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Growing Tomatoes

Category Growing Food
Growing Tomatoes, Red Tomatoes on White Background
Tomatoes are a very rewarding addition to any garden. They are relatively easy to grow and you won't have any trouble finding ways to use them at the dinner table. This is a guide about growing tomatoes.


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By 2 found this helpful
April 9, 2009

Botanical Name:

Lycopersicon esculentum


Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family. Originally from South and Central America, today the tomato is grown worldwide for its brightly colored, edible fruits. Red tomatoes contain the pigment lycopene, a well-known antioxidant thought to help prevent some cancers.

Planting Time:

Sow seeds outdoors when air and soil temperatures reach 60F. Set transplants out when nighttime temperatures stay above 50F. Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting.


full sun


loose, well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8.


Plant seedlings in large holes supplemented with kelp and bone meal to provide plants with the extra potassium and phosphorus they need. Allow at least 2 to 3 feet between staked plants in rows spaced 3 feet apart. Sow seeds directly 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart. To plant tomatoes in trenches, strip all but the top sets of leaves from plants and place them on their sides in a 2 to 3 inch trench. Firm the soil around the plants and as they grow, the plants will turn upward while the buried stems produce roots. Use this method if transplants are tall and leggy at planting time.


Tomatoes are also well suited to growing in containers. Look for cultivars that are specifically bred to be patio' plants.


Keep soil evenly moist (not wet). Water from the ground and early in the day to help prevent disease. Keep plants watered well during dry periods.


Support plants with stakes or cages if necessary. Snap off any suckers (off-shoots) that appear between the main stem and the stems of the leaves to focus the plant's energy on producing fruit. If your soil is poor in nutrients, feed plants a solution containing fish emulsion once per week until the plants flower. If plants are growing vigorously with dark green leaves, they do not need nitrogen. Too much will increase leaf production and decrease fruit production. On the other hand, yellowing leaves may indicate a need to add nitrogen. Areas with extremely warm summer temperatures may need to protect fruit from sun scald and prevent blossom drop.

Harvesting & Storage:

Tomatoes are ready to harvest when they have developed their full, mature color. Harvest them ripe or while still slightly green and let them ripen at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Cold causes flavor loss so do not refrigerate them. Harvest all remaining tomatoes before the first hard frost. Freeze extras, or if still green, store them in a box filled with newspaper in a dark room (at 55 to 60F) and they will continue to ripen over several weeks.

Diseases and Pests:

Unfortunately, tomatoes are susceptible to damage from a wide variety of insects and diseases. Purchase seeds or plants that are resistant to common tomato diseases and don't plant in areas that have had tomato troubles in the past. Keep soil moisture consistent to help prevent fruit from cracking and water plants early in the day (from the ground) so leaves have time to dry before nightfall. Check for worms and caterpillars that can be picked off by hand and for signs of aphid infestations that can be sprayed off with a hose.

Tips to Success:

Tomatoes cultivars are either determinate (grow to a specific height, flower and produce in short time) or indeterminate (grow, flower and fruit over a long period of time). Determinant tomatoes are good for large crops used for canning. Indeterminate varieties are best if you want to pick tomatoes to eat fresh.

Many of today's tomatoes are hybrids and won't breed true if seeds are saved and planted the following season. If growing plants with the intention of saving seed, choose heirloom varieties for offspring that reproduce true to their mother plant. Mixing some lime into the soil adds calcium that will help balance soil minerals, helping prevent some types of fruit deformities as well as blossom end rot.

Comment Was this helpful? 2
April 9, 20090 found this helpful

An interesting fact I discovered about tomatoes is that they are actually a perennial, but we treat them as an annual.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

September 20, 2007

Tomato growing secrets submitted by the ThriftyFun community.

Tips For Cracking And End Rot

The number 1 secret for growing great tomatoes is water control. A tomato is 90% water. It needs a constant supply of water measured out on a consistent basis. This helps maintain growth and keeps the skin pliable. Split tomatoes usually occur after a dry spell, and a deluge of water, such as a hard rain or a long overdue watering. Easiest method to prevent this is by mulching after the soil has warmed.

The next most frequent problem is end rot. The best solution is staking and tying up the tomatoes and getting a soil test. The usual problem is Calcium deficiency. Laying on the ground just accelerates the problem.

By Christopher07

Water Often

Tomatoes need lots of water. When young, water every day. When more mature, use a sprinkler for 10-20 minutes every other day or so depending on heat. This deep waters them. When they are almost ripe (orange) cut down on watering them, as this makes them ripen. Early Girl, Big Boy and Beefsteak are good varieties here, but you might want to check with feed stores, garden centers or neighbors to find the best variety for your area.

By Laramay

Epsom Salts And Watering Tips

I agree with the others. I've found a handful of Epsom salts in the planting hole also helps a lot.

Mulch will stave off lots of problems. Deep watering will also help. Here in zone 7, we sometimes dig a hole beside the planting hole and set a 2 liter pop bottle with holes punched in the bottom into that hole, and backfill the dirt. Keep the cap. Fill the bottle with water and adjust the cap to allow the water to flow out the holes-- works well. However (isn't there always one of those!), this spring we were rained upon. Like I was asking folks if they'd started their own "ark" and some of my bottles floated out of the ground, funny!

By 2oma

Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes

If you like cherry tomatoes, I recommend Sweet 100. I've never had a problem with them (I'm in Northeastern Ohio, I think we're zone 5) and I eat them right off the vine!

By Maryeileen

Use Cuttings

I have a friend who swears by cuttings. So much that she'll buy the plants already grown or start them from seed, only to pinch off the top 6-8 inches and replant it in the ground. I've tried this, and it does work well. I'm not great with tomatoes, though, so I'm not going to be the best judge on whether or not this is THE way to go. I've had pretty good luck with this method, so she may be on to something. When you replant the cutting, though, be sure to water the heck out of it the first week or so until it stands back up. It looks really sad when you first stick it in the ground.

By Beth - MA

Water And Manure "Tea"

I water them every other day. I did get a hold of some horse manure and I made tea out of it and also I put some all over my garden. Just make sure it is dry. The wet stuff I made the tea with. Here is a picture of one of my tomatoes.

By Joyce Wis

Comment Was this helpful? 1
June 4, 20101 found this helpful
Top Comment

I plant my tomatoes in the bottom of milk jugs, with another plant on top such as peppers, and eggplants, I also made two milk jugs into a self watering planter foe my strawberries, and used drink bottles to make a self watering / mini green house for the rose cuttings I'm propagating. I fed my plants used coffee grounds, and they loved it, their stems and roots seemed to double in size! Here is a recent picture of my garden.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
June 4, 20100 found this helpful
Top Comment

We keep having rain everyday, so I'm only watering these every other day, as the afternoon showers really don't give them enough rain. I will have some ripe pear shaped tomatoes soon! I also use toilet paper rolls to make peat pots for my plants that I started from seed, which I wish I had started sooner.

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September 21, 20070 found this helpful

Love tomatoes - Live in North East

I use gallon milk jugs - buried between every 2 plants or plant tomatoes stagered on wide rows and 1 jug will cover 3 plants. Fill jugs every other day or as needed. Add a little fertalizer every other week times 2 or 3 times . I like wire cages to stake with.

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By guest (Guest Post)
September 28, 20070 found this helpful

I also use manure. You can add a bit (like a plop!) to a 5 gallon bucket of water, and you have fertilizer for the whole season! Watering is the trick. I use black plastic under all my tomatoes, and when it's dry I water at the roots. Tomatoes need huge amounts of water, I like to count to 10 when pouring water at the root of the plant. Also, having black plastic under all my plants seems to cut down on over watering when it rains a lot. Don't forget to snap off the bottom shoots that grow near the ground, even if they have already sprouted green minis! This will cause the plant to produce better fruit on top. Staking is important, support those stems, especially when using natural fertilizer!

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 19, 20080 found this helpful

I purchase my plants when they are about a foot tall then pull about the first 8 inches of leaves off before planting. Then i bury the stem and root ball on its side with just the last 4 inches sticking up above the soil. When the plants grow to about a foot above the soil i put about 8 inches of mulched leaves which i gather with my bagging mower. As a result my plants produce more fruit and grow to about 8 feet tall without the aid of fertilizer.

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June 4, 20100 found this helpful

The pepper plants are ready to put out their flowers!

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By 5 found this helpful
March 27, 2008

If you live in an apartment with only a small balcony, have super-rocky soil, or are just down-right lazy like me, you can grow tomatoes, flowers and other plants in the same bag the potting soil comes in! All you do is poke drainage holes on one side of the bag, then lay the bag flat with the drainage holes towards the ground. Next, cut a criss-cross shaped hole on the side that faces up with a sharp knife or razor blade. Now simply plant your flower or veggie starts into the cross shaped hole or holes, cover with soil and close the criss-cross hole and mulch over the top of the bag to keep the roots cool. Another bonus to gardening this way is you don't have to water very often as the plastic bag helps keep the water in.

Comment Was this helpful? 5
March 27, 20080 found this helpful

That is a wonderful Idea! Thanks!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
March 27, 20080 found this helpful

That sounds like a good idea but my only concern is: I want to plant several things and potting soil is not cheap is it?

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March 28, 20080 found this helpful

Hey, I think I'll try that. I can plop the bag into a container, poke it from below, and then it would look nice too. Thanks!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
March 29, 20080 found this helpful

Yep...wonderful idea! I'm definitely going to try this one with the addition of the container tip! Thanks to both of you for sharing that one!

God Bless,

Sheila in Titusville, FL

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May 14, 20110 found this helpful

Awesome idea! I have Fibromyalgia and haven't been able to garden like I used to and this seems easy and a good way to not have to dig around. I'll have my hubby put the bag of potting soil where I need it and go for it!

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February 21, 20120 found this helpful

That sounds like a great idea but how do you stake your tomatoes with the bag of dirt not being deep enough, am I missing that?

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By 7 found this helpful
July 11, 2011

Locals in my area recommend planting tomatoes on their sides rather than vertically for better developed roots systems and healthier, stronger plants. I dug individual trenches for each plant, added fertilizer, compost and a few tablespoons of sugar.

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By 2 found this helpful
March 17, 2010

Instead of spending $12 on a roll of red plastic to put around our tomato plants (to speed up growth) we purchased 2 red plastic tablecloths from a Dollar Store. They worked great!

Red tablecloths over soil.

CommentPin It! Was this helpful? 2

March 22, 2011

If you like big ripe tomatoes, stick your tomato or tie it to a garden fence to keep it off the ground. Then when it gets growing good, take all the small branches off, leaving the 4 biggest branches. When more suckers start to grow, pinch them off of the plant.

Comment Was this helpful? 6

March 10, 2014

Powdered milk can also be a fertilizer for your tomato plants. When you're ready to put your tomato plants in the ground, put a handful of powdered milk in the bottom of each hole first.

Comment Was this helpful? 5

By 1 found this helpful
July 12, 2014

I stirred in a slow release organic veggie fertilizer, crushed egg shells (and/or oyster shells), along with peat moss, vermiculite, compost, and a bit of potting soil. The shells will slowly release calcium which prevents blossom end rot.

tomato plant on its side 2

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By 2 found this helpful
May 14, 2013

Place about 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt around your tomato plants! Your plants will be full of tomatoes.

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April 7, 20050 found this helpful

Cover your tomato plants with newspaper in the fall and they will survive the frosty nights. You will be able to pick tomatoes until December!

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June 17, 20171 found this helpful

Use your fingers to quickly and easily remove these suckers before they start to compete with the main plant for nutrients. This is a guide about how to remove tomato suckers.

tomato suckers

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By 1 found this helpful
July 29, 2009

If your tomatoes grow up and over the tomato cage, sometimes the stem can get so heavy that it cuts the vine where it hits the top of the cage. A good solution to that is to cut lengths of pipe insulation to go around it.

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By 0 found this helpful
February 23, 2006

When planting tomatoes add some dry milk into the planting hole to add calcium and prevent blossom end rot.

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By 0 found this helpful
March 5, 2008

Tomatoes are touchy about getting too much rain or water overhead. First of all, plant the tomatoes as deeply as you can but not with the leaves touching the ground.

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April 26, 20050 found this helpful

Before transplanting your tomato plant seedlings outside, make your planting hole a bit deeper than usual, and drop 2 teaspoons of epsom salts in each planting hole. Sprinkle some dirt in the hole, and then add your seedling.

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June 14, 20170 found this helpful

Tomato suckers are really easy to root and expand your plant count and thus your harvest. This is a guide about reroot tomato suckers as new plant.

Reroot Tomato Suckers as New Plant

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June 8, 20170 found this helpful

If your tomato plant is not setting fruit and the blossoms are falling off, there are several possible causes you will need to investigate, including temperature, pests, and soil deficiencies. This is a guide about blossoms falling off tomato plants.

Tomato Blossoms

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May 17, 20170 found this helpful

Some gardeners have good luck using buried PVC pipe with holes drilled in it to water their tomatoes. This is a guide about watering tomatoes underground with PVC pipe.

A bunch of ripe tomatoes growing outside.

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December 13, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about starting tomato plants from cuttings. Tomatoes are easy to grow from cuttings if you start early enough in the spring.

Start Tomato Plants from Stems

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August 10, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about troubleshooting tomato problems. If your tomato harvest is disappointing due to disease, pests, or growing conditions there some easy solutions to your gardening issues.

Tomato plant with late blight and dying leaves

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May 4, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about growing tomatoes from slices. Try this quick and easy way to plant tomato seeds from your store bought produce.

Growing Tomatoes From Slices

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April 19, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about growing tomatoes in hanging planters. We have seen the upside down planters for growing tomatoes, but you can also grow them in normal hanging planters.

Hanging planter baskets holding tomato plants with numerous yellow blossoms and green cherry tomatoes against a rustic background.

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June 8, 20130 found this helpful

This is a guide about supporting tomato plants. Tomato plants generally need to be trellised or supported in some way.

Supporting Tomato Plants

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April 28, 20130 found this helpful

This guide is about growing cherry tomatoes. An abundance of these bite sized treats can be grown on the patio or in the garden.

Cherry Tomatoes

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October 20, 20110 found this helpful

This is a guide about growing tomatoes in containers. Container gardening is a great way to grow vegetables if you have limited space. Tomatoes are a good choice for this style of gardening. There are a few easy steps you can take to have a successful gardening experience.

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

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