Grow Amazing Tomatoes
Whether fresh or canned – we use tomatoes from our garden nearly every day of the year.

With just a few easy steps – you can grow amazing tomatoes this year!

Without a doubt –  tomatoes are the most important crop we grow in our garden.

In fact, we use our home-grown tomatoes and tomato based products nearly 365 days a year. In the summertime – we eat them right off the vine, in salads, hamburgers, sauces and more. In the fall and winter months, we enjoy the tomato juice, vegetable soup, chili, salsa, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and ketchup that we have canned or frozen from the summer’s bounty.

Here are some valuable hints, tips and tricks we have learned over the years to grow a bumper crop of tomatoes:

How To Grow Amazing Tomatoes

1.  The When, How And Where Of Planting Tomatoes:

 Grow Amazing Tomatoes
Pick a bright, sunny location for your tomatoes.

WHEN TO PLANT: Tomatoes are just about the last thing that get planted in our garden.  Tomatoes love warm soil and warm weather.  If you plant them too early in your growing season, they can really struggle. It’s not just about preventing frost. If you are growing from seeds – start with high quality seeds and grow indoors 4 to 6  weeks before. See : Rainbow Heirloom Variety Seeds

Cold, damp spring temperatures can make them more susceptible to disease, rot and lethargic growth.  Here in this part of Ohio, most of our garden goes in around the 15th of May.  

If it’s nice and warm out – the tomatoes go in too. But if it’s still a little chilly and damp – we wait until late May to allow the soil to warm up!

 Grow Amazing Tomatoes
Crush a few egg shells in each of your holes to help prevent blossom rot

HOW TO PLANT:  Tomatoes benefit from rich, fertile soil. When you plant – make sure to add a few cups of good compost in the hole along with the plant.  And start saving your eggs shells now! Crushed egg shells are an excellent supplement to add to your planting hole.  They add calcium to the soil as they break down – helping to prevent the all-too common blossom rot; those black spots on the ends of tomatoes that can decimate a garden.  We drop in a few crushed egg shells per planting hole.

WHERE TO PLANT:  Plant your tomatoes in the sunniest location you can find.  It can’t be said enough – tomatoes love sun and heat. The more you give them – the better your crop will be!  And remember to rotate where you plant them from year to year – if you keep planting those tomatoes in the same spot, they will rob the soil of all the nutrients needed for great yields and become more prone to disease.

Mulching and Weeds:

Tomatos mulched
Mulching around plants with compost gives the plants a boost and helps keep the area around your plants free of weeds

We mulch our tomato plants with a 1 to 2″ thick layer of compost – creating a 6 to 8″ compost circle around each stalk. It helps to regulate soil temperature, keep weeds to a minimum, and soil from eroding during strong rains.  Of more importance, it acts as a slow-release fertilizer as nutrients strain through it during watering or rainfalls.  Mulching also helps keep weeds at bay.  Don’t let weeds compete for the same nutrients your tomatoes need. Just a few minutes of daily maintenance pulling small weeds around your plants will keep your garden productive and neat!   Make sure  as you work in your garden to stay off the ground directly around your plants – stepping on and around your plant’s root zone compacts the soil and keeps them from fully developing.

One last note on mulching.  If the season and soil are still a little cool – wait a few weeks for it to warm up before applying the mulch.  If the soil is still cool, mulching can actually prolong the soil from heating up.

Pruning and Supporting

Pruning a few inches from the bottom of your plants allows for easy watering and increased air and light to reach your plants.
Pruning a few inches from the bottom of your plants allows for easy watering and increased air and light to reach your plants.

Whether you use cages, stakes, or a hybrid system like we do (See Stake a Cage), it’s critical to provide great support for your tomato plants!  It keeps them off the ground – away from pests and foot traffic, allowing tomatoes to ripen with good circulation and exposure to sunlight.

As the plants grow during the first month – we like to prune out the bottom 3 to 4″ of stems and shoots. Why?  It makes plants easier to water, and once again allows that all important air and light to circulate through the plants and rows.  It also makes it a little more difficult for garden bugs and pests to find their way onto your plants. Use a good, sharp pruner to give crisp, clean cuts when pruning 

Watering

Water around the base of your plants, and not on the leaves. It allows water to reach the roots and prevents mold
Water around the base of your plants, and not on the leaves. It allows water to reach the roots and prevents mold

Watering tomatoes (and for that fact, your entire garden), is as much about when to water, as it is how much.  Never water during the heat of the day.  Not only do you lose much of it to evaporation, but you also can easily burn the foliage of the plants.  The absolute best time to water is in the early hours between sunrise and mid-morning.  Not only is it cooler and easier on the gardener, but your plants are not stressing from the heat of the day either.  Evening watering is your next best choice if you can’t water in the morning, although it can create mildew if the water sits on leaves through the cool nights.

How Much Water?  This is a big one.   When the plants are very young and for the first week or so, you may need to water daily to get them established.  After that – watering every day is a no-no. Established tomatoes need about 1 inch of water a week.  If mother nature can’t supply that  – then you need to supplement.  If you are experiencing a prolonged dry spell – water every two to three days with about a 1/2″ of water to the plant at a time.  This allows enough water to go deep into the soil and create longer roots.   Why not every day?  Plants that get a little water every day never send their roots deeper to look for moisture and nutrients – and you end up with a weak root system, leading to a weak plant.

Soil Fertility and Fertilizing

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Good fertile soil leads to deep green and healthy plants. If you do want a little natural boost – try watering the soil with compost tea.

Tomatoes need fertile soil to grow strong and healthy.  If you follow along with our blog, you know we’re not big fans of man-made fertilizers – so what is the answer when it comes to fertilizing?  Well, if you use compost in your planting holes and as a top dressing, work in green manure and cover crops to your soil in the fall or spring, and practice plant rotation – there really is no need for synthetic fertilizers to get a great crop of tomatoes.

If you want to give your plants an all natural boost – you can apply compost tea – a simple solution of water soaked and steeped in fresh compost.  The water absorbs the natural nutrients from the compost and becomes an “all natural” liquid fertilizer.  We apply it to the soil around the base of our plants (not the leaves – it can burn them) a couple of times early in the growing season to get our plants off to a great start.  (Well, truth be told, we also do it so our plants can look a little bigger and brighter than my brother-in-laws :)).

Happy  Growing!

– Jim and Mary

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40 thoughts on “3 Great Tips To Grow Amazing Tomatoes This Year!

  • July 10, 2016 at 12:56 pm
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    My tomatoes are loaded with blooms but I don’t have any fruit. Please give me tips on what I am doing wrong.

  • June 28, 2016 at 9:23 pm
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    Any idea why my tomato plant is all curled tight? It is growing slowly but is dropping its blossoms, too. I dusted it and try a fungicide.

  • February 8, 2016 at 9:31 am
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    Comment about your brother-in-law gave me a good laugh! Competitive much? LOL!

  • March 4, 2015 at 7:08 pm
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    DRENCHING PLANTS WITH STEEPED COMPOST TEA HELPS PRODUCE TOMATOES AND HELP COMBAT BLIGHT…FISH IS PROBABLY BEST ALL AROUND TOMATO FERTILZER PLUS EPSOM SALT…CHECK OUT CALKIM GIRL ON YOUTUBE….CUT BACK ON FISH. NITROGEN, AS PLANTS MATURE…SEA WEED WILL MAKE STRONGER PLANTS ALSO…THE INDIAN

  • February 8, 2015 at 4:02 pm
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    My tomato plants did poorly last summer. I was told they might have had blight. I was told once this is in my soil, there is no way to get right of it. Which tomato plants do you recommend for blight resistance and which are best for canning, eating, etc.

  • September 22, 2014 at 12:16 am
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    we like to use a handful of epsom salts to prevent blossom end rot, helps plant with calcium…apply to tomato hole area two or three weeks before transplanting…

  • April 21, 2014 at 8:40 am
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    You can also use coffee grounds. I dumped a bunch on my garden last yr and then worked it in as I plowed. When I put my seeds in I worked a little more grounds into the soil on top the seeds. Didn’t have a problems with any bugs and my garden produce was amazing. I love seeing your posts and great ideas. ????

  • May 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm
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    All of my tomatoes are already planted. Can I just work crushed egg shells in the ground around the plant since I didn’t put them in before planting? If so, does it matter how deep they are? (Don’t want to put them too shallow) Would this also help pepper plants?

  • May 5, 2013 at 9:45 pm
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    I’ve got my little plants going nicely. All at 4 to 7 inches tall. I’ve got my egg shells ready and my tea brewing. Raised beds and a sunny spot. I’ve heard that when transplanting, we should put them “up to their necks” into the soil. That’s a lot of base or main stem. What are your thoughts? Cannot wait to enjoy the bounty! And we love this site.

  • May 4, 2013 at 10:02 pm
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    im going my tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets due to our land. its all rock! One is growing well and the other is kinda skimpy looking. and only one tomato each. is it too early to expect tomatoes? this is my first time growing something EVER!

  • April 20, 2013 at 9:02 am
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    I plan on trying all of this ,thanks for the tips

  • April 6, 2013 at 10:19 am
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    Thank you, can’t wait to use your great tips. I want to try starting my plants from seeds instead of buying plants this year. Any tips on when to start with the seeds inside?

  • April 3, 2013 at 9:32 am
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    Started my Romas last night! Thanks again for all the great info. Save those Easter egg shells! Watering question: should I have a rain gauge in the garden to measure watering? How else would I know I’m giving them an inch? Thanks again!

    • April 3, 2013 at 9:38 am
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      Love the Roma’s!!! As for the rain gauge – that is an excellent idea to keep one in the garden to measure the rainfall. When we water, we usually know that we can water 4 to 5 plants per gallon and that is about a half inch per plant when it soaks in.

      – Jim

      • April 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm
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        Aha! Sounds like Purple Math, but I trust you. Thanks!

  • March 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm
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    Another garden blogger friend and I have done a less then scientific experiment regarding watering. We found that less water equaled sweeter tomatoes. I had commenter to her that, even with the heat and drought of last year, I only watered once every week or two and my tomatoes grew wonderfully. She took it a step further (she was a water-very-often kinda gal) and tried three plants of the same kind and size. She watered daily, every third day, and once a week. The once a week tomatoes were noticeably the sweetest. They do droop but perk up a bit by the next morning. Just a thought. Enjoyed your post!

    Here are my best producers last year.
    http://iowafarmerzwife.blogspot.com/2012/07/tomatoes.html

  • March 14, 2013 at 8:06 am
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    Great post! I have tried the eggshell tip and it seems to work really well provided I don’t let the soil dry out. We just moved to a very exposed acreage with a lot of wind so fighting blossom end rot will be a challenge this year, but we want our heirloom tomatoes so I am up for it. Ours typically go in mid March. We’re just getting ready to start seedlings this week.

    I would love to invite you to share this post at the HomeAcre Hop I co-host on Thursdays!

    http://blackfoxhomestead.com/the-homeacre-hop/the-homeacre-hop-and-a-few-other-little-tidbits/

  • March 11, 2013 at 6:58 am
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    These are awesome tips! Tomatoes are probably the most important thing that I grow as well! I am hoping to grow all of my tomatoes this year – I typically buy around 100 pounds extra. I never thought to use egg shells when planting! I have an abundance of those from our chickens, so that will be a definite try this year!

    • March 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm
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      Thank you Heather – and the egg shells are great – they really help!

  • March 11, 2013 at 2:33 am
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    Really enjoy you article about tomatoes. Do you have bees in your area?

    • March 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm
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      Its so funny you asked – we are installing our very own hive in about a month! 🙂

  • March 8, 2013 at 10:15 am
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    I’m really excited to have some help growing vegetables in my garden, thank you.

  • March 8, 2013 at 8:15 am
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    How do you prevent the blight on tomatoes. Our worse problem

  • March 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm
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    When watering daily till the tomatoes are “established”…is that a certain height?

    • March 8, 2013 at 10:06 am
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      Debbie – no so much a certain height as it is giving them time to put some roots into the soil. For us, they usually become established after 10 to 14 days after planting.

  • March 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm
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    Jimmy and Mary . . . Which brother-in-law are you talking about? Carly

    • March 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm
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      Hi Carly!!! Why you of course!!! 🙂 We just wanted to see if you really did read our articles all the way through :). Actually, I have you and Maryanne, and Mom and Dad to thank for creating a love of gardening and canning in me during those young formative years of my life. I can remember you and Dad out in the garden, planting, growing, and trying new things, as well as Mom and Maryanne canning all day in the kitchen. The best part of all of course, eating the great meals from it. I have always loved our yearly competitions since seeing who can have the first or biggest tomato! But now that I am giving all of Mary and I’s secrets out on the blog, I might be in trouble trying to win! 🙂 Jim

  • March 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm
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    Thanks for the awesome tips…I have a question. How do you prevent the tomato hornworm? They attack our last attempt in growing tomatoes, actually they decimated all our plants in a matter of hours.

    • March 6, 2013 at 8:43 am
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      Wow, we are very lucky and have never had any pest problems – I really think our chickens help to keep our pests at bay! That had to be disheartening to see happen 🙁

  • March 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm
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    Thanks for the egg tip, is Epsom good for them as well? Never tried it, have you?

    • March 6, 2013 at 8:46 am
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      Glad you enjoyed the post, and its crazy, but the eggs work great. I’ve never tried the epsom treatment because of the salt it would be putting in the ground. One of the problems with synthetic fertilizers like miracle grow is that overtime, you really build up more an more salts in the soil, and then have to use more and more applications to get similar results.

      • March 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm
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        Thanks for the info! Enjoy your posts!

  • March 5, 2013 at 9:32 am
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    This is great, thanks. I had no idea about the egg shells and did not know that you cannot water everyday.

    • March 6, 2013 at 8:47 am
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      Once they get established in the garden, it’s better to water deeper but less often to get those roots growing down. The egg shells sound crazy, but they really work 🙂

      • March 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm
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        Your blog is certainly going to be my teacher when it comes to all this stuff that I have to learn since me and hubby will be moving to a small farmette, hopefully soon – it is in the making, and we will embrace that lifestyle – paradise here we come 🙂

  • March 5, 2013 at 9:19 am
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    Great tips! Thank you.

  • March 5, 2013 at 8:42 am
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    Hi Mary & Jim! I just wanted to thank you for all your posts. I read them as soon as they come in since they are always chock full of great tips and advice. Being new to home gardening, all the advice really helps. Keep up the good work!

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