How to Grow Tomatoes for Your Lifestyle and Climate
Learn how to grow tomatoes and you can have access to some of the best tasting types of tomatoes. And harvesting tomatoes year round is possible in certain areas of the United States.
Planting tomatoes in pots is a great way for people to grow the most popular vegetable/fruit in this country. And heirlooms are some of the tastiest types of tomatoes, but some prefer the characteristics of growing hybrids.
Harvesting tomatoes can give you the ability to make your own spaghetti sauce or sun-dried tomatoes. What a great gift idea for your family and friends!
Pruning tomatoes is a matter of personal preference, but it can affect the health of your tomato plant. Learn how to grow tomatoes to ensure a strong and vital tomato plant.
2 Different Types of Tomatoes
Even though tomatoes come in lots of colors and sizes, there are
basically two different types of tomatoes.
Indeterminate types of tomatoes.
Indeterminate Tomatoes- are tomato plants that continue to
grow and produce tomatoes throughout the growing season. This type will
produce fruit until frost or cold weather kills the plant.
Indeterminates are the vining types of tomatoes that continue to
grow taller - which can be up to 10 feet or more. This type requires
staking, a trellis, or a tomato cage for support.
Also, the fruit is set on the side shoots and not the growth tips
like determinates. Indeterminates continually produce new stems,
leaves, and fruit until the plant dies.
This type of tomato plant is perfect for those who want tomatoes for the long haul for salads, sandwiches, etc.
Determinate Tomatoes - are tomato plants that bloom and set fruit all at once - usually fairly early in the tomato season.
Determinates are usually compact or bushy plants which require
very little pruning or staking. They usually grow to a height of 3 feet
Also, determinates will blossom and develop fruit at the end of its growing tips.
This type of tomato plant is perfect for those who want a heavy harvest of tomatoes for canning or drying purposes.
Of these two types of tomatoes, you will find heirloom or hybrid varieties.
The main differences between hybrid and heirloom lies in how recently
the variety has been crossed with others and how reliable their seeds
are when planted.
Hybrids are the result of forced
cross-pollination between two different varieties, but you can't count
on a hybrid to produce a plant genetically identical to the mother plant
or breed true.
Hybrids are breed to have certain qualities. Use hybrids if you
need disease-resistant tomato plants. Most of the hybrids have been
developed since 1945.
With a hybrid - you may end up with more "perfect" looking fruit and a tougher plant, but not necessarily a more tasty tomato.
Heirlooms have been developed through
open-pollination over many many years. The seeds from an heirloom when
grown in relative isolation from other varieties will breed true.
Get heirlooms if you want to harvest tomato seeds and grow a plant just like the mother plant.
How old a variety needs to be - to be considered an heirloom is a
matter of opinion. Some people recognize 100 years old varieties as
heirlooms and others before the year 1945.
Also, it is generally agreed upon that no genetically modified plants can be considered an heirloom.
Most heirlooms are indeterminate types of tomatoes and while
their fruit may not always look as "pretty" or "perfect" as the hybrids -
there is no comparison in flavor or taste.
Varieties of Indeterminate Tomato Plants
Big Rainbow Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant
Very Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
Good Disease Resistance
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant
Dusky Rose to Purple Fruit
Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
Sweet, Rich & Smoky Luscious Flavor
San Marzano Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant
Deep Red Fruit
Medium Sized Plum Tomatoes
Makes Great Tomato Sauce - very few seeds
Anna Russian Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant
Large Heart Shaped Tomatoes
Heat & Cold Resistant
Sweet Juicy Fruit
Isis Candy Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant
Bi-colored Fruit with Cat's Eye Starburst - on one end
Small Cherry Tomatoes
Loves Warm Weather
Crack-resistant & Sweet like Candy
Sun Gold Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant
Golden Orange Fruit
Small Cherry Tomatoes
Heat & Cold Tolerant
Very Large Production of Very Flavorful Fruit
How to Grow Tomatoes
Choose the right variety for your area - tomatoes grow in zones 3 to 11
Soil with a ph range of 5.8 to 6.8
Requires rich organic soil for its deep root system - add compost or organic fertilizer every year
Requires well-drained soil that holds water evenly - uneven water uptake will create problems
Requires at least 1 to 2 inches of water every week - you can allow soil to dry a little between waterings
Requires at least 6 to 7 hours of full sun for proper growth. And 8 to 10 hrs. is much better
Space plants at least 2 to 3 feet apart for proper air circulation
Most plants require a support system - caging may be less work than trellising
Tips for How to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are considered perennials, but they will not live
through a frost or freeze. These plants can't survive winters in
general, but they can survive in tropical areas or inside green houses
for several years.
It's important to note that tomatoes will grow very well organically,
but be sure not to over fertilize your plants as this will make them
grow too quickly which may cause them to produce more leaves than
Also, when watering your plants - always keep water towards the
base of your plant. This will help keep the leaves more healthy and
less prone to disease. Drip system watering is much better than
How to Grow Tomatoes - in Cooler Climates: If you live in a cooler climate, you will have a shorter growing season.
If planting tomatoes from seeds, you may have to start sowing
seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost in your area
if your growing season is less than 4 months between frosts.
The other choice is purchasing a tomato plant from a nursery or
farmer's market, etc. This gives you a head start and should ensure a
successful tomato harvest.
Tomato plants in general require daytime temps to be above 70
degrees F and night time temps above 55 degrees F to be able to set
Maybe wait a couple of weeks after the last frost before moving
or planting tomatoes outside. Also, make sure to mulch to help keep the
soil warm, but make sure the soil warms up before applying mulch.
How to Grow Tomatoes - in Warmer Climates: Tomatoes are
heat-loving plants that need a long warm growing period to grow from
seed to fruit. In general, you will start harvesting tomatoes 60 to 90
days after transplanting tomato seedlings.
To help your plants retain moisture in warmer climates, add a
layer of mulch beneath your plants. Mulching also discourages slugs and
keeps the soil from splashing up.
To prevent your fruit from getting sunburnt, provide shade
either by leaving thick foliage on your tomato plant or by providing a
Be sure to choose a heat tolerant variety to ensure the least
amount of problems in a warmer climate.
Also, tomatoes can't form red
pigments above 95 degrees F, so keep this in mind when harvesting
How to Grow Tomatoes - in the Tropics: In tropical areas or even in a green house, tomato plants can live year-round. You can pretty much plant tomato seeds or tomato plants at any
time of the year. Tomatoes will grow best in the morning light and
evening shade in the tropics.
Your plants will also need a lot of water in the tropics, so
arrange for an easy watering system. To help your plants retain
moisture, add a thick layer of mulch under your plants.
How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots
Planting tomatoes in a
container or pot is perfect for those who have very little space. Just
be sure to use a pot at least 18 to 24 inches high and 15 to 20 inches
wide as tomatoes have a deep root system.
Determinates can be more easily grown in a pot or container since
they are smaller plants, but planting tomatoes that are Indeterminates
will also work great.
Just be sure to provide your plant with fertile soil on the day
you transplant and fertilize again when they start to flower. You can
also add crushed egg shells to your soil or compost for extra calcium.
How to Grow Tomatoes from Seeds:
Use loose potting soil or a seed starting mix rather than using garden soil which may contain weeds insects, etc.
Moisten your soil to dampen using tepid water
Fill a small container or pot with damp not soggy soil
Plant your seeds 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep (don't crowd seeds) and cover with moist soil
Tomato seeds will germinate as long as your seeds get moisture and warmth
Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 to 10 days when kept at 70
to 80 degrees F - - below 50 degrees F and above 95 degrees F are
detrimental to tomato seeds
How to Grow Tomatoes from Seedlings:
Keep a close eye on your seedlings - they will need to be moved to bright light as soon as they appear
Place the seedlings where they can get plenty of sunlight - south facing window sills are one option
If that is not possible, you can use growing lamps as seedlings need about 12 hours of light a day
After seedlings develop their first true leaves or are 4 inches
tall, you can transplant them to an appropriate spot or container
Also, planting tomatoes in soil that has organic compost added will
help your seedlings grow - planting tomatoes deep to shorten the height
of seedlings will create strong root production
Tips for Supporting and Pruning Tomatoes
Pruning tomatoes allows tomato plants to concentrate its energy on
the development of its fruit rather than new foliage. Thus, pruning
tomatoes will help your plant to concentrate its energy on developing
flavor and larger tomatoes.
Even though pruning tomatoes is a matter of personal preference -
Indeterminates will do best if pruned and Determinates may only need
minimal or no pruning.
How to Grow Tomatoes - Pruning Basics
Prune tomatoes to create 1 to 4 strong stems and this keeps it at a manageable size
Pruning tomatoes for good air circulation helps to prevent mold, fungus, and diseases
Prune stems that are broken, diseased or too close to the ground
Top a plant that is out of control and overwhelms it support stake or trellis
Remove suckers from the bottom 1 to 2 feet of your plant as these will divert energy away from the main producing stems
Prune suckers by pinching the leafy shoots that grow
from the leaf axil - the leaf axil is the V between the central trunk
and lateral branches
Prune suckers before they are too large - remove suckers before they get to an inch or two in length
Removing flowers at the early stages of growth can help your plant develop a more powerful root system
Pruning tomatoes can be started when plants are 12 to
18 inches tall - also pruning tomatoes when your plant is dry not wet is
Prune no more than 1/3 of your plant - to prune away more may send your plant into shock
Avoid pruning leaves above fruit clusters as these leaves protect fruit from sunburn
When in doubt - do less pruning than more
Disadvantages to Pruning Tomatoes: If you live in a very warm
area, pruning could hamper fruit production as having extra foliage
helps to shade fruit from direct sunlight.
Also, some may not want to prune any suckers as they can produce
more tomatoes, thus pruning can cut down on the amount of tomatoes your
plant will produce.
How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers
How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers - Option 1:
Plant suckers in individual pots or put several into a window box
Plant suckers in soil as deeply as possible and press soil down. Be sure to water generously
For the first week, keep plants in a bright place and keep soil moist. Plant may wilt a little until new roots grow
In about one week your plant should have enough roots to
keep going, but wait another 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting to a
How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers - Option 2:
Tomatoes will produce roots anywhere along the stem where it touches the ground
You can bend a large sucker to touch the ground and it will develop its own root system
Rooting a sucker while attached to the main plant pretty much ensures successful rooting and will not drain the plant
How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers - Option 3:
You can also stick suckers in a glass of water until they develop roots and then transplant them to a pot or container
Suckers is a way to keep your tomato plants alive forever as this
allows you to plant a clone from your existing tomato plants.
This is also a great way to plant tomatoes that don't breed true to
second generation seeds.
Heirlooms and Indeterminates are known to produce a lot of
suckers. However, allow suckers to grow 4 to 6 inches before pinching them off
and be sure it is from a healthy plant.
How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers - Option for Cold Climates:
At the end of the growing season, you can snap off suckers and plant
them in pots or other containers - keep them in a greenhouse until
Keep one plant inside over winter and use its suckers to create next spring's plantings
According to many - vine ripened tomatoes are always going to taste the best, but harvesting tomatoes can start any time after tomatoes start to change color.
Many tomatoes have a tendency to crack before they fully ripen on the vine, so it may be best to begin harvesting tomatoes when your fruit are a good size and start developing most of their color.
You can set tomatoes on a window sill or on your kitchen counter to finish the ripening process as tomatoes need warmth not direct sunlight to ripen.
If you have a big problem with pests attacking your fruit, harvesting tomatoes while they are green is another option. However, they will lose much flavor by being picked too early.
Once tomatoes start to ripen, harvesting tomatoes daily or every other day may be necessary to ensure a successful harvest.
Harvesting tomatoes may be done easily by using clippers and
cutting the stem right above your fruit. Tomatoes can be dried, canned,
or frozen during an abundant harvest.
How to Grow Tomatoes - Harvesting Tomatoes Smarter:
Trellising, staking or caging will help to keep your tomatoes off of the
ground. This will slow down bugs and other creatures from getting to
your tomatoes before you do.
These methods also reduce loss from fruit that rots because it is
touching the soil. Caging seems to be the easiest of the three choices
because there is no tying involved and this method may offer more
sunburn protection as well.
How to Grow Tomatoes - Tomato Seed Tips
If you're harvesting your own tomato seeds, making sure to save the seeds from a healthy heirloom plant is how to grow tomatoes easily for next year. Remember the seeds from a hybrid will not breed true.
Tomato seeds must be fermented in order to germinate and in nature this happens when the fruit falls off the plant and starts to rot. You can ferment the seeds yourself which will allow you to move this process along.
If you desire to grow unusual types of tomatoes, you'll probably need to start planting tomatoes from seeds. The huge variety of tomatoes that you can experience should make it worth the effort. You can hunt down unusual types of tomatoes online - just be sure to buy seeds from a reputable source.