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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes


Date Posted: February 26, 2016

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes
photo credit: Mike the Gardener

The tomato. The garden kingpin. No other fruit or vegetable is grown more in the home vegetable garden than the tomato. Widely grown not only for their taste and flavor but also for their ease. Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow in a home garden, and with the thousands of varieties to choose from, you are sure to find one that suits your taste buds.

Growing Tomatoes from Seed

While I have nothing against growing tomatoes at home from starts that can be purchased at a local home or garden center, I love the challenge and the satisfaction of starting my tomato plants from seeds.

If you have a shortened gardening season like I do, you will want to start your tomatoes from seeds indoors under a grow light system. Use a heating mat to give your tomato seeds a boost as tomatoes love heat. This will give you a nice jump start. The cost for a simple grow light system can run as low as $40 or even cheaper if you are able to grab shop lights at yard sales. You can then set up your system on a timer and make it even easier to turn the power off and on automatically.

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes
Photo credit: Mike the Gardener

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Growing Tomatoes in Pots

Yes you can grow tomatoes in pots and various other containers. Some varieties do much better than others, but just know that the larger the pot, the better chance you have at growing tomatoes successfully. What’s important here is the soil and the location of the pot. I recommend a good organic potting soil. One that lends itself to be a bit more acidic, rich in nutrients and friable. All characteristics that tomato plants love.

Determinant varieties, also called bush varieties, will grow the best in containers since their size is fairly predetermined. Such varieties include Oregon Spring, Orange Blossom, Celebrity, and Marglobe. While you can grow just about any tomato variety in a pot, try to stick with one that has been shown to grow well in containers.

Tomato Growing Tips

One of the reasons most people grow tomatoes at home is because they are so easy. If you keep these few tips in mind, you will never go wrong.

    The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes
  • Enrich your soil

    Mix in plenty of compost to grow your healthiest and juiciest tomatoes ever. My dad would mix in fish waste (he is a huge fisherman) all year long leading up to gardening season. Then when he went to plant his tomatoes he had the richest soil I had ever seen. His tomatoes were large, tasty and grew in abundance.

  • Sun, sun and more sun

    Tomatoes love full sun. While there are some varieties of tomatoes that tolerate partial sun, full sun is what you really need. You will see a tremendous difference in your plant`s growth when they are exposed to at least 8 hours of direct sunlight

  • Heat

    If you live in an area where temperatures get above 90 degrees, you will see a far better result than if the temperatures are, say around 80. That’s not to say you can’t grow great tomatoes in under 90 degree weather, but tomatoes love heat and do much better if they get it.

  • The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes
  • Pruning

    Yes you can prune tomato plants. For instance, when you transplant your tomatoes, whether from your own indoor growing or tomato starts, you will want to bury the stem up to the first set of leaves. Once buried, prune off the first set of leaves. You will also want to prune off the suckers. That is the growth on tomato plants that occurs in between stronger tomato plant branches. This helps divert all energy the tomato plants need to the areas that will grow tomatoes.

  • Staking

    Tomatoes need to be staked to keep them off the ground. They simply are not strong enough to support themselves. By not staking, your tomato plants will simply fall to the ground which could create a whole slew of other problems. I like to use tall (at least 6 feet) stakes made of wood as well as tomato cages. All methods have their pros and cons, choose the one that works best for you.

  • Watering

    I have read plenty of debate on this topic. Water a lot, water very little and back and forth the debate goes. So, let me tell you what I do. I’d love to hear what you do, so be sure to comment below to let me know. I like to give my tomatoes a regular light watering. I like to keep the soil moist but not wet or saturated. When it gets hot out I will water a little more frequently, but I never over water. Using this method has produced great tomatoes for me over the years.

  • Feeding

    I like to feed my tomato plants every couple of weeks with a good organic tomato fertilizer such as fish emulsion or compost tea. This helps keep the nutrient levels high so the tomato plants have what they need to grow and thrive.

Growing Tomatoes Upside Down

By now you probably have seen those upside down tomato growers called Topsy Turvy. You simply grow a tomato plant upside down by hanging it. This way you do not have to stake them up. In short, yes, they do work, but again as noted in growing tomatoes in containers, certain varieties will do much better than others using this method. A good point in using this method is you can hang tomatoes which frees up more garden real estate. It is also fun to experiment with.

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes

There are endless amounts of colors, varieties and choices when it comes to growing tomatoes. You can choose rare heirlooms to new hybrids. Whichever direction you go in, follow the tips above and you will definitely help increase your chances of a healthier and more abundant tomato crop.

Happy gardening!


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Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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KEYWORDS:

growing tomatoes in pots, tomato growing tips, pruning tomatoes, growing peppers, staking tomatoes, growing tomatoes upside down, growing tomatoes from seed, growing tomatoes indoors



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