10 gardening tips for the best tomatoes

Ripe Tomatoes in Blue Bowls

The tips listed in this article are the ones that made the most impact for me in my garden with indeterminate tomatoes.  I gathered them from reading articles, volunteering at a local farm and chatting with farmers at my local farmers’ market.

1. Start your tomato seeds indoors.

Tomatoes prefer temperatures between 50 degrees F and 90 degrees F and since most varieties require a long growing season, starting indoors will allow you to get the most from your harvests.

Additionally, harden off your tomato plants before planting them outside.

2. Feed the soil calcium a few weeks before planting your tomato plants in the ground.

The calcium in the eggshells provides nutrients to your plants, keeping them healthy and protecting against blossom end rot.

I use eggshells to provide calcium for my plants, because my family goes through a lot of eggs. Here’s how you can do the same:

  • Anytime you use eggshells, save them. I save mine in the freezer in Ziploc bags until I have at least one bag full.
  • Then, dry the eggshells out in the sun or in the oven (you can just place them in the oven as it heats up or cools down if you are cooking something else).
    Broken Egg Shells on Cookie Sheet
  • Afterwards, crush them and sprinkle them in the ground to either side-dress existing tomato plants or bury in the soil before planting new seeds or transplants.
    Crushed Eggshells

Added bonuses of saving eggshells:

  • The eggshells can also help other members of the Nightshade family like peppers and eggplant.
  • The eggshells help prevent blossom end rot for squash and melons.
  • If  you have chickens, feed the eggshells back to your chickens for calcium, too!

3. Companion plant your tomatoes

Basil and tomatoes don’t just taste delicious when eaten together, they also help each other out in the garden. Plant tomatoes next to their allies: basil, peppers, borage and marigolds to name a few.

4. Plant deeply

You want your tomato plant to develop a strong and deep root system. To help with this, bury the transplant on its side as shown in the video below.

You will see little hairs on the plant near the soil line. All of these will develop into more roots for your plant.

If you are sowing your seed in the location that the plant will remain for its life cycle, you can mound up some compost near the base to help create a solid foundation as well.

5. Feed your tomato plants weekly or bi-weekly

Starting as soon as they have their first set of true leaves (the leaves that look like tomato leaves and form right after the first two leaves sprout). This means they might still be in growing trays when you give them their first “meal”.

I feed my plants Neptune’s Harvest Fish Emulsion. If you find that your tomatoes aren’t ripening later in the season, they are most likely hungry and need to be fed.

6. Prune tomato plants

When you start to see little, tiny tomatoes sprouting, prune your plants.

Prune from the bottom up, removing all the leaves below the first set of fruit. I know this sounds like a lot, but remember most fungi, disease and pests attack the leaves.

7. Only prune on sunny days

During the hottest part of the day. The sun will help the plant to heal the wound faster, lessening the chance of disease and pest.

8. Only prune your plants once a week

Pruning too often can stress plants.

Unripe Tomatoes in Bowl

9. Harvest the unripe tomatoes before pulling them out at the end of the season

You can either let your tomatoes ripen while sitting next to a sunny window or put those green tomatoes to good culinary use and switch things up a bit by making fried green tomatoes!

10. Enjoy Your Tomatoes!

Tomato Peach Basil Salad in Bowl

Troubleshooting in the garden can be a challenge, especially at first. I hope these tips will help you experience more success with your tomato plants this year and for years to come.

Now, go and enjoy your homegrown tomatoes in a delicious, fresh-tasting tomato-basil-peach salad. It tastes just like summer and stays on my family’s menu all season long!

Bonus: Beginner Tomato Tips

Are you growing tomatoes for the first time? The first thing you will want to know about your tomato plant is whether it is determinate or indeterminate.

  • Determinate tomato varieties are bushier, have fruit that typically ripens around the same time and have a shorter growing season.
  • Indeterminate tomatoes are vining, have fruit that ripens throughout the season and will typically grow until the first frost.

I tend to select indeterminate tomatoes because those are the fun, heirloom varieties I enjoy growing, but I recently started growing some Roma varieties as well for canning.

Pick what’s best for you based on your reason for growing, available space (indeterminate tomatoes can climb to great heights!) and the length of your season.

For recommendations on specific varieties that are best for canning, drying and eating fresh off the vine head here.

21 thoughts on “10 gardening tips for the best tomatoes”

    1. I wrap each tomato individually in newspaper and layer them in a shallow box maybe two to three layers high. I’ve stored them on kitchen counter and another time down in basement. Check once a week to see which tomatoes are turning red. Those that are not, just rewrap in the newspaper and put them back as they were. And keep checking.

  1. Many thanks for these most interesting tips.
    I like your ideas of the eggshells; it makes so much sense.
    I also use distribute all my egg shells in the garden for calcium, banana skins mostly for the high levels of potassium they contain.
    Mushroom skins and stalks.
    Teabags for various minerals traces of copper, iron etc.
    Then frequent dressings of Epsom salts for the Magnesium sulphate
    My Dutch husband has more recently shown me that one can also take cuttings of tomato plants and place them in a cup with sum water. In a few days time they have roots! (I add a pinch of Epsom salts on the quiet and then it goes faster!!

  2. I like all your tips, I have 2 plants where the went “limp” at the top by the blooms, checked the stem and found something like light colored places on the stem., I ripped the tomatoe out, can you tell me what this is and why am I getting this on tomatoes already? I did the egg shell, coffee grounds, watering with epsom salt weekly, what am I doeing wrong?

    1. Hi Helga! I’m sorry to hear about your tomatoes. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, there are just so many variables out of our control that plants don’t make it. Don’t give up! Plants going limp often has to do with a lack of water or extreme heat, but since you have white spots as well, my best guess is that it had a fungal disease. You did the right thing removing your plants. If possible, try not to plant any Nightshades (eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes) in the same spot for the next three years, or look for varieties that are resistant to different types of wilt fungus (Verticillium or Fusarium). It’s possible that you bought transplants that already had a fungus or there was already a fungus in your soil. Research the different types of wilt fungus I mentioned to see which sounds like what your plants had and keep growing!

  3. Ja Van Pruett

    I had a time this season with stink bugs, I would say I have lost 20 lbs of tomatos any suggestions for next season. J

    1. Hi Ja Van! I’m so sorry to hear about your stink bug infestation – that’s no fun at all. While I don’t have personal experience with them, I have done a bit of research and here are my suggestions: 1.For now, I think the best defense is to hand pick them off the plants. 2. Start this fall by attracting more beneficial insects to your growing space. Stink bugs have lots of predators, including ladybugs, birds and spiders. 3. Next spring, plant your tomatoes in a different area of your garden and in the early spring, be as diligent as you can about checking the undersides of leaves and stems for eggs. You can search in Google for images to identify the eggs. I hope these tips are helpful for you! Best of luck. 🙂

  4. Using old egg shells is a splendid idea. I’m all about composting instead of throwing away food leftovers and making food waste. Your post on tomatoes is awesome. I’ve been a professional gardeners for years and can’t think of anything to add. Nice job!

  5. Hi,

    you have done a great job breaking this down into much detail , even working in garden maintenance and being a professional gardener I still do learn so much from people like you!

    Keep it up and I love your determination! Tomato’s in supermarkets are AWFUL now days!! My girlfriend has started actually growing vegetables in the greenhouse last year!

    thanks and continue to give us great info

  6. I am new to the tomato growing process and very eager to get started. I would like to grow in a container but unsure of the size to do so. What depth do I transplant my seedlings and how many seedlings per container? I’m pretty well versed in growing cannabis outdoors and feel there are many similarities, as far as growing mediums and amending the soil. I would appreciate any advice.

    1. Hi! I completely understand the eagerness to get started. As far as a container goes, I would aim for one between 5-10 gallons with at least a 24” diameter. Make sure to provide a stake to support the fruit and, if growing indeterminate tomatoes, you’ll need a sturdy trellis. Check the seed packet for planting depth. It is usually written on the back of the seed packet. The depths vary among varieties but are typically between 1/8” to 1/2”. You can check out my article on how to read a seed packet, if that helps. You will want to grow one per container but you could plant a few and then cut all but the strongest/healthiest looking seedlings once they are about two inches tall. Hope this helps – Best of luck!

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