New to growing tomatoes? Learn everything you need to know about how to grow tomatoes in your backyard garden, in a pot, and everything in between. We’ve collected all of our best tips for you to grow fabulous tomatoes that you’ll love!
Growing tomatoes is something that I love, there is nothing like an amazing homegrown tomato! Filled with delicious flavor, and juicy goodness. Every year we grow tons and then spend hours canning them in delicious sauces or dishes. For me, growing tomatoes are filled with memories of gardening with my grandmother, but also long wonderful summers and I hope you find as much enjoyment in growing them as I do.
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How To Grow Tomatoes
I’m a bit of a tomato snob, I admit it. I look at the weird uniform pinkish/red “fruit” at the store with disgust all winter while thinking of my delicious, juicy, colorful, rich in flavor, sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomatoes, and dream of summer. I count the days until I once again have an abundance of tomatoes growing in my garden for that delectable tomato sandwich all winter… dreaming of the day I once again can eat tomatoes. Nothing, and I mean nothing beats a homegrown tomato. But do you know the secrets to an amazing tomato?
Whether you are new to gardening, have tried it before, or gardened for years we all have something to learn about gardening. Tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, but there are still some things you can do to set yourself up for success when it comes to how to grow tomatoes. Or even just grow better tomatoes. But before we dive into the secrets to a deliciously unforgettable tomato let’s talk about how to grow tomatoes.
Do Tomatoes Grow Better In Pots Or In The Ground?
When it comes to how to grow tomatoes at home you have to decide how you want to grow them, and a big part of this decision will depend on how much room you have and what your end goal is. If you are wanting a small patio garden or to grow tomatoes on a balcony (which is completely possible) it’s really important to choose large pots, that can hold a lot of soil. Tomatoes have a lot of roots and need a vessel that can handle them.
Also the more soil, the more available nutrients for your tomato plants. You can be very successful growing tomatoes in pots, raised beds, or in the ground. If you do choose to grow a tomato plant in a pot it’s really important to pick something that can hold it.
We’ve grown tomatoes in pots, raised beds, and in the ground over the years and had great success using all of these. Because of the scale with which we grow tomatoes -ahem…- we grow our tomatoes in no-dig garden beds in the ground.
Growing Tomatoes: Tomato Terms & What They Mean
Now that we talked about where you can grow tomatoes, let’s talk about some terms you will run into when growing tomatoes. Knowing what these mean will help you choose the right tomatoes for your garden and set you up for success.
Cherry: Cherry Tomatoes, Grape Tomatoes, Currant Tomatoes, Pear Tomatoes all fall into the cherry classification. These varieties all stay quite small.
Salads/Saladets 2-4 Ounce Fruits: Pastes tomatoes fall into this category. These tomatoes aren’t big enough to be considered a slicer but are more than a single bite.
Slicers (often called beefsteak): These are those really big tomatoes like red and yellow beefsteak.
Determinate, and Indeterminate Tomatoes
Determinate and Indeterminate, these two terms are really important to know when it comes to how to grow tomatoes and also choosing the right variety for your garden space. I personally prefer indeterminate because I have lots of room and want all the tomatoes I can get in a season for canning my own salsa and sauces to enjoy year round.
Determinate tomato plants: (also known as dwarf tomato plants) will only get a certain height (usually a couple of feet) and produce a certain amount of fruit. Some require a stake while others can manage by themselves. These tomatoes usually have a shorter growing season, and when they stop setting flowers they stop producing flowers.
Indeterminate tomatoes: will keep growing as long as you provide some sort of support and keep producing all season long. These tomatoes will tend to produce a higher volume of tomatoes.
How To Grow Tomatoes: When To Plant Tomatoes
One of the first things you should know when it comes to how to grow tomatoes is when to plant them. Tomatoes do not like being cold, they don’t hold up well to frosty conditions so you’ll want to plant your tomatoes out in your garden in the spring after your last chance of frost has passed. Tomatoes grow best when the temperature is between 65-85 degrees.
How To Grow Tomatoes From Seed
Wanting to take the dive into starting your garden from seeds, and wondering how to grow tomatoes from seeds? The first step is to do a bit of research and find a variety that will do well in your area. Some local gardeners could probably help you with this, or even reading the reviews on the variety of tomato you are interested in.
Next start your your tomato seeds in pots 4-8 weeks before your last frost date.
Press the seed of the seed into your prepared pots so that it is about as deep as the size of the seed. Gently cover with soil. Keep the pots moist and warm until the seeds sprout.
Make sure you keep them where they can get lots of sunlight, a greenhouse will work wonders, or you can use a bright window.
Some of our favorite places to get tomato seeds and some that have great varieties:
- Baker Creek Seeds
- Park Seed
- Wild Boar Farm
- Seeds For Generations
- Seed Saver Exchange
- Seeds Of Change
- Seeds Now
- Botanical Interests
- Ferry-Morse Gardening
- Burpee Seeds
Need to transplant your tomatoes into a bigger pot? We made a video to show you how we transplant our tomatoes for a strong root system.
Preparing The Soil For Growing Tomatoes
The next step in how to grow tomatoes is properly preparing where you are growing them.
- Tomatoes need lots of sunshine, so select a spot that gets the most sun in your yard, patio, or porch.
- Next up decide if you are going to till the soil, or go with a no-dig method. You can read more about different ways to prepare a garden bed for planting in this article. Or select an organic (you can use regular potting soil/mix but we recommend an organic) and add it to your pot. You can also make it yourself like we have.
- Remove any weeds or grass from your garden bed.
- Before planting make sure you dig in a good layer of compost or manure into the soil (if you are using a no-dig gardening method this is not going to be necessary.
- Depending on how good your soil is, you may want to do a soil test before planting your tomatoes.
How To Plant Tomatoes
One of the most important things to know when it comes to how to grow tomatoes is how to plant them. Tomatoes like to be planted deep. We like to plant ours as deep as we can, so we dig a hole big enough for the whole plant including the stem up to several inches below the neck of the plant where the leaves are. Gently crack an egg and sit it at the bottom of the hole, then insert your tomato plant and cover it with soil. You can also add some epsome salt to the hole as well.
Tomatoes can root wherever their stems touch the ground, so planting them deep helps them to develop a really strong root structure.
How To Trellis, Stake, or Cage Tomatoes
The next thing you need to know when it comes to how to grow tomatoes is support, you can use all kinds of things depending on if your tomatoes are indeterminate, or determinate including:
- Tomato Cages (if you use this method make sure you anchor them with a stake so when your tomatoes come in they don’t pull over the cage)
- Cattle Panels (we have a video on how to do this below)
- Tomato Trellis
If you are growing indeterminate tomato varieties you are going to need more than a simple stake or even a tomato cage to support their weight.
How Do You Take Care Of Tomato Plants?
Tomatoes are pretty easy to grow and care for, while they are growing they will need water, sunshine, and warmth. Water several times of week deeply, not just a quick spray. Avoid getting the leaves wet as much as possible. Keep an eye on them for signs of pest damage or disease and treat them accordingly. When your tomatoes are ready to harvest gently take hold of the fruit and give it a gentle twist. The fruit should pop off into your hand.
Are Banana Peels Good For Tomato Plants?
Potassium-rich banana peels are excellent for your tomato plants, add them to your hole at planting.
Does Epsom Salt Help Tomato Plants Grow?
Epsom salt can be used as a foliar spray or soil additive that will help your tomato plants grow, and produce much larger tastier yields.
What Is The Best Fertilizer For Tomatoes?
The best fertilizer for tomatoes in my humble opinion is always going to be natural. Well, rotted manure or compost, or even fish emulsion works wonderfully to feed your plants. Remember to feed your plants in moderation, you don’t need to feed them every day, instead focus on fostering good soil to help support your soil through the growing season.
Tips For How To Grow Tomatoes
Some of our best tips for how to grow tomatoes:
- When temperatures reach over 95F tomatoes will stop growing, try shielding them for the hottest part of the day.
- If nighttime temperatures are over 85F tomatoes will not turn red, you can pick your fruit and let them ripen on a window sill inside.
- The number on the back of your seed packet is referring to the amount of time between your tomato-producing fruit and you put the seedling in the ground.
- Pruning can be really important, especially if you live in a hot muggy climate to keep the moisture from causing fungus.
- Tomatoes do not have to be watered every day once established, instead water deep a couple of times a week.
- Molasses makes a terrific fertilizer for tomatoes.
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