Dos & Don’ts Tips for Growing Great Tomatoes

In the world of vegetable gardening, there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh home grown tomatoes. The flavor of the ones you grow leaves the store bought variety far behind. Home grown tomatoes are so plump and sweet, just full of flavor and freshness.  However, growing great tomatoes doesn’t happen just by putting a few plants into the ground and turning on the hose. But anyone can master growing great tomatoes by following a few simple dos and don’ts.

 

One of the nicest things about summer is the taste of home grown tomatoes. Follow these tips for growing great tomatoes to make sure you have a bumper crop this year.

So get ready to choose your favorite variety, start them off in the right way and control common tomato problems before they start.  Follow these tips and you will guarantee top bragging rights this year!

Follow these Simple Dos and Don’ts for Growing Great Tomatoes.25 Dos and Don'ts for Growing Great tomatoes from thegardeningcook.com/tips-growing-great-tomatoes

DOS

Do provide plenty of sunlight.  Growing great tomatoes starts with good sun light. Tomato plants need sunlight and lots of it. They need about 10 hours of direct sunlight a day during the summer (and 10-14 hours of bright diffused light a day as seedlings.)

Do start with healthy soil. A well amended soil is a must.  I like to add a scoop of compost to every hole that I dig for any plant, and tomatoes are no exception.  Soil that is full of rich compost is the secret weapon to any tomato grower and organic material is the best. There is just on chemical substitute for well good, old fashioned compost.

Do Support the stems.  Tomato branches can get very heavy.  Support the stems on stakes with some free tomato ties.  Cut nylon stockings into strips and use a figure 8 tie to support the stems as they grow.  They are flexible and won’t damage the stem and are readily available. Nylon stockings make great tomato stem ties.

Plant Deeply

Do plant seedlings deeply.  Tomato plants do best with a healthy root system.  I like to choose a tall plant and pull of some of the lower leaves and plant it deeply into the hole. Roots will form along the planted stem and this will make for a very healthy plant.

Do know your soil type.  Tomatoes like soil that will hold water but not make them too soggy.   The wrong soil type an cause all sorts of problems from flower drop, blossom end rot and split fruit.

Do remove lower leaves.  Growing great tomatoes means that you must prune the leaves a bit. These are the first leaves to grow on your plant and they are the easiest ones to develop fungus and other problems.   As they plant grows, they also get the least amount of light ans circulation so they are more vulnerable to disease.  Removing them also keeps them out of reach of the water.remove lower leaves top prevent disease

Do Water Deeply from the roots.  Tomato plants love water and they like a deep watering.  A soaker hose works best for tomato plants. (affiliate link)  Also see my tutorial for a soda bottle drip feeder here.

Staking is a must.

Do stake your plants.  Indeterminate tomato plants can grow to 10 feet or more and definitely need some staking. Even determinate plants will get to 3 feet.  If you don’t stake, the weight of fruit may break your stems.Be sure to stake your tomato plants


Do Mulch.  While we are on the topic of watering, be sure to add mulch.  Bring it to a few inches from the stem, right over a soaker hose.  This conserves the water and helps to prevent soil born pathogens from getting on to the leaves.

Pinching Encourages a busy tomato

Do pinch suckers.  Small suckers will grow at each leaf axil.   This can weaken the plant and won’t bear fruit. Pinch these out to encourage great plant growth.Tomato Tip: Be sure to snip off these side shoots for stronger tomato plants. See more tips for growing tomatoes at http://thegardeningcook.com/tips-growing-great-tomatoes/Do rotate your crop. If you plant your tomatoes in the same spot each year, you encourage soil borne pests and diseases to take hold.  Move the area where you plant to another spot in your garden every three years or so.

Do check the roots

When you are buying tomato plants, be sure to check the roots.  Beware of seedlings that look great on top but have week root systems. They plants will just languish in the garden for weeks before they start to grow.

Do know your tomato type. Indeterminate vs determinate? Indeterminate will grow and produce all season long, determinate will produce all at once. Know which one you are planting to avoid discouragement. This article gives a bit of information on both types of plants.Learn about your tomato variety

Do choose a spot with good air circulation.  Making sure there is plenty of air around the plants keeps the risk of many diseases at bay. 

Do watch out for caterpillars.  Horn worm caterpillars can devastate a tomato crop. Be on the look out and remove if you find them.hornworm caterpillars can devastate a tomato crop.

Do plant again.  If you live in a sunny growing zone, be sure to practice succession planting.  Add another crop a few weeks after you plant the first one to ensure luscious tomatoes all summer long.

25 Dos and Don'ts for Growing Great tomatoes from thegardeningcook.com/tips-growing-great-tomatoes

And Now for the Dont’s!

DON’TS

Don’t water from above.   Doing so encourages water born pathogens and spreads disease.  Deep watering around the roots is the way to go.

Don’t water too often. More is not always better, especially with tomato plants. Instead of watering daily, water deeply but infrequently. Soak the plant well about once a week. This will develop stronger root systems.

Don’t forget that tomatoes are heavy! The branches will break if they are not supported. Tomatoes can be very heavy on branches without support.Tomatoes are heavy and need support

Don’t Overcrowd.  Tomato seedlings need plenty of room to grow and will be stunted if they are over crowded.  The same is true for mature plants.  The size of a mature tomato plant is about 3 feet in diameter, so don’t plant young plants a foot apart.Don't overcrowd tomato plants

Don’t forget tomato cages.  While a tall stake will work okay, tomato plants can get very large and will benefit from having a tomato cage around them to keep sprawling stems off the ground.(affiliate link)

Tomato cages

Photo Credit: Panacea Products

Don’t wait too long to stake.  I place my stakes in at the time that I plant the seedlings.  I won’t damage the roots if I do this and the stems will be ready to tie up as the plant grows.

Don’t forget that critters like tomatoes too! If you have followed my blog, you will know of my exploits with the squirrels and chipmunks.  Nothing is worse than seeing a dozen half ripe tomatoes on the ground with a bite out of each one.  See my tips for dealing with squirrels.  Hint…they don’t like cayenne pepper!  Also see these natural squirrel repellent ideas.squirrels love tomatoes

Don’t over-fertilize.  Doing so will often result in bushy tomato plants with few flowers and flowers are what makes tomatoes later.

Healthy seedlings.

Don’t go for seedlings with flowers.  You may think this will give you a head start on the growing season but the opposite is the case. Go for strong root systems and healthy looking stems. The flowers will come soon enough. (The same goes for flowering plants – why buy those already in flower? Enjoy them in your garden, not at the garden center!)Don't go for tomato seedlings with flowers

Don’t plant too early.  Tomatoes are best if the soil temperature is consistently above 50º F outside. And make sure to measure the temp down a ways into the soil. 6 inches doesn’t sound like a lot, but think of where the roots are!

Don’t be impatient.  The sweetest tomatoes are those that grow on the vine as long as possible.  Don’t be in a hurry to take them off too early. If any fall off the vine, see my tips for ripening green tomatoes.Don't pick your tomatoes too soon.Don’t panic at the end of the season. If you have plants left and a frost is threatening at season end, pull up the whole plant, tomatoes and all and hang upside down in a garage or basement. The fruit will continue to ripen.

Don’t store tomatoes in the fridge. Doing so will spoil the taste and take away much of the sweetness that you are looking for.  See this tip for sweet tomatoes.

Sun-ripened tomatoes deliver the taste of summer in every bite all summer long. Plant just a few healthy plants and you will ensure the production of buckets of this delicious fruit.

Using Fresh Tomatoes in recipes

The process doesn’t stop with just growing great tomatoes.  Now it’s time to use them in recipes!!
Recipes for roasting and using fresh tomatoes

Want to learn more about using fresh tomatoes?  See these articles:

How to roast Fresh Tomatoes.

Home Made Marinara sauce with freshly roasted tomatoes.

Fried Green Tomato Recipe.

Chunky Vegetable Marinara with Fresh Tomatoes

Caprese Basil Mozzarella Salad

Snow peas, baby tomatoes and potatoes

Do you have some tomato dos and don’ts to share for growing great tomatoes?  Please leave your comments below!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  10 comments for “Dos & Don’ts Tips for Growing Great Tomatoes

  1. Sandi
    05/25/2015 at 10:31 am

    how do you identify if the plants are determinate or indeterminate?

    • admin
      05/25/2015 at 10:56 am

      Hi Sandi, The small tag that comes with the tomatoes will usually say which it is. I have written an article on determinate tomato plants which gives a bit of info: http://thegardeningcook.com/determinate-tomato-plant/. If you don’t have the tag, it’s hard to tell just from looking. My experience is just that an indeterminate plant will grow much more quickly and get more leggy and have longer shoots. My determinate plants have always been much more compact and slow growing.
      Carol

  2. Melissa
    06/12/2015 at 1:08 am

    I just wanted to let you know that your photo example of pinching suckers is incorrect. It is actually showing the fruit stem.

    • admin
      06/12/2015 at 9:19 am

      Thanks Melissa. I took that photo quickly to illustrate the point and didn’t realize it was a fruit producing stem. I’ll update it with a new one! Thanks for alerting me! Carol

  3. Lazy Harp Seal
    06/28/2015 at 9:40 pm

    My tip from the first summer of tomatoes is to not assume that “the earlier the better” does not apply to tomatoes. Waiting for warmer weather means they grow faster and smaller plants transplant faster. A younger tomato in a 4″ pot will likely catch up and even surpass a larger tomato started 2-3 weeks earlier. So, there’s no rush. Starting earlier doesn’t guarantee an earlier harvest. What I will start earlier next year, however, is the companion plants: the marigolds, calendula, borage, etc. Little pests waste no time once the tomatoes are in, so the sooner those repellent companions can get to work, the better!

    • admin
      06/28/2015 at 11:06 pm

      Thanks for the tip. I too have seen later tomatoes take off and early ones languish, so I totally agree! Carol

  4. 05/06/2016 at 6:25 pm

    Last few years my tomatoes having done very well, so these tips will be very helpful! Yesterday I trimmed some limbs so some of my tomato plants will get more sun. Now if it would quit raining so much, there getting water logged. Wish the rain could spread itself out over the summer.

    • Carol
      05/06/2016 at 7:19 pm

      Me too. It just won’t stop raining here.

  5. Bev
    10/30/2016 at 3:47 pm

    What makes the leaves turn yellow. Too much water or not enough, or something else?

    • Carol
      10/30/2016 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Bev. It depends on where the leaves are . Those on the very bottom often don’t get enough sunlight if the plant is quite mature and it’s common for them to turn yellow. If not the bottom leaves, it could be a variety or things (not enough nitrogen, pest infestation, fungus and over watering are common reason.) Carol

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