Tomatoes are among the most versatile vegetables in the world. You can use tomatoes as a spice, eat them alone or mix it with other vegetables and food. No place in the world doesn’t use tomatoes. However, as versatile as they are, growing tomatoes is not simple.
Many people make mistakes when planting their tomatoes. How can you avoid that? This guide will help you learn the tricks of growing tomatoes from day one to harvesting and storing them.
Tips for Growing Tomatoes
A tomato plant is among the warm-season plants. The plant is tender and can break even with the slightest force. Tomatoes need at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day. However, they can thrive in pots or greenhouses if the structure meets the required quality standards.
Tomatoes cannot withstand frost. Because soil is naturally cold, it is essential to do your timing properly when growing tomatoes. Planting tomatoes too early directly on the ground will likely affect their growth.
Therefore, you should wait until late spring or early summer to plant your tomatoes outdoors. But if you live in Zone 10, you know a tomato plant is a winter/fall crop. Whether growing tomatoes from seed or seedlings, tomatoes take between 60 and 120 days to harvest.
For excellent results:
- Transplants (seedlings) do better than seeds. They take roots fast and grow to become stronger and healthier tomato stalks.
- If you outsource seedlings, get them from a reputable tomato nursery near me.
- Healthy seedlings are usually short, stocky, straight, with a sturdy stem, and have a dark green color. Besides, the thickness of the stem is almost the size of a pencil.
If you live in the northern regions, you do not have to worry so much because most parts of the area receive 8-10 hours of sunlight daily.
But the southern regions receive sunlight late in the afternoon; thus, you need to select a place in your garden that has few trees with shades for fear of hindering direct sunlight.
Once you’ve selected the place with direct sunlight access, dig up the soil to about 12 inches deep. Dig holes by spacing them 18-24 inches apart. Add compost manure such as egg shells and let the soil sit for about seven days before you plant.
While selecting the site, it would be ideal to choose a place where tomatoes or any other plants belonging to the family have not grown before. The plants you will seek to avoid include potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
Things to Remember When Planting Tomatoes in the Open
Growing tomatoes outdoors has many benefits over growing them in containers or the greenhouse. However, the process has its challenges too.
When Transporting Tomatoes
- Transplant your seedlings from the seedbed to the outdoor site when you are sure there is no danger from frost.
- Add some commercial-grade fertilizer to help boost the faster growth of the seedlings, bearing in mind that there is manure in the hole.
- Although most fertilizers have a blend of NPK, you will be keen not to overfeed your tomato seedlings with nitrogen. A good amount of phosphorous will give your tomatoes a strong and healthy start.
- For your tomatoes to stand a high chance of surviving, the soil must be at least 60oF. Tomatoes do not survive when the climate is cold.
- Before you put a seedling into the hole, remove the lower leaves to allow them to start afresh and give the upper leaves a better chance of survival.
- Remember to water your tomatoes after planting to give them a fast and healthy start.
- Place tomato cages or stakes immediately after watering the plants. When introducing stakes during planting, you avoid affecting the roots if you introduce them later.
Also read: Pros & Cons of Growing Tomatoes Upside Down
How to Take Care of Growing Tomatoes
Your tomatoes are making huge but steady strides. Each passing day is a phenomenon, and you will harvest within the next three months or so. But before that time comes, you must do a lot in between.
Watering Your Growing Tomatoes
Water is life, so they say. True to this, your tomatoes cannot survive without the right amount of water. And because you cannot predict the weather, thus you do not know when it will exactly rain, so you need to water your tomatoes.
Here are tomato watering tips you need to follow:
- Water your tomato plants in the early morning hours so that they will have enough time to rehydrate themselves throughout the day.
- You need to water your tomatoes generously for the first week.
- Afterward, water your tomatoes about 2 inches per square foot per week.
- Give your tomatoes enough water during the planting season to encourage a deep and strong root system.
- When watering, direct your watering can to the base of the tomato plant. Do not water your tomatoes at the head. Overhead watering only feeds the leaves, but the water runs off immediately after you finish watering.
- Avoid splashing soil on the tomato stem or leaves, for this will attract pests, which will feed on the stalk and the leaves.
- Do not water your tomatoes in the evenings, for tomatoes will sleep wet, which will attract diseases.
- To retain moisture in the soil and help plants absorb enough nutrients, mulch your tomatoes five weeks after planting. Some of the best organic for growing tomatoes include bark chips, hay, and straw.
- For best practice, aim at applying 2-4 inches of mulch.
- Like any garden vegetable, tomatoes struggle during the drought. To help them cope with the heat, place some flat rocks next to the plant at the base. With mulch and these rocks in place, you can retain moisture close to the plants throughout the drought.
How to Fertilize Growing Tomatoes
- As your tomatoes grow, they need the right fertilizer to keep healthy. You have already applied manure and starter fertilizer; now, you must monitor their behavior.
- Side-dressing your tomatoes with organic fertilizer, fish emulsion, or liquid seaweed is one of the best practices that help your tomatoes grow healthy. If you decide to do this, apply the concoction every two weeks for good results. You will start to feed your tomatoes this fertilizer when they are one inch in diameter.
- Give your tomatoes the fertilizer every three to four weeks until you receive frost.
NB. Fast-releasing or fertilizers that are high in nitrogen will burn your tomatoes.
Pruning Your Growing Tomatoes
Growing tomatoes is a tedious but rewarding process. You will only get a good yield if you do everything needed to grow healthy tomatoes, and pruning is part of the tedious process. Follow these steps when pruning growing tomatoes:
- For vining tomatoes, pinch off new tiny stems that appear like leaves between the main stem and branches. By doing this, you are aiding in your tomatoes getting more air circulation. Besides, the growing tomatoes will receive more direct sunlight, especially in the middle part of the tomato plant.
- Use rags, soft string, twine, or nylon stockings to tie the stems to the stakes to give your tomatoes more stability.
- As the tomato plant grows, make it a habit to prune the lower branches that do not have fruits and leaves so that they do not garner soil and water that splashes from the ground. The splashed soil can attract pests, bringing diseases to your tomato plants.
Harvesting Your Tomatoes
- Leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as possible.
- When the right time to harvest comes, ensure they are very red and firm, with no bruises, regardless of size.
- Do not panic if some have a yellowish color close to the stem.
- For other tomato colors, harvest them when they are fully ripe and have the correct color.
However, if your tomatoes are not turning the right color yet they have hit their time, you can employ the following tricks to make them ripe fast:
- Uproot the plant from the spoil, and after brushing off the soil from the roots and removing any foliage, hang the tomato plant facing upside down in the shade.
- Place mature in a plastic bag with page green tomatoes’ stems, and loosely seal the bag.
- Check for ripe tomatoes after a few days.
NB. Never subject your harvested unripe tomatoes to the sunny. They will rot before they are ripe.
Related: Dos & Don’ts of Growing Tomatoes
Storing Your Harvested Tomatoes
Now that you have your ripe tomatoes, it is time to store them safely as you look to make your delicious soup or give them to your friends.
Because we are talking about storing harvested tomatoes, here is what you need to do and what you must not do:
- If you have to freeze your ripe tomatoes, wrap them in plastic bags or proper containers before you place them inside the freezer. Otherwise, be ready to eat a tomato with an altered taste.
- Put your ripe tomatoes on the flow while spread out.
- Place them on a cemented floor in the garage as long as there is good air circulation.
- Never put your ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator. Doing so alters the tomatoes’ texture and flavor.
- While freezing is a way many gardeners choose, it is not a good idea for the tomatoes to slip off their skins when they thaw.
Growing Tomatoes Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What do tomatoes need to grow best?
A: Generally, tomatoes grow well in slightly acidic, well-drained soils (6.2 – 6.8 pH) that receive at least 8 hours of sunlight daily.
Q: What is the best fertilizer for tomatoes?
A: Using liquid fertilizer such as worm-casting tea or compost for growing tomatoes is generally a good idea.
Q: What makes tomatoes grow faster?
A: Warming up the soil is one of the best ways of making tomatoes grow faster.
Q: How do you increase tomato flowering?
A: Feeding your growing tomatoes with an organic fertilizer rich in potassium is one of the best ways to increase flowering.
Growing tomatoes does not need to be complicated. Whether growing them in containers such as pots, in a greenhouse, or in the open, you must prepare your soil well.
Transplant the seedlings when 3-4 inches tall, water, prune, fertilize your growing tomatoes with the correct fertilizer and provide enough sunlight.
Introduce stakes immediately after you plant the seedlings, or tie them to a stable stake later when they are about 24 inches tall. Keep watching your growing tomatoes for any change of color in the leaves or buds to ensure they grow healthy.
When harvesting, do not pile your tomatoes together. Instead, put them on the ground, in a place with enough air circulation. Never store your ripe tomatoes in a refrigerator, which affects their color, taste, and flavor.
If you have to freeze the tomatoes for some time, wrap them in plastic containers before you put them inside a freezer but remember, freshly harvested ripe tomatoes look and taste sweet.
Hi, my name’s Wycliffe Magara, a professional landscaper, journalist, published author, photographer, and lawn attendant. Apart from this site, I also own LawnAffection, Grasstology, and TheScholarshipTipster. I specialize in creating informational content to help you grow a Lifelong Lush Lawn and find the ideal scholarship opportunities no one ever talks about.