How to Grow Tomatoes
to Get the Best Tasting Tomatoes

Learn how to grow tomatoes and you can have access to some of the best tasting types of tomatoes. 

Did you know that harvesting tomatoes year round is possible in certain areas of the United States?

And planting tomatoes in pots is a great way for people to grow the most popular vegetable/fruit in this country. 

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.

Determinate and Indeterminate types of tomatoes.

Indeterminate Tomatoes - are tomato plants that continue to grow and produce tomatoes throughout the growing season.

This type of tomato 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 of tomato requires staking, a trellis, or a tomato cage for support.

The fruit of indeterminate tomato plants is set on the side shoots and not the growth tips like with determinates. 

Indeterminates will 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 tall.

Also, determinate tomato plants 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 a hybrid and heirloom lies in how recently the variety has been crossed with others and how reliable their seeds are when planted.

Hybrid Tomatoes

Hybrids are the result of forced cross-pollination between two different varieties.  You can't count on a hybrid to produce a plant genetically identical to the mother plant or to breed true.

Hybrids are breed to have certain qualities.

Use hybrids if you need disease-resistant tomato plants. 

However, with a hybrid - you may end up with more "perfect" looking fruit and a tougher plant, but not necessarily a more tasty tomato.

Most of the hybrids have been developed since 1945.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirlooms have been developed through open-pollination over many many years.

The seeds from an heirloom tomato when grown in relative isolation from other tomato 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 tomato.

Most heirlooms are indeterminate types of tomatoes. 

While their fruit may not always look as "pretty" or "perfect" as the hybrids - there is no comparison when it comes to flavor or taste.

Varieties of Indeterminate Tomato Plants

Big Rainbow Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant

  • Heirloom
  • Bi-colored Fruit
  • Very Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • Heat Tolerant
  • Good Disease Resistance

Cherokee Purple Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant

  • Heirloom
  • Dusky Rose to Purple Fruit
  • Large Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • Heat Tolerant
  • Sweet, Rich & Smoky Luscious Flavor

San Marzano Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant

  • Heirloom
  • Deep Red Fruit
  • Medium Sized Plum Tomatoes
  • Heat Tolerant
  • Makes Great Tomato Sauce - very few seeds

Anna Russian Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant

  • Heirloom
  • Pink-Red Fruit
  • Large Heart Shaped Tomatoes
  • Heat & Cold Resistant
  • Sweet Juicy Fruit

Isis Candy Tomatoes - Indeterminate Plant

  • Heirloom
  • 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

  • Hybrid
  • 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.

However, do not over fertilize your plants as this will make them grow too quickly which may cause them to produce more leaves than tomatoes.

Also, when watering your plants - always keep water towards the base of your plant.

This will help to keep the leaves healthy and less prone to disease.  A drip watering system is much better than overhead watering.

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 fruit.

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 man-made shade.

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 tomatoes.

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 tomato plants.

How to Grow Tomatoes in Pots

Planting tomatoes in a pot or in a container 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 indeterminate tomatoes will also work fine.

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 compost that contains crushed egg shells to your soil 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
  • 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 stronger 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.

Pruning tomatoes will also 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.

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 stems 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 recommended.
  • 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.  Pruning usually cuts down on the amount of tomatoes that your plant will produce.

How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers

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 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 and 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 permanent location

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

How to Grow Tomatoes using Suckers - Option for Cold Climates:

  • At the end of the growing season, snap off suckers and plant them in pots - keep them in a greenhouse until spring arrives
  • or
  • Keep one plant inside over winter and use its suckers to create next spring's plantings

Harvesting Tomatoes

According to many people, vine ripened tomatoes are always going to taste the best. 

However, 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.

It may be best for some to begin harvesting tomatoes when the 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.  This method may offer more sunburn protection as well.

How to Grow Tomatoes - Tomato Seed Tips

If you're harvesting your own tomato seeds, make sure to save the seeds from a healthy heirloom plant.

That's how to grow tomatoes easily for next year.  Remember the seeds from a hybrid will not breed true.

Tomato seeds are usually fermented before planting in order to germinate properly. 

This happens in nature when the fruit falls off of the plant and starts to rot.   

You can ferment the seeds yourself which will allow you to move this process alongOr you can skip this process if your buying tomato seeds in a packet.

If you desire to grow unusual types of tomatoes, there's a huge variety of tomatoes that you can grow. 

You can hunt down unusual types of tomatoes online - just be sure to buy seeds from a reputable source.

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