Contrary to common beliefs, a tomato is not a vegetable but a fruit. It comes in different varieties that differ in terms of size and color. Many people are now enticed to growing their tomatoes right in their backyards. However, doing so isn’t easy. Below, we will share secrets on how to grow fresh, sweet, and flavorful tomatoes.
Tomatoes start growing after 60 to 100 days, depending on the variety you have. The best time to plant tomatoes is when the nighttime temperatures stay above 50°F depending on where you live and the local weather there. Since tomatoes are warm weathered plants, they do not bear fruits unless the nighttime temperatures reach 55°F and above.
When growing tomatoes, you have to be mindful of these important tips. Make sure you are not overcrowding your tomato plants, water them regularly, and provide them with adequate sunlight since they are heat-loving plants.
In this article, we will discuss how to grow tomatoes, from when is the best time to plant them to how long it takes, and how to harvest your fresh tomatoes. We will also give you tips on growing a healthy and stocky tomato plant.
Here are more guides on growing Vegetables:
A Guide to Growing Tomatoes
Tomatoes are the most popular home garden fruit. The amazing taste of fresh tomato coming from the fine of your backyard is incomparable to the one of those sold in grocery stores. Tomatoes are heat-loving and warm-weathered fruits. In northern regions, they need at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day while in Southern regions, afternoon light helps them thrive and survive.
How Long Does It Take for Tomatoes To Grow?
Tomatoes grow after 60 to 100 days depending on their variety. However, they can’t be planted too early since they are soft warm-weathered crops that cannot stand freezing climates. In most regions, the soil isn’t warm enough to plant tomatoes outside until late spring to early summer.
Due to their long growing season needs, it is recommended to start planting seedlings or transplants instead of starting from seeds. You can buy young tomato plants in a local, trusted, and reputable nursery. Tomatoes are also known as good starter plants.
Good starter plants are small and well grown with dark green and straight, strong stems. They are just thicker than a pencil’s size. Make sure they don’t have yellowing leaves, black spots, and don’t look wilted and stressed. It is also important to purchase a tomato plant with no flowers nor fruits in progress.
Types of Tomatoes
There are two types of tomatoes: determinate and indeterminate ones. Here’s the full description of these two types:
- Determinate Tomatoes are the ones that grow small and tender and bear ripe tomatoes at once.
- Known as bush varieties, they grow 2 to 3 feet tall.
- Tend to produce a lot of ripe tomatoes at once.
- Don’t put out much leaf growth after bearing fruits.
- Tend to bear fruits for a short period.
- Don’t require staking or caging methods.
- Ideal for container and small-spaces planting.
- Tomato paste is mostly made from determinate tomatoes.
- Work well for sauces and canning.
- More productive in earlier days compared to other vining varieties.
- Indeterminate Tomatoes are the ones that tend to grow tall before starting to flower and bear fruits.
- Known as vining varieties.
- Produce large types of mid-to-late-season slicing tomatoes, from summer to winter.
- Experience more leaf growth, and their production tends to layout throughout the season.
- Indeterminate tomatoes require staking.
- Ideal for large gardeners.
- Beefsteak and cherry tomatoes are indeterminate.
Best Time to Plant Tomatoes
As a beginner, you probably wonder what is the best time to plant tomatoes. Once again, it depends on where you live and the weather conditions there. First, know that tomatoes are warm-weathered plants. Some people with colder climates still try to plant tomatoes in the early summer, but doing so will guarantee that your plant will be producing fruits early too.
It also exposes the plant to unexpected late frosts that can result in your tomato plants dying. Also, tomatoes will not grow in areas with temperatures below 50°F.
Here are two indicators of when is the best time to plant your tomatoes:
- When nighttime temperatures remain above 50°F consistently. Tomato plants will not bear fruits unless the nighttime temperatures reach 55°F. This temperature allows the plants enough time to mature before bearing fruits.
- Ideally, the recommended soil temperature for planting tomatoes is 60°F.
To find out about your garden soil temperature, put your finger in the soil. If you can’t keep your finger in the soil for a minute and are uncomfortable, the soil is most likely too cold for planting tomatoes. You may also use a soil thermometer for a fast and reliable result.
Now that you know what’s the best time to plant tomatoes, you should also be aware of when it is too late to do so. There are many varieties of tomatoes, and if planting too late yet still wanting to get a crop, you will have to consider the variety you have.
How to Harvest Tomatoes
When harvesting tomatoes, you should leave the fruit on the vine for as long as possible. Your tomatoes are ready to harvest when they are firm and have a bright red color. Regardless of their sizes, and since tomatoes come in different colors, you can harvest that variety when they turn to their correct color, whether it is orange, purple, yellow, or another rainbow shade. Also, as a reminder, never put your tomatoes on a window that receives sunlight as they might rot.
When storing tomatoes, you shouldn’t refrigerate fresh garden picks. This may spoil the flavor of your tomato and its texture. To freeze them, place them in freezer bags or containers instead. Seal those tightly and put a label on them. The tomato skin will peel off when they thaw.
10 Tomato Growing Tips
Are you one of those tomato lovers that dream of growing their own tomato plants? Here are 10 tips for growing healthy, great-tasting, firm, juicy, sweet, and aromatic tomatoes.
- Avoid Overcrowding the Seedlings
Tomato seedlings must have plenty of room to grow and branch out. Overcrowding discourages their growth, which stresses them and results in diseases in your plant. Thus, it is recommended to thin the seedlings to one healthy plant per pot. Then, once they have leaves, you can transplant the seedlings into 4-inch pots.
- Provide Lots of Light
Tomato seedlings need direct and full sun exposure for their healthy growth. When winter comes, you need to provide them with adequate and natural light. Placing your tomato seedlings in a sunny area may not provide them the required amount of light, unless you are growing them in a greenhouse. When you have insufficient light, you can use artificial plant lighting for 14 to 18 hours a day.
To ensure that your tomato plants grow strong and not lanky, keep the seedlings a couple of inches from fluorescent grow lights. Raise the lights as the tomato seedlings grow or lower the plants. When they are ready to be transplanted outdoors, choose an area of your garden that receives abundant light.
- Turn a Fan On
To ensure that your tomato plants develop strong roots and stems, they need to move and sway in the wind breeze. Planting them outdoors is fine, but if you begin planting seedlings indoors, you need to provide the seedling with some type of air circulation. To provide them a breeze, turn your fan on them for 5 to 10 minutes twice a day at minimal speed.
If you are conscious of your electric bill, you can try ruffling the tomato plants by rubbing your hand to and across their tops for two minutes, a few times a day. Although it can be a demanding effort, it is a wonderful time to connect with your plants. Plus, you get a magnificent tomato scent as a bonus.
- Preheat the Garden Soil
Tomatoes are heat-loving plants. Before planting any, warm up your soil by covering the area with black or red plastic for a couple of weeks. The extra degrees in the soil will provide you with tomatoes earlier, since tomatoes won’t start growing unless the soil and air temperatures stay warm. Some researchers suggest that red plastic mulch can increase the benefits of yielding your tomatoes.
- Bury Up to the Stems
When planting tomato seedlings, plant them deeper than they are in the pots up to the top few stems. If you plant your tomatoes this way, they can develop roots up to their stems. Plus, you are helping them become stronger.
You can either dig a hole a few inches deep or a shallow trench and plant the seedlings sideways. The tomatoes will gradually straighten themselves and grow toward the sun. Be careful not to steer your tomato stake or trap it into the buried stem.
- Mulch Tomatoes After the Soil Has Warmed Up
If you do not leave the plastic on the top of your soil, out down mulch after the soil has had a chance to warm up. Mulching helps conserve water and prevents soil-borne diseases from getting into your plants. It also provides shade and cools the soil if you put the mulch down early.
As heat-loving plants, this process benefits your tomatoes by allowing the soil to warm faster during spring. You can add another layer of mulch to keep the moisture once the temperatures remain warm.
- Remove the Bottom Leaves
When your tomato plants have grown about 3 feet tall, cut the bottom leaves, for these are the oldest leaves and tend to develop fungus problems. As the plant grows, the bottom leaves receive less light and airflow. The soil-borne pathogen can easily strike onto the bottom leaves of your tomato plants since they sit close to the soil.
Cutting from the bottom foot of the stem helps prevent the fungal disease from taking over your plants. You can also very cautiously spray compost tea weekly to ward off fungal diseases.
- Pinch and Prune for More Tomatoes
Cut unwanted leaves or stems that develop in between two branches. These extras will not bear fruits and will take the energy away from the rest of the plant. But, be careful when pruning your tomato plant. You can cut a few leaves to allow them to reach the fruit. However, remember it’s the leaves that photosynthesize and produce the sugar that provides flavor to your tomatoes. Thus, fewer leaves mean fewer sweet tomatoes.
- Water Regularly
While tomatoes are developing, water your plant deeply and regularly. Irregular watering can lead to calcium deficiency, blossom end rot, cracking, and splitting. The recommended watering for tomato plants is 1 inch of water weekly, although you need to add more during the hot and dry season. If you notice your plant is wilting, water it immediately.
Once the fruits ripen, you can limit the watering. Doing so will persuade the plant into concentrating its sugar for a wonderful flavor. Also, easing up on the watering doesn’t mean you have to wait for the plant to wilt before watering it. The continuous wilting of the plant may cause stress, which may lead them to drop their blossoms and fruits.
- Get Your Tomato Plants to Set Tomatoes
The ripening of tomatoes mainly relies on the weather but, as resourceful people, we can help things along. In early summer, pinching the tips of the main stems will encourage indeterminate tomatoes to share their energy into the blossom.
Indeterminate tomatoes are the ones that like to grow tall before they start flowering and bearing fruits. But, you shouldn’t be alarmed with this cycle, as pinching is the answer. It is also a useful trick when summer is near ending and you want your tomatoes to ripen immediately.
Unless the weather is unfavorable, this shouldn’t be a problem for your determined tomatoes. This condition, if happening to your determinate tomatoes, is named “blossom drop.”
Tomatoes do need intensive care, as these plants are prone to pests and diseases. To avoid such problems, choose disease-resistant cultivars whenever possible. With this guide and essential tips, you can now start growing your tomatoes in your garden.