Tomatoes embody the joy of gardening more than any other fruit. They are every gardener’s go-to choice to produce yummy, abundant fruit. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors, from bite-size yellow types to giant marbled beefstakes!
There are two different ways that tomato plants grow:
- DETERMINATE (Bush): Varieties do not need pruning and may be grown with or without support; fruit ripens within a concentrated time period.
- INDETERMINATE (Vining): Varieties should be staked, trellised, or caged, and pruned for best results; fruit ripens gradually over an extended period.
Tomatoes are long-growing, heat-seeking, sun lovers that do not tolerate frost. For soil, use a fertile well-draining potting mix that’s tailored for vegetables. For best growth, provide full sun (6+ hours of direct sunlight per day). Indeterminate varieties will need stakes, cages, or other support structures for best growth.
grow calendar tool to find specific planting dates for your region! Seeds germinate in 7-14 days.
Start seeds indoors in start pots or trays 4-6 weeks before desired transplanting date. Don’t start too early, as root-bound transplants will be stunted and perform poorly. Plant seeds ¼" deep and thin to 1 plant per pot. Water only enough to keep the mix from drying out.
Transition outside (harden) for 7 days before outdoor transplant. Space 12-18" apart for determinate varieties. Indeterminate varieties will need 18-24" spacing. Be sure to set up any support structures shortly after transplanting.
For indeterminate varieties, gently prune small offshoots below larger branches to concentrate growth.
Abundant phosphorus is important for high yields. Too much nitrogen causes rampant growth and soft fruits susceptible to rot. Use a tomato-specific organic fertilizer as directed to ensure proper nutrient levels.
Prune indeterminate/vining tomatoes.
Pests and Disease
Learn the common tomato diseases in your area. Select resistant varieties. For prevention, use young, healthy transplants, avoid overhead irrigation, plow in tomato plant refuse in the fall, rotate crops. Fungicides can reduce certain diseases when properly selected and applied.
Prevent blossom end rot by providing abundant soil calcium and an even supply of soil moisture.
Use row covers to protect young seedlings from flea beetles. Tomato hornworms can be controlled with Bacillus thuringiensis.
Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as possible to fully ripen. Tomatoes are ready for picking when firm and very red in color, regardless of size, with perhaps some yellow remaining around the stem. Harvest with stems still attached.