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May 05

13 Do’s & Do Not’s of Growing Tomatoes

Don't
Purchase seedlings that have flowers on them. You may think you are getting a head start, but really what the plants need to do first is establish their roots, not produce babies. Let them get settled in.

Do
If you started your own plants and they are budding, pinch those flowers off. Really, you'll get more fruit in the long run.

The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?

The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?

Don't
Over fertilize. It's fine to give your plants some good healthy compost, but take it easy on the fertilizer. Too much will grow wonderful bushy and green, albeit unproductive, plants. Same goes for your peppers by the way.

Do
Give them a bit of Epsom salts. They love that stuff. If they don't need it, it won't hurt. It is good to have it as a preventative measure to help grow healthier plants.

Do
Plant your transplants very deep. 'Up to their necks' is what the farmers say. This way they will grow a great root system, as mentioned above. The better the roots, the more productive the plants will then be.

Ready to rumble.

Ready to rumble.

Don't
Water from above, if you can help it. This can cause soil to splash up on the stems, making them more prone to disease. Try to use a soaker hose whenever possible with tomatoes.

Do
Mulch, especially if you are watering from above. This helps prevent that soil splash just mentioned, as well as holds the moisture your tomatoes may need.

Do
Put in the stakes you are going to use for support at the same time you plant. You don't want to go back later and start damaging those roots you both worked so hard for.

Do
Know what type of tomato you are growing. If it's a 'determinate' type, it may suddenly stop producing. Learn more by following the link at the end of this post.

Don't
Stress it. Are you feeling over run with tomatoes? Are you concerned about fruit flies in your kitchen? Simply wash some of those tomatoes off and toss them in the freezer. When you have time, thaw to use. A bonus: the skins will slip right off after defrosting.

Happy in their cloched bed.

Happy in their cloched bed.

Do
Enjoy a variety if you have the room. Roma and plum tomatoes are best for preserving, slicing types for fresh eating, and of course cherry tomatoes for snacking. Plant tomatoes based on how you intend to use them.

Don't
plant them outside before the soil temperature is 50F. How warm the soil has become is a function of how close the sun is, the depth, and how much sunshine the area gets. Surface soil can feel warm but 6 inches down it can still be quite cold. Some gardeners plant their tomatoes out when the overnight lows are consistently above 50F. Not the same thing, but close.

Tomatoes under glass.

Tomatoes under glass.

Do
speed up the process by covering the area with black plastic, and turning the soil over every so often. If you plant early, keep those heat loving tomatoes warm through the use of cloches.
In a pinch, canning jars will do the trick, just don't let the plants get fried. That's for the green fruit.

Learn more about growing tomatoes here. Scroll down for all previous posts.

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362 comments

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  1. Avatar of gj
    gj

    Your fruit should be fine. Your soil is too moist and it sounds like it is nurturing different varieties of fungi. Let it dry out more between watering.

  2. Avatar of gj
    Stephanie

    Noted. Thanks.

  3. Avatar of gj
    Tony

    Okay I hear that you can’t eat a tomato if it has touched the dirt or grown on ground. Is there truth to this. I know commercial Growers growing on the ground and take the whole plant

  4. Avatar of gj
    Keith Jolley

    HI, Is planting consecutive crops of tom’s in same garden OK? Off season may leave fallow or put in Broad beans, harvest & then dig in. Whichever, always feed garden with all the GOOD stuff, in between crops. Soil is fantastic, worms love it and different crops have not yet failed me. The garden is 3-4 yr’s old. My main love are the tomatoes. Am I doing things right, or, what changes would you suggest.
    Thanks So Mulch , Keith
    ps
    I live in east Vic., Gippsland.

  5. Avatar of gj
    gj

    It is as long as there has been no disease. be sure to replenish the soil. Happy gardening!

  6. Avatar of gj
    gj

    You can certainly eat them. Wash them off of course. I might think twice about canning them, but eating and freezing ok.

  7. Avatar of gj
    Joan

    Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Avatar of gj
    Diane Mitchell

    I just transplants my tomatoes plants from raising bed to garden. I watered them then the rain fell for a day but not heavy now the sun is out but overcast and in an hour the plant is drying up. I know the roots of the plants have not made contact with the garden soil as yet. Will it revive when the roots make a link to the soil?

  9. Avatar of gj
    John

    thanks for sharing this. My tomatoes plants look lush and healthy. They a bearing good sized, firm, beautiful tomatoes.

  10. Avatar of gj
    gj

    That’s wonderful John!

  11. Avatar of gj
    gj

    Our pleasure, happy gardening!

  12. Avatar of gj
    gj

    They should Diane, tomatoes are pretty resilient. I would keep them shaded though, just to make it easier on them. Happy gardening!

  13. Avatar of gj
    John Ramos

    My tomatoes grow small, like cherry tomatoes, even beefsteak. What is problem and remedy?

  14. Avatar of gj
    gj

    My first guess would be lack of water, as I know that directly affects the size of the fruit. The best way to water is at ground level. Wait until the soil begins to dry, then water well. If your plants are in pots or raised beds, water well then water again. It is best to give a good watering less often that light watering more often.

    If that isn’t the problem, it may be too much fertilizer. If your plants are lush and green, but the tomatoes are small and/or few, it is over fertilization.

    Hope this helps and Happy Gardening!

  15. Avatar of gj
    Harley wes

    We are doing a straw bail garden in the panhandle of Florida and it’s going to reach 85 degrees already ( April ) why is it that some of our starter plants are doing stellar and some of the same variety are suffering planted 3 feet from each other ?

  16. Avatar of gj
    gj

    Tomatoes are so picky. If they were different varieties, I would say that was probably the reason. But when they are the same, it is just a different plant’s reaction. Just as a whole bunch of seeds can be planted, and some don’t even germinate, and some that do don’t grow as fast as the others. It is also possible, not knowing your watering system, that there is a slight difference in how much they are getting. We are north of you in Pa. and we were also in the 80’s today, way above normal.

  17. Avatar of gj
    Courtney

    I’m having to do container gardening, which I hate, but I have literally 0 garden space. My tomatoes are in big 10 gallon cans, and are healthy and green with no signs of issues, except that they’ve been in the ground over a month and are barely a foot tall….. My grandmother planted hers the same weekend and they’re 3 ft tall. Even she can’t figure out what’s wrong with mine since they’re so healthy and green. What am I doing wrong?

  18. Avatar of gj
    gj

    There are a few possibilities to consider. First, are you and your Grandmother both growing in containers? Are they the same varieties? And do they get the same amount of sun?
    Did you use potting soil? Did you plant them the same way, hopefully up to their shoulders?

    If none of these variables are the answer, it may be a matter of giving them too much water. Rarely is it too little. Be sure to let them dry out a bit before watering again.
    Hopefully yours will catch up, I have seen that happen. Let me know how you make out and good luck! ~Jeanne

  19. Avatar of gj
    deb

    i have potted tomatoes on a front sunny deck , placed rite up to glass panels on the railing, would the heat be too intense because of the glass?

  20. Avatar of gj
    gj

    If the sun is coming through the glass, it well could be. If the sun is coming from the other direction, probably not. You might want to just keep the leaves from touching to be sure. If space is the issue, you could prune them if they look like it is too much.

  21. Avatar of gj
    Shannon sowers

    My patio tomatoe plant keeps growing up and branching if to make fruit but them keeps moving up.. it’s about 4feet long and not growing fruit… am I doing aiming wrong?

  22. Avatar of gj
    gj

    Hi Shannon, If it isn’t producing flowers at all it is probably either too young or is getting too much nitrogen. Hold back on the fertilizer a bit.
    If it is getting flowers, but they just falling off, that is known as Blossom Drop. It is probably too hot for it. Four feet is about right for a basic patio tomato. Only water it when you stick your finger in the soil up to the first knuckle and it feels dry. Good luck!

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