There are a lot of misleading tips about growing tomatoes, but, if you stick to these proven basics, you can grow everything from cherry to beefsteak, heirlooms and hybrids, in patio containers or in your garden.
If you are growing tomato vines that get really tall or produce large fruit, we’ve got you covered with a tutorial on how to build a wooden tomato cage.
How to Grow Tomatoes
Tomato | Genus: Solanum
Tomato Growing Tips
Annual vegetable, truly a berry
• Vines (indeterminates) or bushes (determinates)
• Full sun
• Soil: well-draining and fertile
• Propagation: seed or cuttings
• Self-fertile with help from wind and insects
• DIY tomato cages | Seed Saving | Ripen after picking
Tomatoes 101: A Quick-Start Guide for Beginners provides all the basics for understanding and growing tomatoes in your home garden.
It is very helpful to know which basic type of plant you are growing—a bush type (determinate), or vine type (indeterminate), so you are prepared to provide the right support (stakes, cages), and care through the growing season. It also includes tips for best growing conditions and care.
These ten tips before planting tomatoes will let you avoid some common mistakes tomato growers regret.
If you are growing tomato vines that get tall or bushy with long stems, you’ll need support to prevent breakage. Once the fruit starts forming, it’s a lot of weight on those shoots!
There is a lot of contradictory information about pruning tomatoes and removing (what we call) suckers. As you develop an eye for your plants, you’ll start noticing when pruning will help. Some gardeners never prune their tomatoes, others are snipping and clipping every other day.
Saving Tomato Seeds
Like just about anything in gardening, there are many ways to do things. This is an old-fashioned way to save tomato seeds for growing next year.
Tomato seeds have a protective coating on them which (smartly) prevents them from germinating or rotting inside the fruit.
This easy method for saving tomato seeds removes that coating through simple fermenting.
Frequently Asked Questions
1Can I grow tomatoes in pots?
Yes. I grow all my tomatoes in pots. Choose a container that is at least 12-inches wide and 12-inches deep with drainage holes and use organic potting mix made specifically for growing vegetables.
Add support stakes or cages at planting time, otherwise you may damage the plant when trying to add them later.
Start with new organic potting mix each year because tomatoes are heavy feeders.
2Do you have any tomato growing secrets?
For a home gardener, the basics are always providing the right conditions for the plant.
Tomatoes love sun, most need support (cages or stakes) unless they are small, bush tomatoes, and fertile, well-draining soil is key. This shows how to test your soil drainage.
You can enrich your soil with good compost and also use a slow-release, organic fertilizer.
Watch out for the misinformation that is all over the internet.
Any tomato growing tips that claim a fast-track to success are completely misleading.
Spare yourself the wasted time and energy and just stick to good gardening basics.
3Can I grow tomatoes indoors?
Not easily. If you’ve seen commercial greenhouses that grow tomatoes, it’s a controlled setting with very specific growing conditions which are not easy to replicate in your home.
That said, I have had limited success, just trying it for fun. A few times my bush tomatoes (determinates) have fruited indoors and I have grown a giant beefsteak tomato in front of a window—but I just got one.
4Can you grow tomatoes from slices?
Yes. You can grow tomatoes from slices or just by leaving a whole tomato out to rot in the garden if the seeds are viable and conditions are right. That’s how it happens in nature although our methods are more efficient.
Keep in mind that the seed type will determine what grows: heirlooms and other open-pollinated seeds will grow plants like their parents (unless cross-pollinated). Hybrid seeds may not produce anything like their parents (but I still grow them for the surprise factor).
That said, you can bury a slice of tomato in the ground and some tomato seedlings may sprout and grow. The problem is, because tomatoes are sun-lovers, they grow at during the warmest months of the year, so most of us start our seeds indoors or buy ready-to-plant plants to get a jump start on the season. Seeds germinating from slices may take a long time to sprout, and by the time they are growing in to plants, the warm season may be over.
Could you grow tomatoes from slices indoors? Yes, but same thing. It may be very slow. But, as a fun experiment, I say, go for it.
Every year I toss a bunch of end-of-season tomatoes right back into my garden beds and some of them always sprout and grow plants the next year.
5Are tomatoes easy to grow?
I give tomatoes a 6 out of 10 for ease of growing. Some people think they have incredible growing skills or tricks but it’s really that the basic basic growing conditions are available.
If you buy a small tomato plant in a basket, provide a sunny location, and keep up with the watering, it will probably be as easy as can be.
If you have one of those summers with a lot of rain and humidity, you might encounter tomato blight, or other fungal problems, which is a total drag.
Some gardeners also have relentless problems with critters eating their plants.
That said, if you’ve covered all the basics (right location, soil, care), provide support (cages or stakes), and prune smartly, sure it’s easy. And very rewarding.
6Do marigolds help protect tomatoes from pests?
It doesn’t seem to be the magic answer that some gardeners imply. Also, prevention is hard to prove. There isn’t much research and testimonials are anecdotal.
Have a listen and find out what this study found about whiteflies:NEW! Click play to listen:
7What is blossom end rot and how do I prevent it?
Blossom end rot condition that shows up on tomatoes both in the garden and commercial greenhouses. But what is it, what causes it, and what can we do about it? Turns out we do not really know. But there are lots of theories!NEW! Click play to listen:
8Can I ripen green tomatoes after picking?
Yes, some will ripen. See How to Ripen Tomatoes After Picking for tips.NEW! Click play to listen:
9Why do tomatoes split open on the vine?
Certain types of tomatoes are particularly susceptible to splitting open on the vine. This tends to happen after a prolonged hot and dry spell followed by a heavy rain. The fruits literally pops open, unable to hold the additional water within the fruit. This explains cracked tomatoes and answers whether they are edible and how the problem can be prevented.
Watch Tomato TV
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛