When I first started growing tomatoes, all I knew was that I wanted to grow them. And, let’s see, did I leave anything out? Nope, that about covers it. I definitely didn’t have any tomato tips in my back pocket at that time.
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.
Indeterminate Tomato Tips
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.
Tomato Tip One
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.
Tomato Tip Two
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; they will start forming 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.
Tomato Tip Three
Feed the soil calcium a few weeks, or more, 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).
- 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.
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!
Tomato Tip Four
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.
Tomato Tip Five
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.
Tomato Tip Six
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.
Tomato Tip Seven
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.
Tomato Tip Eight
Only prune your plants once a week, so they don’t get stressed.
Tomato Tip Nine
Harvest the unripe tomatoes before pulling out your tomato plants 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!
Tomato Tip Ten – Enjoy Your Tomatoes!
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!