Growing tomatoes in your vegetable garden can be one of the most rewarding experiences a gardener can have. This delicious fruit is highly sought after and is a staple in almost every garden and a number of recipes for your kitchen. Our goal today is give you tips and tricks to transform you from beginner to master when it comes to planting and growing plump tomatoes.
Table of Contents
Choosing Your Tomato/Seeds
First things first is determining which type of tomato we want to plant. Tomatoes tend to be one of the vegetables most susceptible to disease so it’s imperative we keep this in mind when deciding on the seeds we plant.
There are several types and varieties of tomatoes and we’ll take time to go through some of them now…
Determinate vs Indeterminate
Tomatoes generally fall into to these two main categories. Determinate and Indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes, sometimes called “bush” tomatoes basically have a predetermined growing pattern. They grow to a certain, compact height and stop the grow cycle once fruit is on top of the bud. They tend to grow faster and all the plants will ripen around the same time. Approximately 2 weeks. They don’t need much support staking and can be perfect for the gardener with limited space or who prefers containers.
3 Types of Determinate Tomatoes
Debuting in 2011, this tomato was named for its defiance to most of the troublesome diseases that plague many tomatoes. They have great flavor, color and they’re a welcomed addition to any garden that’s in an area prone to disease.
One of the best tomatoes to use for a sauce is the Roma Tomato. It’s not a very juicy tomato nor is it good for slicing. This variety is thicker and dry so it can cook down into a thick sauce. If you love cooking with or canning tomatoes the Roma Tomato is perfect.
Tumbling Tom Yellow Tomato
First off you have to love the name of this variety, right? Great name and an eye catching presence when placed in prominent areas in a hanging basket. The stems flow freely from their containers and when its bearing its yellow fruit they look amazing.
You can end up with about 4 pounds of tomatoes per plant when harvesting and the fruit will ripen throughout the summer.
Click Here For More Determinate Tomato Varieties
Indeterminate tomatoes don’t have a set pattern of growing. They can reach heights of up to 12 feet but normally 6 feet is typical. They also will produce fruit until killed by frost so you could end up with a good, consistent harvest.
Indeterminates can bloom and ripen all throughout the season but will need substantial staking support.
3 Types of Indeterminate Tomatoes
Big Beef Tomato
If you’re a gardener who wants a large beefsteak tomato (we’ll go over beefsteak tomatoes a little further down the article) the Big Beef Tomato will probably fit your needs. This large fruit has that big tomato flavor disease resistant vines that will keep your crop alive longer.
It has big fruit that will bear early and you’ll be able to harvest dozens of tomatoes from each plant.
Chocolate Sprinkles Tomato
This is a hybrid tomato with good looks and even better flavor. They’re bite sized, produces heavy yields and can be very disease resistant. This plant starts bearing fruit early in the season so you’ll get to experience them sooner rather than later. Just be sure to support it with stakes and/or a sturdy cage.
Grape tomatoes are perfect for a healthy snack when you’re on the go. As far as growing, they can have vines that get up to 8-9 feet during a season. Using cages the vines can easily growing taller than it and often drape back down. Because they’re also disease resistant you can expect an extended harvest.
Click Here For More Indeterminate Tomato Varieties
Beefsteak tomatoes, suitably named for their size and meaty quality, are pretty much the classic tomato. It has that classic tomato flavor but some varieties are known to be sweet. They can be as heavy as four pounds and can be any of the colors red, orange or pink. Beefsteaks are also mostly smooth but their are some ribbed versions.
The best way to use a beefsteak tomato is on a sandwich or burger because of its massive size. Thickly sliced or diced, these tomatoes make any dish stand out.
When storing the tomatoes, keep them at room temperature until ripe and then refrigerate them to keep them lasting longer.
Heirloom tomatoes are generally thought of to have been passed down from generation to generation of a family because of particular characteristics. These variety of tomato also capture that great taste we remember. Not the over commercialized taste that we’ve grown accustomed to today.
Most of these tomatoes have very few seeds, thick flesh and thin skin. The thin skin helps with excellent flavor. This flavor is why these tomatoes are normally served fresh or in salads.
Best Tomatoes To Grow
Coming exclusively from Burpee, the seed company, this tomato comes with a lot of fanfare and productivity. If you like to make your own sauce the name says it all with this one. Burpee has said that one of these tomatoes can fill a whole sauce jar by itself. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Some of the most sought after tomatoes are of the Vernissage variety. The most popular is the pink variety with yellow stripes but you can also choose the black, green or yellow versions. They weigh only about 2 ounces when mature but they are delicious and can produce a pretty hefty harvest.
If you like plum tomatoes then you’ve found a good one. With its beautiful orange and red stripes, this plant will stand out in any garden. You’ll also notice once you bite it there is an intense red color on the inside with a slight hint of fruitiness to the flesh. This one is fun to look at and packs a flavorful taste.
Most tomatoes know how good Brandywine tomatoes can be to grow and eat but not may have tried the grafted variety. Grafting has become a trendy way to help plants produce at least 2x more fruit during harvest. Small space plus this grafted Brandywine makes for a good time during yield time.
Small and flavorful, Jasper tomatoes have gained popularity because of their rich flavor. They grow in clusters and are disease resistant. Being able to withstand disease means longer harvest times and that’s always a good thing.
Celebrity tomatoes have been popular for a long time and chances are you have seen them at your closest garden center. They are a dependable choice for the casual gardener and are also resistant to most diseases. Meaty fruit and exceptional flavor make the celebrity a perfect choice.
I know family members who dislike tomatoes with a passion. Never tasted one they liked until the Sugary tomato. Like the name says, it has a sweet taste and can probably convert even the biggest tomato hater. With a pointed shape and vigorous growth, this tomato won’t disappoint.
Small variety but big flavor describes the Green Zebra perfectly. This 3 ounce tomato has lime green stripes and start to turn yellow as they ripen. When you’re in the kitchen, these palm sized veggies are perfect to have on hand.
Aunt Ruby’s German Green
We all know that tomatoes are green and then turn red when they ripen but with the German Green it’s the opposite. These tomatoes are ripe when they turn a vibrant lime green color. Being an heirloom tomato means this variety has been around for sometime and has an amazing taste that has stood the test of time.
Not many people know much about black tomatoes but we do and these black cherry tomatoes are some of the tastiest around. These are similar to the traditional cherry tomato except these go from green to a deep, dark cherry color when ripe. The yield on this variety is also very high so you’ll have plenty to go around.
The Orange Santa is actually not orange at all. It’s a small, cherry type tomato that is more yellow in color than orange. Although some can be closer to yellow orange. The flavor of these tomatoes are sweet and are often used in salads or eaten right off the vine.
The Astro Ibrido is of the plum variety and are normally used in canned preserves or sauces. Because it’s small in size you can easily grow these in containers to conserve space.
If you like sweet tomatoes you can’t go wrong with the Sungold. Children will love them which makes this a great way to get them to eat healthy snacks! When these tomatoes reach the deepest hue of their golden orange color they’re perfect for picking. These taste great alone or in a salad.
Striped flesh like a tiger makes the Tigerella tomato stand out from the rest. It has a rich and tangy flavor and is most commonly used in sauces and salads.
Super Sweet 100
Just like its name, this a sweet cherry tomato that you’ll love to eat as a snack. This tomato can also produce fruit for a long time make it one of the most productive varieties out there. Its disease resistant, high in Vitamin C and make for great snacks.
Where To Plant
Now that we’ve chosen which tomatoes we want to plant lets get into where we will plant them. Space and difficulty will play a big part in this so we’ll give you the most common locations for tomato plants and what we think of each one…
- The Ground
Planting directly into the ground is the preferred method when it comes to tomato gardening. Its how you can get the biggest yield with the least amount of watering. Another perk to planting in the ground is that you can choose almost any variety of tomato you want and they should do just fine. Be sure to find a spot in your yard that gets lots of sunlight (at least 6-8 hours) each day.
One drawback is that if you choose a tomato that isn’t very disease resistant you could end up losing your crop because it can be a pain trying to replace soil or sterilize a large area outside. You’ll also have to deal with moles and other animals that want your vegetables for lunch.
Container planting is perfect for the gardener with limited space. You can get a few sturdy containers and be able to have a nice size crop with a fraction of the space.
However, container planting does come with a couple drawbacks. You will have to water your plants more frequently and be sure to have sufficient support if you live anywhere with high winds.
You’ll also have to be sure to have drainage holes and be mindful of the cons of any container you may choose. (ie: barrels that will rot over time or a metal bucket that will eventually rust)
- Window Planters
Window planting is perfect for the inner city gardener. You probably don’t have any space for containers, let alone a full garden and that’s where your window comes into play. You just go over to your local gardening store and get a couple window planters and you’re set.
The only thing to look out for when window planting is choosing the proper tomato to grow. Smaller varieties like cherry tomatoes are perfect for your window because they won’t get too big and end up toppling over onto your neighbor down below. You can also stay away from lots of pests the higher up you are. Just be sure to secure your planter to your window and you’re all set.
- Hanging Planters
Hanging your plants can be one of the easiest ways to grow tomatoes. You can avoid bending down to tend and water your plants and that’s also a plus. You are limited to smaller varieties of tomatoes for the same reasons as the above window planters. (Don’t want them to be too heavy.)
What people like to do is use an upside down planting method. This keeps birds from stealing your crop because they don’t have anywhere to perch and eat. But this same upside down method can allow water to drip and sit on leaves which will increase the chance of disease.
Dealing With Tomato Problems
By Downtowngal – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15991500
Heat give some tomato variety some trouble when it comes to setting fruit. Don’t be alarmed. Once the nights cool down the plants will start bringing out those green tomatoes again. Another thing you want to do is be sure to choose a heat resistant variety if temperatures get over 90 during the summer in your area and to quickly harvest the ripe fruit on your plant to give it some relief during this time.
If your area commonly experiences summer droughts you may want to consider irrigation tubes or soaker hoses. These tools can keep your plants watered evenly and consistently. It will keep your soil moist and your crop from drying out.
If your area is humid you could be experiencing fungal diseases like early blight. To prevent this from happening be sure to remove any diseased leaves as soon as you see them throughout the grow season. Late blight can be a problem as well but it’s more devastating and can kill your crop quickly. The only way to protect from it is by spraying the leaves with an approved fungicide.
Summer time can be a problem time for pests. Green caterpillars are the worst because they eat the green leaves and can damage the fruit of your tomato plant. It doesn’t take many of these to wreak havoc on your tomato garden so get rid of pests with organic pesticides as soon as you spot them.
If you see little growths on your stem its normally nothing wrong. Those growths are actually aerial roots that would be regular roots if they were underground. This usually happens when there’s not enough drainage where you planted your crop so be mindful of your drainage.
The same issue as above. The bumps are just the first stage before they become bristly. There is still no issue normally but it could be a sign there is underground root damage. Just check your drainage and the overall health of your plant.
Some varieties often keep green coloring at the top of the fruit. Nothing to be alarmed about so just pick the fruit when the other tomatoes look ripe.
Blooms Fall Off
Your blooms may fall off if the temperature gets too hot or if the spring weather gets too cool. Most plants like the temperature between 55 and 75 fahrenheit so normally the fruit will come back once temperatures settle in.
Bottom Of Tomato Rots
This could be a serious problem called Blossom End Rot. It typically occurs during dry weather and can be a serious issue. It’s usually caused by lack of calcium, soil ph being too low and/or moisture fluctuations. To combat this, test your soil early and often and try to keep your moisture level consistent.
This can happen after a drought if a tomato fills up with water too fast. You can combat this by choosing a crack resistant variety. That will help some but not under severe circumstances. The best method of action is to harvest and eat split skin fruit immediately before the problem can get any worse.
If your tomato plant has gray spots on the leaves in hot or sunny weather it’s probably just sunburn. If your plant has been in the shade of the store or in the dark for a few days the leaves will burn when set out into the sun. The good thing is the leaves will recover and your plant should be just fine.
Just like the sunburned leaves, the fruit of your plant can suffer from blazing sun too. Normally the foliage can protect the fruit from this but every so often one of the fruit may suffer from too much sun. This is still not a problem as the foliage will prevent this from happening to most of the fruit on the plant.
Bizarrely Shaped Fruit
Commonly called “catfacing”, your plant having bizarre looking fruit can come from temperature being too cool during fruit setting. This routinely happens with large fruit varieties when the cold weather interferes with pollination.
The easiest way to know when to harvest your tomato is through the color. Your fruit will start off vibrant green and then start to change to a lighter shade with pink or yellow blushing. At this point you can harvest these and pickle them or use them for salsa.
The more a tomato is allowed to ripen the better the flavor will be. So while you can harvest mature green ones, you should wait.
Also, you can’t just go by color alone because variety plays a big part as well, however, the deeper the color gets on the tomato the closer it is to being ready to pluck from the plant.
Storing your tomatoes is straightforward. Once you pick them keep them at room temperature indoors or a shady spot outdoors. Putting them in the refrigerator can cause the flavor compounds to breakdown so you’ll want to avoid doing that.
Here’s a few quick tips you can use in your tomato growing journey…
- Don’t Crowd Seedlings
- Get Tons of Sun
- Use A Fan On Your Seedlings For Circulation Early On
- Warm Your Soil Before Planting
- Bury Your Seedlings Deep
- Mulch After The Soil Is Warm (If You Skipped #4)
- Remove Bottom Leaves To Prevent Disease As Your Plant Grows
- Pinch Off Suckers On Your Plant
- Don’t Forget To Water!!!
- Prune Indeterminate Varieties To Make Them Set Fruit
Any questions about growing and planting tomatoes?? Leave us a comment down below and happy gardening!