Tips for Growing Tomatoes

May 31, 2007

The theme of the latest issue of the Gardening Secrets Newsletter centered on Homegrown Tomatoes.

So I thought I’d post a brief summary here of some of the tips for growing tomatoes that were covered in the newsletter:

  • Starting Tomato Seedlings IndoorsGrowing tomatoes from seed will enable you to get a jump on the growing season and also choose from the hundreds of unique tomato varieties that are available to the home gardener.
  • Transplanting Tomato Plants – Don’t rush your seedlings into the garden before the weather warms up. Also, plant tomato transplants deeply or slightly horizontally placing more of the stem underground to promote root development.
  • Fertilizing Tomatoes – Go easy on the nitrogen-rich fertilizer sources; instead provide extra phosphorous and potassium which will encourage the production and ripening fruit, rather than the development of overly lush vines with few tomatoes.
  • Tomato Mulches – Plastic mulches, while not biodegradable, will help to raise soil temperatures. If you use organic mulches such as straw or shredded leaves, don’t apply them until after the soil has thoroughly warmed up.
  • Train Up a Tomato – Tomatoes are like kids in that they just love to climb. So give them a tall support in the form of cages, trellises, stakes, Florida Tomato Weave, or your own improvised support system that will enable the plants to stretch towards the sky.
  • Pruning Tomato Vines – Pinch out some of the sucker and side shoot growth to help keep the plant size manageable and to open the tomato plants up to more sunlight and air flow which will improve both plant health and fruit production.
  • Watering Tomato Plants – Provide consistent moisture to help reduce tomato blossom end rot, but try to avoid saturating the tomato foliage at night, and limit the amount of handling or harvesting of the plants when they are wet.
  • Favorite Tomato Varieties – I’m a big fan of heirloom tomatoes, the varieties that our great grandparents raised. You may sacrifice some productivity and disease resistance but you’ll be rewarded with incredible flavor and amazingly attractive fruits.
  • Container Tomatoes – No room for a garden? Well that won’t stop you from growing all the tomatoes you can eat. Tomatoes can be raised in containers or even in those upside down planters that can be suspended above a deck of patio.
  • Harvesting Tomatoes – There’s no secret here, just allow the fruits to fully ripen on the vine, then pick and enjoy them at their best. Grow a cherry tomato plant and there will always be a delicious sun-baked snack waiting for you in the midst of the garden.

If you enjoyed these tips for growing tomatoes you won’t want to miss the next entry where I’ll share an assortment of tomato gardening ideas that have been provided by other gardeners that visit this site or subscribe to my Gardening Newsletter.

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  • Leslie Murphy

    Please let me know how I can subscribe to your newsletter! Thanks

  • Kenny Point

    Leslie, there is a link to the Gardening Secrets Newsletter in the sidebar to the right or you can subscribe at the following link:

  • David

    I see you say that we need consistent moisture – but what does that mean? I think I am overwatering my tomatoes. It is very hot here in San Jose, CA recently – but I really want to know how much water they need. The soil is clay and I use miracle grow. I recently saw end rot and am concerned. Is too much water a problem? Is there a simple way to test if there is too much or not enough water? Thanks!

  • Kenny Point

    The consistency has more to do with avoiding back and forth swings where the garden experiences extended periods of drought followed by periods of heavy precipitation. I wouldn’t worry too much over blossom end rot on your tomatoes as the condition usually improves as the season progresses. I don’t know of a simple guide for watering. Requirements vary depending on climate, weather conditions, soil quality, and the types of crops being cultivated. Experience and observation will help develop a better feel for irrigation needs.

  • Damon

    I have tomatoes in pots and have noticed that some of them are getting holes on the side of tomatoe….it does not look like end rot as it is not on the end but on the side of the fruit….any idea what it is and how to prevent it? Thanks

  • Kenny Point

    Damon, if it’s been dry where you are growing your tomatoes it could be that birds are puncturing the fruits to get a little moisture. If it looks like that is the case you can try putting out water for the birds and cover the tomato plants with netting.

  • Ioane Kanakaole

    I enjoyed this info tips very much. I used grow them when I was in middle school. I seem to notice the the ones sold on the markets look nice and are firm, but have not the taste and never seem to get ripe. I assumed then that they were genetically engineered or enhanced for looks but no zap, just tasteless. I am looking for a variety that is about the size of a small marble; about 10mm in size. Here the referred to a wild tomatoes. They seem to grow wild in sand and akaline soil. Planted only by bird in there dropping. tnx a lot.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Ioane, I’m not sure if it’s the tomato variety that you are looking for but I have heard of one called Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato. It’s supposed to be a very good cherry tomato and I plan to try it in my garden next year.

  • Mike Garey

    Last year was my first time to grow anything, and I had my first garden and enjoyed it a lot. However my tomato plants didn’t do well. They grew fine and bloomed but the tomatoes stayed green and never ripened. What went wrong?

    Thank you


  • Kenny Point

    Hi Mike, it sounds like you may have just planted your tomato plants a little too late and the fruits didn’t have enough time to mature and ripen. Where are you located? Did you purchase tomato transplants or start them from seed? Try to have your tomato transplants ready to go into the garden as soon as the weather warms and the threat of frost has passed, especially if you have a short growing season.

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  • Great article about growing tomatoes!

  • I was wondering why this year my tomatoes plants are yellowing and the leaves are already dying. Are they lacking something. It rained here quite hard for about a week. Could they have root rot or a disease? Please help.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Dolores, I would try a side dressing of finished compost and apply an organic spray of hydrolyzed fish fertilizer.

  • Kate Adams

    Kenny, enjoy your letter each time, was very impressed with tomato trellis, can’t wait to try it next year.

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks Kate, I really like the new tomato trellising system and it has performed better than my tomato vines this year because of the tomato blight. But I can’t complain as I’ve still harvested all the tomatoes than my friends and I can eat.

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  • Yvonne

    Hi Kenny. I have a sun gold cherry tomato plant growing in a pot on my patio. It’s about 2 feet tall (maybe a little more now) and it’s in a pot that’s about 7 inches wide and 7 inches tall and I’m afraid that it’s too small for the plant. The tomato plant itself is doing very well, it has 5 little tomatoes (one that is starting almost ripened) and quite a few more coming in and the leaves are green and full. A neighbor of mine suggested that I repot it into a bigger pot but I’m afraid that at this point it would do more harm than good. What do you think? Should I just leave it alone? Thanks!

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Yvonne, it would be a delicate task but you may be able to repot the tomato plant with a little assistance from a friend or two. If it is growing in a container that you can slip the soil and root ball out intact and without it falling apart or disturbing the roots too much the plant may tolerate the move. I definitely wouldn’t try to move it if it was in the ground but I might take the chance with a small potted tomato plant. If you do treat it gingerly and keep it well watered and shaded until it has a chance to recover. Good luck!

  • In 2010 we grew a few different kinds of tomatoes in pots on a rear porch due of the poor soil quality in our community. When doing this you should be sure the pots are big enough for given plants potentiall root growth and you will probably need to water them almost twice as much as the soil tends to dry out. Also right before they ripen either cover them or harvest them as birds will ruin your plants as they love from the brigher colors.

  • GardenGirl

    My tip for growing “tasty” tomatoes is….I put an a whole “un-broken” egg intact in its shell, in each hole i dig for the tomato plant.
    I read about doing this on-line to get great tasting tomatoes ~ so far so good!

    I was not looking for a “great looking” plant, but rather a “great tasting” tomato!!!
    Yes I do also add some “Epsom Salt” to each hole as well.
    So far so good :-)))

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