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Growing Tomatoes

Category Growing Food
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 page about growing tomatoes.
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Botanical Name:

Lycopersicon esculentum

Description:

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.

Exposure:

full sun

Soil:

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

Planting:

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.
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Containers:

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

Watering:

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.

Maintenance:

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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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 Christopher

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.

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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 Laura Justice

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

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

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Comments

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.

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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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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!

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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.

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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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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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April 7, 2005

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

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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, 2005

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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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

My tomato plants are not flowering much. What am I doing wrong? I usually have no problem. I planted Big Boy using Osmocote and water as needed plenty of sun. Help?

Answers

July 23, 20170 found this helpful

Make sure you fertilize each week. You may have to hand pollinate if you don't have a lot of bees

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August 19, 2005

Tips for planting and growing tomatoes. Post your ideas.

Answers

July 7, 20050 found this helpful

When planting tomatoes, save rainwater in a bucket until time to plant them. Before you plant them, pour the rainwater in the hole. This way, the plants get the water they need without the chlorine of tap water which often dries the tomato plant out. Do not start watering the plants with tap water the rain will be enough, because if you start watering a tomato plant you have to do it every day.

By Michelle

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July 7, 20050 found this helpful

I think this tip may work in areas with lots of rain, but in the arid west, if you don't water your tomatoes, they will die.

Tomatoes only need to be watered once or twice a week, regardless of how you water them. If they are watered too much, you'll get lots of leaves and not many tomatoes.

I've never found that tap water dries out my plants. I'm not sure of your basis for suggesting that it does.

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By sandy (Guest Post)
July 8, 20050 found this helpful

i have my tomatos on my porch in a planter. i need to water it most every day because it dries out. i have never heard of not watering and not using tap water just sounds not usable for most folks.

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August 19, 20050 found this helpful

To make your tomatoes grow better, dig a hole about a foot or so deep, fill with wet, crumpled up newspaper. Then pour water on top of that, then put dirt over it and plant your tomatoes. Then put the dirt around them. This helps them to grow their roots deeper by going to the water, which is in the newspaper. This has worked great for me.

By Dede Payne

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By Dede Payne (Guest Post)
August 19, 20050 found this helpful

I'm sorry I didn't say that better. I still water, tap or rain water, but the paper helps to keep them from drying out so fast. I wasn't suggesting that I don't have to still water, this just helps me to have healthier plants. Sorry for the confusion on that.

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By ron tredgett (Guest Post)
June 5, 20060 found this helpful

on some of my tomatoes I have a large black mark at the base of some of the fruit, I would appreciate any help you could give me on this matter.
thanking you in anticipation
R W Tredgett

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By Vince (Guest Post)
July 21, 20080 found this helpful

If your tomatos have black spots on the ends, it's called "Blossom End Rot" and is apparently caused by low calcium levels. Either you need to amend your soil with some calcium source OR you're watering is too inconsistent so that the amount of calcium that your plant takes up (it can only get it when it's drawing water from the soil) varies too much, with it dipping low. Apparently the plant robs the necessary calcium from the tomato.

I'm sure I'm not explaining this properly, so just do a search on "Blossom End Rot"

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Answer this Question...

I am just wondering who had good luck with certain kinds of tomato plants? I tried a few new varieties last year, but was not impressed. I did best with Early Girl and Celebrity. I also like the Husky Cherry reds.

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How do I harvest Sweet 100 tomatoes? Do I cut the whole bunch of tomatoes off the vine or do I pick them individually?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

By grifft from Levittown, NY

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My tomatoes in containers are 4 1/2 ft tall and quite spindly. What have I done wrong? They were planted from 2 inch shoots about 4 weeks ago.

They are supposed to be "tree tomatoes" from Gardener's Choice and produce tons of tomatoes. Getting through to this company to ask a question is next to impossible.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

By JoieBK from Palm Coast, FL

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April 12, 2007

I live in Thailand and the nights are a little cooler than the days. I am told that Tomato will not do well in this climate because they need cool nights. Also, what type of Tomato would you recommend? We are in the same latitude as Miami, FL.

Answers

By Shelly, (Guest Post)
April 13, 20070 found this helpful

Plant any kind you want. I live in the deep south, Alabama to be exact. I can tell you now, we have no cool nights in Alabama during the summer and we grow the best tomatoes any where!

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By Phil. (Guest Post)
April 16, 20070 found this helpful

OK thanks for the encourgement

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Answer this Question...

A tomato plant, with many nice sized tomatoes sprang up spontaneouslly from a crack in the pavement on our property. While I know that tomato seeds spread and this is not uncommon, my question is about how safe are the tomotoes to eat? The reason I ask, is that it grew out of concrete, not soil, and more concerning, it is located about 50 cm-1 meter above the underground sewage pipe. Considering that this all happend in a period, when there was no rain, do we assume that it fed on (ugh) sewage? Or do these plants not need much water and it is not strange that it came out of concrete? The tomatoes are more robust than any plant I ever cultivated, they are almost the size of tangerines!

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August 4, 2015

On the tomato tag in the pot when you buy the plant, it has the tomato type and a maturity time. When does the maturity time start? When the seed is planted? When you put the plant in the ground? When? Thanks.

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June 19, 2013

I purchased a tomato plant, about a foot tall, put it in potting soil and even added ground eggshells. This happens every year. Something just eats away at the leaves (like a moth eats at fabric). I put Sevin dust one year, that just killed the plant. This year I put marigolds around it. I did see two caterpillars, dark brown with white stripes, on the ground a few mornings ago. I brought it into the patio (screened in) yesterday. What seems to be the problem? Since I don't have bees/insects to pollinate it will it produce tomatoes? The leaves do have a brown black outer color. I use rainwater and Miracle Gro. It gets at least 5 hours of sun. Help for the 5th year in a row.

By monroe95 from Kissimmee, FL

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