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How To Grow Better Tomatoes: The Tomato Gardener Rescue

Updated on July 1, 2011
Not exactly abundant, this is the kind of pathetic result I got this year. Yummy, but few.
Not exactly abundant, this is the kind of pathetic result I got this year. Yummy, but few. | Source
This is my goal on the next round. I know there are people with green thumbs and gardeners who grow more than they can handle. I want to learn how to do this!
This is my goal on the next round. I know there are people with green thumbs and gardeners who grow more than they can handle. I want to learn how to do this! | Source

I'm determined to get it right!

I’m a very poor tomato gardener. I’ve started seeds indoors and babied the tiny starts over many weeks with grand designs of success. Nevertheless, my little darlings shriveled and died once they were planted in my raised beds.

I threw up my hands after that failed and bought good and sturdy starts from my local garden center. Still, I got only pathetic little specimens and they failed to produce a single fruit.

What am I doing wrong?

This year, I hung my cherry tomatoes (right-side up, mind you) but only got sporadic fruit that totaled less than I could count on both fingers.

Alas, I decided to do a bit of study on this and share it with you. I’m determined to get it right, and I’ve looked to the experts to make it work. Here’s the advice that I’m going to take.

Tomatoes need at least 6 hours of sun

I live in the desert, where sun is plentiful, so getting too much sun is my issue. In the Pacific Northwest and along foggy coastlines, tomato gardeners struggle with lack of sun. The solution? If your garden area can’t get dependable sunlight, then moveable patio containers or hanging tomato plants should do the trick. Apparently I should be planting Romas and Super Sweet 100s, which love hot sunny days.

Water regularly

My drip system wasn’t enough and I haven’t given my plants enough water. Tomatoes are thirsty little guys, and when you water them, they need to drain well, but still hold the moisture with good soil. They need about a pint of water a day for every plant. Spraying them with water is not going to create a successful plant, so the experts’ advise a soaker hose or drip system with a longer timer.

Choose the right variety

I failed this before and I won’t do it again. Experts say look for disease resistant varieties that have a V, F, or N after the name. My plants succumbed to sticky little green flies.

Use good dirt

Soil that’s been reused in your garden without amending or rotating can drain the nutrients needed for sturdy growth. Add a small handful of crushed eggshells to the soil so that the calcium will slowly leach into soil, and give your tomatoes a nice round shape.

Add marigolds

Tomato-loving pests do not like the smell of marigolds. Too bad for them!


If you are planting in the garden rather than pots, give your tomatoes two feet of space. If you are using the bushy kind, stake them earlier rather than later. Once the tomatoes start to get big, they’ll need the stake or trellis to give them the necessary support for the fruit.


A good fertilizer like Miracle-Gro will do the job, once every three weeks. Organic gardeners prefer compost tea, and now that I have a composting pile started, I plan on using this technique. The tea is made by pouring water into a bucket with some of your compost, and then pouring off the water (hold onto the compost though!) into your plant.

Lastly, when your tomato babies have ripened, don’t put them in the refrigerator, since it ruins the flavor! Even when I buy tomatoes at the store, after one of my epic plant failures, I let them sit in a pretty wooden bowl and decorate my kitchen while they developed more flavor.


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    • stepnek profile image

      stepnek 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I didn't have a bad tomato season this year but they never seem to be as successful as when my Dad used to grow them years and years ago back in England.

      He used to grow them from seed and then cultivated them in a small garden greenhouse in individual large pots. Every day without fail he would drench them in water and of course there was good drainage out of the pots so they remained moist but not permanently soaked. He would produce a bumper crop every year without fail.

    • GracieLake profile image

      GracieLake 6 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks RedElf! I learned more today from your comments. While too much water is never a problem where I live in the desert, there may have been something wrong with the soil in this plant since I got the plants pre-potted at the garden store and I did not re pot them. Good dirt is very important then!!

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Actually, TMV (Tobacco Mosaic Virus) is not spread by smokers or cigarettes. It is a very robust and resistant virus that is spread by contact with affected plants or soil, or by not cleaning your hands and your tools after handling affected plants. TMV is called "Tobacco" Mosaic Virus because it attacks a certain family of plants, including the tobacco plant and the tomato plant.

      Damping off - the stunting and withering of seedlings - is usually caused by one of six types of fungus that thrive in too-wet soil conditions, and can be prevented by good drainage, good plant stock, using only fresh clean potting medium, and avoiding over-watering. conrado is correct, though, that sterilizing your potting soil in the oven before using it can kill off many undesirable potential pests.

      I love growing tomatoes - almost as much as we enjoy eating them. We usually grow Sweet Millions and Romas, but have also grown some heritage strains.

      Nicely done!

    • profile image

      conrado fontanilla 6 years ago

      Damping-off is the name of that occurrence caused by a bacterium. To kill some microbes in the soil, heat the soil or compost in a big pan. There are chemicals applicable for the same purpose but they would pollute your tomatoes.

    • GracieLake profile image

      GracieLake 6 years ago from Arizona

      conradofonatnilla: you have shared some excellent information! While we haven't had any smokers around, your points are very helpful. I'm working on making my own "good dirt" with a composting mix for next time!

    • conradofontanilla profile image

      conradofontanilla 6 years ago from Philippines

      A bacterium attacks and clogs the water and food passage in the stem of tomato. Probably this one made your young tomatoes stunted or killed them. This bacterium comes from the soil. So don't use the same soil that gave you that trouble. Tobacco mosaic virus attacks the leaves of grown up tomatoes. You get that from cigarettes. So don't let a smoker touch your tomatoes. Tomato gives lycopene, an antioxidant.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, this is great and very timely, I am trying, and I mean trying!, to grow some on my balcony, I never realised about needing a lot of sun, obvious really, but I thought it was okay there, and I now know that I need to water them a lot more, thanks for the great info, cheers nell

    • Tolerable James profile image

      Tolerable James 6 years ago from Indiana

      Lots o meat, needs salt, no pizazz. But then again I don't believe pizazz ever did anything for my tomatoes:)

    • profile image

      PWalker281 6 years ago

      Great information on tomato growing, Gracie. Anyone should be able to grow tomatoes successfully by following you tips. Rated up and useful.