GARDEN

Tips For Growing Tomatoes

tomato-growing-tips

The fresh home-grown tomato. A succulent tasty summer delight! It is THE most common vegetable grown in backyard gardens, and that means that most all of you have some experience with growing tomatoes yourselves…

Recently one of our articles developed a tangential comment thread on tomato tips and advice. I thought that I would capture those comments here, enabling the opportunity for those who happen across this article to comment with your own tips for growing tomatoes. Maybe the lessons learned, the do’s and not to do’s, the things that have worked for you while growing your own tomato plants…


 
In no particular order:

 
Tomatoes thrive on neglect. The less you baby them, the happier they are.

Blossoming and fruit set are temperature dependent. Fruit set will take place when night-time temperatures are between sixty and seventy degrees. If that is two weeks in the spring, that’s what you get. That’s why you also get another crop in the fall, after temperatures have dropped.

Ripening is triggered by a lot of things, including temperature (heat) and chemicals in the air from decaying vegetation. It can also be triggered by damage to the plant (thus, the idea of stomping or breaking your plants).

The size of your tomatoes is likely going to depend on the circumstances in your garden. If you have a lot of decaying vegetation (i.e., mulch, or thick, heavy nutrient rich soil) they’re going to ripen sooner and won’t get as big.

Mulch around your plants will make the plants go all green and no fruit. Nitrogen fertilizer, ditto. Too much water, ditto.

The best I’ve found is to dump them in the ground and walk away.

I put some eggshells around the seedlings to keep the snails away, and cover them if it gets too cold before they’re established.

Put a calcium tablet under each plant/seed

Pour a can of beer over roots once growing

Put a piece of raw pumpkin under each plant/seed

Consider a test. Plunk a few down where your soil hasn’t been amended yet and let it go. Put a few where the soil is OK but not great. Plant the rest wherever you would normally plant and see which does the best. Then next year plant accordingly.

Try Epsom salt sprinkled around base of your tomato plants every other week during the growing season . they love the magnesium.

For tomatoes we mix compost into our soil every year to replenish it. Then we cover the tomato area with black plastic (contractor trash bags cut open work great because they’re heavy), cut a hole where each tomato plant goes and viola! We do have a soak hose system underneath the plastic for watering, but the plastic keeps the soil warmer, and tomatoes need/love warm soil. That’s all we do and, trust me, we get more tomatoes than we can keep up with sometimes. Like 50 lbs per day, every other day.

Crush up egg shells and put them in the planting holes. I use about 1 tablespoon in the hole per plant.

We have to put 3 small thin 3 inch stakes cut from Popsicle sticks around the base of the plants to keep the cut worms from destroying the plants. The one’s they cut down only had two stakes.

Put TP rolls around the tomatoes to act as a collar. Cutworms are usually in the top 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil

Find a tomato variety that grows well for your area and stick with that variety and maybe experiment with a couple new varieties each year.

Acid levels. Low acid varieties of tomatoes are a smorgasbord for bugs.

Also, the old folk-lore of planting French marigolds around the garden actually works. They have the substance that repels pests in their root system.

Beneficial Companion Plants for Tomatoes

 
Books on Tomatoes:

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time

The Heirloom Tomato: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the Most Beautiful Fruit

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

 
Okay, let’s hear your tips on growing tomatoes:

(After awhile I will update the list above to add in your new tomato tips)

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39 Comments

  1. When I get tomato plants from the greenhouse down the road, I bury them to 3 inches below the leaves, laying out the stem to lay horizontal along with the roots. It produces more roots to nourish the plant and tomatoes.

  2. On the west coast depending where you are located, tomatoes hate extreme high temperatures(100-120+degrees). Where we are located at it gets HOT…up by dawn and by lunch time under the A/C for us poor humans. Whewwwww

    In order to solve that problem many of the gardeners have made shade sails to protect their tomatoes &other garden plants from lunch time to sunset high heat wave which can crispy critter their plants in one day. Some are using the water misting system to cool the temperatures down so that the fruit has a chance to set on the vines.

    Friends use the extra large golfing umbrellas to protect their gardens when the temperatures are to high. They are a 10-15 miles from us. They are located in a city which has cooler temperatures from the all the tall trees. We are on the other hand set out in the open with a few trees & it is just plain hot here. One has to be creative for tomatoes in this area.

  3. I have a little over a 3 month growing season and I plant out in May with walls of water. Keeps them from freezing if we have a late frost. Also protects from the spring winds, which have topped 50 this year.
    If you save your seeds after about 3 years the plants will be stronger and healthier. They will have adapted to your climate and will produce in great abundance. For cut worms some tinfoil around the stems also helps.

    1. @ old lady
      Interesting about the “saving the seeds”…… have never though of the mators adapting like that, Thanks
      NRP

    2. @old lady

      We noticed the same thing as well after several years of saving seeds or getting seedlings from a local acquaintance that sells them from seeds he saves every year.

  4. Back in the city, I’d plant them and then ignore them. Always produced pounds and pounds of tomatoes. In this area where we now live, its been more of a challenge. Although the garden has full sun and we’ve amended the soil many times, its a losing battle. The tomatoes that survive the wild critters, usually get hit by blossom end rot. One day they’re doing great and the next they’re rotting. The beefsteak types seem to be more vulnerable than the romas.

    Last year I let the garden lay fallow due to being ill. Hoping once we amend the soil again, cover it in black plastic (again) we’ll get a crop.

    Also planning on putting some in containers on our wooden deck. The deck seems to be a heat sink and is warmer than the garden. It’ll be an interesting experiment.

    Always thought I had a green thumb when it came to growing veggies, but this location and different gardening zone is kicking me in the a$$.

    kk

    1. Add calcium to your soil to prevent blossom end rot. I just put a coulple of eggshells under the transplant.

  5. We add compost including 2 year old manure every year.

    Then we add BORAX, yes you heard right…20 mule team BORAX to replenish the boron missing from the soil.

    Then we crush up all the egg shells from all year long and add that to each planting hole.

    I plant marigolds randomly through out the greenhouse (some volunteer).

    We use beach umbrellas all summer long in the roof of the greenhouse to shade from afternoon heat.

    We water from overhead twice per day for 10 minutes each time.

    MATERS, MATERS and more maters! Last year canned 76 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 32 quarts of stewed tomatoes.

    1. Borax is also an insecticide and herbicide. A Triple Whammy for the dark anti-mater forces!

  6. I can’t have tomatoes this year in my raised beds.
    Vermicillium…bad stuff..gotten from a nursery near me and my neighbors..because all 3 of us lost our tomatoes for three years straight and all 3 bought from the same nursery when we were infected!

    Remedy?

    Cover the soil with plastic, preferably black, leave for a full summer for the sun to cook/destroy the virus.
    Nahh–I’m just gonna raise 10 plants in a friend’s garden and use my beds here for peppers, okra, and cucumbers.

    1. You might try growing a couple plants in straw bales while you are waiting for the virus to go away.

    2. JJ says:
      “Vermicillium…bad stuff”

      Downright NASTY stuff! A web-search for –>Soil Solarization for Gardens<–
      will pull up informative, step-by-step methods for repairing your contaminated soil.

      1. Thanks for that info–I still can safely grow peppers, cucumbers, and okra.
        I did order Actinovate last night….might try a couple tomato plants with that. It protects the roots and all stems of the plant.
        Can flush the soil and spray plants with it.
        But already have tomato plants on the porch (not going near the beds) readying for friend’s garden.

        My issue is the neighbor–if he still has verticillium, don’t I???

  7. Ken

    you missed the tip about putting black plastic on the tomato beds, to keep the roots warm. read that in last bunch of tips, and plan to give it a try.

    Glad to have this separate posting for tomatoes. They are my favorite, so although I have often failed, I keep trying.

    1. Whoops… ;) Probably would work well where I live…

      I wonder though if this might hurt the root system in too hot of a climate?

  8. Ken

    I think you’re spot on about roots in warmer climate.

    for me though, I think it might help, I am thinking once established, will take off in day. I have lots of shade, so soil never gets that warm, as well, nights get cold

    another thing I am going to try, is the calcium tablet,
    and
    am giving some thought to putting one of any vitamn/supplement I have, each under different plant..Never know.

  9. Don’t forget a little lime while planting. It stops blossom rot. A little ash and some nitrogen. I have tried putting a 12 oz pop bottle in cutting the bottom and use miracle grow so it gets to the roots. Good luck everyone.

  10. Ken, how much water do you put through the soak system? Anybody with any tips on blight? DW got some of those hanging planters on closeout a few years ago and initially I thought we were going to do well with but blight destroyed them. I do remember as a child on the east coast my father would put a small fish as fertilizer under each plant. They did well. Bluegills seemed to do better than catfish. Only kidding on the last part!

  11. @ me,

    My grand-dad also used the small fish under the plants. He also kept a bucket of old, bent, reclaimed nails he kept covered in water to start the rusting process. He would plant a rusty nail and a small fish (usually minnows he seined under the each plant. His garden production was the envy of everyone. The rusty nail might not be necessary in soils with high iron content, but in the black clay of NE Texas, it made a big difference.

    1. Dennis

      great to know..

      another thing I will try.

      do you think I can just use those small frozen fish I see at the grocery store?

      1. Anon,

        Probably could use the frozen from the market, but I would tend to believe that whole small fish would provide more nutrients. Haven’t bought live minnows at a bait shop in a long time, but I would think it would be cheaper than processed fish a food store. Another source would be to hang out at the boat ramps on a local lake. Most of the fisherman will give you their left over or dead minnows when they are finished fishing for the day.

        1. Dennis

          thank you for the info..

          the ones I saw frozen were “whole”, head and all. bag of tiny little fish..
          no idea who eats this…but, maybe folks buy them for their cats

          will check out your suggestions too

          thanks

          1. Haven’t seen what you described, but I agree they would work just fine. Many cultures around the world consider “dressing” a small fish as wasteful, cooking/eating them in their entirety. Many of the culinary choices in our country are based on our excess of food. Less fortunate cultures waste little. If the catastrophic events described and feared here in this blog ever come about (as they surely must), folks will eat things they consider disgusting now.

            Not so disgusting, in fact, very tasty, are bean sprouts. Never had them as a kid, but they became popular as Asian cultures flourished here. Did the practice of eating bean sprouts come about because they were so tasty or because they filled the nutrition gap between the planting of seeds and the time of harvesting a mature crop i.e, something to stave off starvation while crops matured?

            Musings of an idle mind. Maybe a subject for later discussion, Ken. How diets have changed by necessity because of traumatic occurrences, then became part of the norm.

          2. Dennis

            Thank you.

            these “undressed” tiny fish seem quite common in frozen food section of grocery store.

            now that you mention “other cultures,
            if I go back and was mistaken, I will look in the Asian grocers too

          3. Not sure where you all are located but where I originally come from some of those tiny fish may be smelt. There are absolutely terrific rolled in seasoned flour and fried in a little melted lard in a cast iron pan. My family loves them. I haven’t seen them in a store where I’m currently located though. Used to love when we could go dipping for them. They are just a little bigger than medium minnows.

          4. I smelt them once. I didn’t like them. hahaha :D

            He who smelt it dealt it?

            It smelt like fish.

            I could go on… haha

  12. Another good reason to grow Tomatoes

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/308648.php

    Tomatoes may combat the damaging effects of radiation

    A team of researchers from have discovered that lycopene – the red pigment in tomatoes – is extremely successful at guarding against the harmful effects of radiation.

    The results of the study, published in FEBS Letters, have shown that lycopene is an effective carotenoid at offering protection from the damaging effects of gamma radiation, and that dietary intervention could be useful in efforts to defend people from these effects. A plentiful supply of tomatoes, cooked in oil which helps the body to absorb carotenoids, would be an effective way of adding lycopene to diets. A major finding of the study is that such protective effects are reduced as the oxygen concentration is increased.

    1. @Anon
      That’s interesting, did the research touch on other tomato products like juice, powder, paste. Or just raw tomatoes???
      NRP

      1. NRP

        it seems to pin the effect to the lycopene in the tomato. One could always lay in a store of lycopene capsules, if one chanced across a great sale.

      2. NRP

        did a search on
        Lycopene Radiation,
        and it seems Lycopene is the aspect studied.

        Sort of sounds like it was studied in situations taken prior to exposure.

        Guess what that boils down to, we best all grow lots of tomatoes..grin.

        Lycopene as A Carotenoid Provides Radioprotectant and Antioxidant Effects by Quenching Radiation-Induced Free Radical Singlet Oxygen: An Overview

        Therefore, treatment of cells with lycopene prior to exposure to an oxidative stress, oxidative molecules or ionizing radiation may be an effective approach in diminishing undesirable effects of radiation byproducts.

        Studies have designated lycopene to be an effective radio-protector with negligible side effects.

        1. @ An
          Interesting info, I’m going to also follow up.
          Conclusion; Grow and eat tomatoes :-)
          Now if I can just grow those stinking little red balls of frustration HAHAHAHA
          NRP

          1. NRP

            me too, going to try to grow and eat tomatoes

            Lucky for me, they have always been my favorite food…honestly

            so much so,
            that my husband, first dozen yrs we were married, would sometimes stop at a grocers and pick out the very best looking tomato to bring me home for a surprise..(I thought it was totally sweet).

            Sadly, at some point in time, I suggested he stop, as the tomatoes changed. They are mostly now tasteless, spoil QUICKLY etc.. I only buy tomatoes seldom now, and only if I want them to look good for something specific. I have tried organic, and oddly they are much the same. Mostly I eat canned ones now.

            BUT
            I am going to try several of the tomato tips this yr and try yet again.

          2. @ Anon
            Well after careful consideration, I’m going to take my mators and just toss em in the back pasture, throw a few things on them including a few cow patties, drive over them a few times with the tractor and forget about them. we’ll see what happens. HAHAHA Maybe water them once or twice… NAW.

            As far as Green Mators, I have made some GREAT Chow-Chow and Green Tomato Chutney. yummmmmmm, use the actually unripen tomatoes. and DO NOT forget about Fried Green Tomatoes (horrible movie) GREAT FOOD!!!!!

            NRP

          3. NRP

            am going to try several things from here, this year.

            if I get to the point of having tomatoes, will be also eating them green…….

          4. NRP

            you should look up

            Green Tomatoes Muscles
            Green Tomatoes Health

            Where I am at, not so easy to find Green tomatoes, and
            besides that
            I am not sure

            do they mean actual green tomato variety (there is such) or a green tomato which has not ripened..

          5. Anon and NRP, look around where you’ve planted tomatoes before and it’s likely you’ll have volunteers. KEEP the volunteers, in place if possible, and get seeds from them. They’ve acclimated to wherever they happen to be at the moment, so are more likely to survive.

          6. Lauren

            Thank you for the suggestion.

            When I am out there, I will have a look.

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