How To Grow Tomatoes At Home

seedlings sprouting in a sunny window
seedlings sprouting in a sunny window
transpanting a seedling
transpanting a seedling
a few weeks after transplanting
a few weeks after transplanting
tomato cages will help you control growth
tomato cages will help you control growth

Visual tomatoes

Different Types if Heirloom Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes at Home is Easy

Fresh tomatoes grown in your garden and ripened on the vine will taste better and be healthier than any other tomatoes you've ever tried. There are a few easy steps that any home gardener can follow to ensure a healthy and bountiful harvest.

1. First, decide how you want to start your tomato plants. You have three main choices: The easy method is to buy small starter plants at the nursery. Choose a few appealing varieties and simply transplant them into a sunny location in your garden, preferably into soil amended with rich organic compost and/or organic fertilizer. Try to do transplanting during cool hours in the morning or evening so the plants do not suffer excessive shock in the process. If your plants look a little sad the first day or two there is no need to worry. They plants are simply adjusting to their new home. Make sure to place a tomato cage around the plants before they get too big.

From Seeds

The most common way to start seeds is indoors. This gives you a head start since you can begin the process at the end of winter. Starting inside you need some small plastic containers, tomato seeds, and a bag of rich organic soil. You can find the supplies at any nursery or hardware store. When selecting seeds decide whether you want small sweet cherry tomatoes, ideal for salads, or larger varieties more suited for slicing or using for tomato sauce. Roma and San Marzano are medium sized tomatoes and are perfect for all your italian dishes. My favorites are some of the heirloom varieties like Cherokee Purple and Brandywine because of their meatiness, sweetness, and because I like the romantic idea that they have been passed down over so many generations. There is an enormous variety of seeds available, consult your local nursery to find ones best for your climate and tastes. Once you have chosen your seeds fill small plastic nursery cups with organic soil and sprinkle 5 or 6 seeds around the top. Push the seeds gently under the soil about a 1/4 inch or less. Make sure the soil remains moist at all times. Place containers close to a natural source of light or under fluorescent lights for at least 6 hours each day. Within 10 days (when it is warm they sometimes sprout overnight) you should see sprouts.

If you plan to sow the seeds directly into the garden make sure that the soil temperature has warmed to at least 65 degrees fahrenheit. Choose a sunny location in your garden and work the soil well removing all weeds and grasses. It is a good idea to add some organic compost or fertilizer that is readily available at any nursery or hardware store. Spread your tomato seeds around your growing area and then sprinkle a layer of good soil on top of the seed so that all are covered but not deeper than a 1/4 inch. You should water the area once each day either in the morning or evening when it's not too hot outside. While the seeds are still young it is imortant to keep a consistent amount of moisture in the soil.

2. If you started your seeds indoors and your sprouts are now established you should start thinking about transplanting them into your garden. I usually transplant when my seedlings have reached 3-4 inches in height although you can let them remain indoors If the weather has not warmed up enough. Remember that it is important to wait until temperatures remain consistently in the sixty five degree range before you transplant. To gauge soil temperature, soil thermometers are available at nurseries and hardware stores.

Preparing to transplant, mark the location of where you want your plant to grow by making a three inch hole in the topsoil with your index finger. make sure to space each hole at least 3' way from each other in all directions. Tomatoes need space to grow! Once you have all your holes marked gently pinch the soil directly below each sprout and pull out of the container. Place the clump of soil and sprout in each hole that you previously made and push the sprout in the ground firmly making sure that it is as erect as possible. Once you complete this step lightly water ther area. There is no guarantee that every seedling will survive so keep extra seedlings on hand. Transplanting is a stressful process for plants.

If you started you seeds outdoors and a significant amount of sprouting has occurred you can begin to strategically realign your seedlings. If some sprouts look weak discard them and choose those which look most healthy. Follow the transplanting steps discussed above and make sure you give each plant ample space to grow, at least 3' in all directions. Be gentle with each sprout as you pinch them from their original position and place them in another.

3. Now the process of regular maintenance has begun. Your plants will begin to establish themselves, and during this period it is only necessary to ensure that the soil remains relatively moist. As seedlings begin to grow they will become more resistant and will require less watering but tomatoes are thirsty. Make sure to soak the plant good at least 2-3 times per week throughout the growing season. Fertilize your planting areas once every 3-4 weeks to guarantee beautiful fruits. I use E.B. Stone's organic vegetable and tomato fertilizer. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the plants and work gently into the top soil.

4. Once the warm days of summer arrive your tomato plants will take off and start to resemble vines. They will grow in all directions and bend towards the ground under pressure from their own weight. Before the plants get too big it is essential that you devise a training system for the plants. One of the most common ways to support your plants is by surrounding each plant with wire cages which are readily available at nurseries and hardware stores, Metal cages work well but it is extremely important that the cage has strong support on bottom or it can fall over when the plant fruits and becomes heavy. One way to combat this is by placing the widest end of the cage down which allows more bottom support. As the plant begins to flower and then fruit you train the strongest branches around the cage, weaving in and out of the wire to ensure support. If your plant grows too large for the space do not hesitate to trim off unruly vines, it will not affect the overall health of the plant. There are other ways of supporting vines apart from cages. Some people like to use bamboo canes to make a sort of teepee tripod where the central vine of the plant is tied to the center-top. For more information about supporting your tomato plants ask your garden/nursery professional. Wire cages have always worked good for me.

5. Harvest! Here in Southern California my tomatoes begin to mature around mid-July. This varies greatly from region to region but it will usually be when summer peaks and temperatures remain high through the evening. Each different type of tomato plant will produce fruit at a different time. You will know it's time to harvest your tomatoes because they will have changed color from green to their maturity color of red, yellow, orange, or even purple depending on the variety. Ripened tomatoes will easily give way from the vine.

Enjoy your tomatoes for the rest of the summer! Use them for salads, make sauce, slice them for a hamburger, or conserve them. Tomatoes can be used for thousands of different recipes and are full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. If you have too many give a bag to your neighbors. Everybody loves homegrown tomatoes!

Some Facts about tomatoes:

* Tomatoes are native to the Americas and there is a lot of evidence that suggests tomatoes are specifically native to Mexico. Europeans did not discover tomatoes until the 16th century. Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes?

* There are two types of tomato plants; Determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants flower and set fruit all at one time while indeterminate plants flower and set fruit throughout the growing season. Most tomatoes are indeterminate. One popular tomato plant that is determinate is the Roma variety.

* Heirloom tomatoes are old cultivars that have been passed on from generation to generation. These are some of the tastiest varieties and include Cherokee Purple and Beefsteak. for more info see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomato





Tomato Plants in Early June

Comments 7 comments

george 8 years ago

What are the best varieties to grow in cooler climates? I know you're in Southern California with plenty of sun but I'm in washington state. What would you recommend?


John A. 8 years ago

Hi George,

Here's a good link for info about cool climate tomatoes: http://www.humeseeds.com/tmtocool.htm


Wallpaper Queen profile image

Wallpaper Queen 7 years ago from Malaysia

great info! thanks. tomatoes does really taste better when planted yourself. I have also a hub with tips on growing tomatoes

http://hubpages.com/living/how-to-grow-tomatoes...


Dorsi profile image

Dorsi 7 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

Excellent hub on tomatoes. I have 6 beefsteaks growing this year. Last years crop was kind of yucky cuz I didn't care for them correctly but this years plants are looking marvelous!

Thanks fof the tips!


Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

Great hub for planting tomatoes....


Chris Achilleos profile image

Chris Achilleos 4 years ago

Very informative and well presented hub. There are so many varieties of tomatoes. Thanks for sharing these tips. Voted up and useful!


purnimamoh1982 profile image

purnimamoh1982 4 years ago

It is a very interesting article with a lot of useful information. I usually practice growing tomatoes in my balcony and used to get almost my requirements barring a few months when I start a new planting. Its a lot of fun and rewarding. More than the amount of tomatoes, I like the taste of home grown tomatoes. View my experience of growing tomatoes at http://hubpages.com/living/How-to-Grow-Tomatoes-in...

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