply once or twice a week rather than shallowly and frequently.
  1. Water at the Right Time: The best time to water tomato plants is early in the morning or in the late afternoon when the sun is less intense. This allows the water to soak into the soil and be absorbed by the plant before evaporating.
  1. Avoid Watering the Foliage: When watering tomato plants, avoid getting water on the foliage. Wet leaves can promote the growth of fungal diseases. Instead, water the base of the plant.
  1. Use Mulch: Mulching around the base of tomato plants helps to retain moisture in the soil, reduce the risk of disease, and regulate soil temperature.

By watering consistently, at the right time of day, and avoiding wetting the foliage, you can prevent disease and promote healthy growth and fruit development. Incorporating these tips into your watering routine will ensure a super successful harvest of juicy, delicious tomatoes.

Fertilizing Tomatoes

Fertilizing tomatoes is essential to ensure healthy abundant, growth. Here are some tips for the best way to fertilize your tomatoes.

  1. Use high-quality organic fertilizer: Organic fertilizers are the best choice for tomato plants. They provide a slow release of nutrients and improve soil health. Use a well-balanced fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10.
  1. Apply fertilizer at the right time: Fertilize your tomatoes after planting and then again every 3-4 weeks during the growing season. Don’t fertilize too early in the season as this can lead to excess foliage growth at the expense of fruit production, which just means more leaves and less tomatoes..
  1. Use the right amount: Over-fertilizing can lead to excess foliage growth, blossom-end rot, and other problems. Use the recommended amount of fertilizer based on the instructions on the package.
  2. Use compost: Compost is an excellent natural fertilizer for tomatoes. Apply a 2-inch layer of compost around the base of the plants, then water well to help the nutrients soak into the soil.
  1. Consider foliar feeding: Foliar feeding is the process of applying fertilizer to the leaves of the plant. This method can provide a quick boost of nutrients to the plant. Use a liquid fertilizer specifically designed for foliar feeding and apply in the early morning or late evening when the leaves are cooler.

Pruning Tomato Plants

Pruning tomato plants is a vital for the best possible harvest. Here are some tips for the best way to prune your tomato plants.

  1. Start pruning early: Begin pruning your tomato plants early in the season, right after the first set of flowers has appeared. Early pruning helps to promote healthy growth, increase air circulation, and prevent disease.
  1. Remove the suckers: Suckers are the small branches that grow between the main stem and the leaves. Removing them allows the plant to focus its energy on producing fruit. Use clean, sharp pruning shears to cut them off close to the main stem.
  1. Keep the main stem intact: The main stem of the tomato plant is its central support system, so it’s essential to keep it intact. Avoid pruning the main stem unless you need to remove a damaged or diseased portion.
  1. Limit the number of fruit clusters: To promote larger and healthier fruit, limit the number of fruit clusters on each plant. Leave no more than four fruit clusters per plant, and remove any extra flowers or small fruits.
  1. Prune for airflow: Good airflow is crucial to prevent disease and promote healthy growth. Prune the lower leaves of the plant to allow better air circulation, but be sure not to remove too many as they provide shade and protection for the fruit.

So while it may seem counterintuitive to some, reducing the amount of tomatoes your plant can grow will give you a better yield and quality so don’t let them run wild!

Dealing with Pests and Diseases

Tomatoes are also prone to a variety of pests and diseases that can quickly ruin a crop. So here are some things that you need to keep in mind to protect them.

Identify the Problem

The first step in dealing with pests and diseases on tomato plants is to identify the problem. Some common tomato plant pests include aphids, whiteflies, and tomato hornworms. Diseases that affect tomato plants include early blight, late blight, and blossom end rot. Look for visual symptoms such as discolored leaves, damaged fruit, or unusual growth patterns.


The best way to deal with pests and diseases is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Here are some prevention tips:

  • Keep your garden clean and tidy by removing plant debris and fallen fruit.
  • Rotate your tomato crops each year to prevent soil-borne diseases.
  • Choose disease-resistant tomato varieties.
  • Water your plants in the morning to give them time to dry out during the day, which can prevent fungal diseases.


If you do identify a problem with pests or diseases on your tomato plants, there are several treatment options:

  • Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control pests such as aphids and whiteflies.
  • Pick off tomato hornworms by hand, or use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) spray to control them.
  • For diseases such as early blight, remove affected leaves and apply a fungicide to the remaining plant.
  • For blossom end rot, add calcium to your soil and water your plants regularly.

Harvesting and Storing Tomatoes

Cook your own tomatoes

When to Harvest Tomatoes

Tomatoes are usually ready to harvest when they have reached their mature size and have fully ripened to their specific color, whether that’s red, yellow, green or other colors. The ideal time to harvest tomatoes varies depending on the type of tomato and your preference for ripeness.

For determinate tomatoes, which have a set size and produce fruit all at once, wait until the tomatoes are fully ripe on the vine before harvesting. Indeterminate tomatoes, which continue to grow and produce fruit throughout the season, can be harvested when the fruit is mature size and beginning to show color.

Tomatoes should be firm to the touch and have a bright, consistent color when they are ready to be harvested. If the tomato is still green or hard, it is not yet ripe and should be left on the vine to mature. Tomatoes that are overripe or soft may be past their prime and can become mealy or have a shorter shelf life. It’s also best to harvest tomatoes in the morning when the fruit is cool and dry to avoid any damage or bruising.

How to Harvest Tomatoes

When harvesting tomatoes, it’s important to handle them carefully to avoid damaging the fruit or the plant. Here are the steps to follow when harvesting tomatoes:

  1. Gently grasp the tomato and twist it slightly until it releases from the stem. If it doesn’t come off easily, use a pair of pruning shears or scissors to cut the stem just above the fruit.
  1. As you harvest the tomatoes, place them into a shallow container, such as a basket or box. Avoid stacking them on top of each other or piling them too high to prevent bruising.
  1. After harvesting, inspect each tomato for damage or signs of disease. Any tomatoes that are soft or overripe should be removed to avoid spoiling the rest of the harvest.
  1. Rinse the harvested tomatoes with cool water and allow them to dry before storing or using them.

By harvesting your tomatoes carefully and inspecting each fruit, you can ensure that your tomatoes will be of the best quality and flavor.

Storing and Preserving Tomatoes

Proper storage is essential for preserving the quality and flavor of tomatoes. Here are some of the best ways to store tomatoes:

  1. Store at room temperature: Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, ideally in a single layer, out of direct sunlight. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator, as this can cause them to lose flavor and texture.
  2. If they are not quite ripe then store with a ripe banana or apple: Ripe bananas and apples release ethylene gas, which can help ripen tomatoes more quickly. Place a ripe banana or apple in a paper bag with your tomatoes to speed up the ripening process.
  1. Use a tomato keeper: Tomato keepers are designed to store tomatoes at room temperature while keeping them fresh for longer. They usually have ventilation holes to allow air to circulate around the tomatoes.
  1. Freeze them: If you have a large harvest of tomatoes, consider freezing them for later use. To freeze tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove the skins and core, and then store them in a freezer-safe container for up to six months.
  2. Preserve in oil: You can preserve tomatoes in oil by packing them in a jar with herbs, garlic, and olive oil. This method can extend their shelf life for several months and adds a delicious flavor to your dishes.
  1. Can or preserve them: Another way to store tomatoes is to can or preserve them. This involves cooking the tomatoes and placing them in jars, which are then processed in a water bath or pressure canner. Canned tomatoes can be stored for up to a year or more.

By following these storage methods, you can enjoy fresh, delicious tomatoes for longer and prevent waste.


In conclusion, growing tomatoes can be a fun and rewarding experience with the right knowledge and techniques. By following the tips and steps outlined in this ultimate guide to growing tomatoes, you can successfully grow delicious and healthy tomatoes in your own backyard. Remember to choose the right variety, provide adequate sunlight, water and nutrients, and protect your plants from pests and diseases. With a little patience and care, you can enjoy a bountiful tomato harvest and take pride in your green thumb skills. Happy gardening!

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