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Plan on trying your hand at growing tomatoes for the first time, or looking to brush up on your gardening know-how?

These juicey bad boys are delicious, fun to grow, and give you plenty of gardening experience and excercise to boot.

Plus, if you’re competing with the neighbors, or in-laws, you MUST grow the best tomatoes or you lose by default!

Check out our information-packed Complete Guide to Growing Tomatoes below for everything you need to know about these juicy beauties!

Planting and Growing Tomatoes

Several green tomato seedlings growing in containers.
Tomato seedlings growing in starter containers.

The best time to set tomato seeds, or tomato transplants, into the garden is once the temperatures of the year have risen to the mid-50s or higher (55F/13C). A favorite of gardeners around the world, tomatoes are easily one of the most commonly found vegetables grown in backyard gardens just about anywhere.

You can easily start the seeds in sponges, grow cups, seed starters, and more. It takes little to no experience to start tomatoes from seeds.

If you live in southern states/countries, you can sow seeds directly into the ground. Those further away from the equator should consider starting seeds in greenhouses or starting with transplants.

Green-leafed tomatoe cuttings being cloned in glass jars.

Tomatoes are also easy to clone. You can simply clip a few branches from another plant in your garden (or the neighbors! – with their permission of course. ;)).

Stick them in a glass of water, or a mason jar. With 5 to 10 days, they will be rooting and ready to plant soon.

Tomato plants continue developing roots and growth very easily once planted. If you’re using transplants, plant them into the ground all the way to the lowest set of branches.

Taller transplants can be laid down and planted by digging a shallow ditch and setting the top of the plant properly above the soil.

Dozens of tomatoes growing around two meters tall in a side garden made of grow bags. Several large red and green tomatoes can be seen peeking through the foilage.
Tomatoes planted in grow bags in the side yard. (August, 2020)

Placement of tomato plants is suggested approximately two to three feet from one another. Stakes or tomato cages are also highly recommended.

If using stakes, make sure to set them into the ground with the seedlings or transplants. As your tomatoes begin to grow, tie them loosely to the stakes. Likewise, with cages, gently weave branches of your plants through the cage.

Tomato Growing Tips and Tricks

Two red tomatoes, an orange one, and four green ones, growing on a tomato plant clipped to a green wavey stake.
Tomatoes ripening on the vine.

Now that we’ve discussed how to plant tomatoes, let’s have a look at some of the best tips and tricks for growing the best tomatoes:

Frequent Watering

Deep and regular watering is necessary for growing the best tomato plants. Once you get behind with watering tomatoes, you may never quite recover your plants to optimal health.

Go no less than a week without a full and thorough watering of the plant. Also, make sure to give your tomato plants a “drink” every day or so, depending on the weather.

Poor watering habits lead to general deficiencies and sickness in tomato plants as well as causing them to bear less fruit. 

Remove All Bottom Growth

Once your tomato plants begin to shoot up in height (two to three feet high) start removing all the bottom growth

Start at the very base of the main stem and work your way up. Make sure that none of the remaining leaves can hang down and touch the ground. 

Removing these leaves lowers the risk of disease as well as increasing the amount of sun and airflow the soil receives. This is why cages are highly recommended!

Prune like Crazy

The more you prune your tomato plants, the more tomatoes you get. 

Start pruning by regularly removing sucker leaves. These energy-stealing leaves grow from the joints of the plant’s Y-like branch junctions.

The rest of the plant doesn’t necessarily require much pruning, just the bottom. 

That said, if you wish for your plant to be a climber, or take on some particular shape, tomatoes are easy enough to train by clipping unnecessary branches and redirecting their energy to the areas you desire to grow. Again, stakes or cages help out tremendously.

Mulch Plants During Warm Weather

Wait until the ground has begun to really warm up for the year before adding mulch to your tomato plants.

Adding mulch to the soil too early may keep the earth too cool for the plant’s root systems to thrive.

Tomato Harvesting

A gardener's hand gently lifting a branch with several red and yellow tomatoes ready for harvesting.
Mature red and green tomatoes ready for harvesting.

Harvesting tomatoes is one of the most rewarding garden activities. There is just nothing like a garden-made tomato fresh from the plant.

Let’s have a look at a few of the most important points to remember about harvesting tomatoes properly:

Collecting Vine-Ripened Tomatoes

Once your tomatoes have turned fully red, or in some cases yellow, or green with stripes, they are ready to be harvested from the vine.

Vine-ripened tomatoes should be firm yet soft to the touch when harvested. Too much softness is a sign of over-ripe tomatoes, while too much firmness is a sign that the tomatoes aren’t quite fully mature yet.

Using hand pruners, clippers, or garden scissors, hold your tomato in one hand, and snip the stem from the vine with the tool in your other hand.

Remove fresh tomatoes from heat and direct sunlight as soon as possible. Store them in a cooler, refrigerator, or any cool and dry storage with a constant temperature of less than 55-degrees.

Ripening Tomatoes Indoors

Believe it or not, harvesting tomatoes BEFORE they’re ripe is actually a thing. 

When tomatoes reach a state of being mature, while still green, they are fully developed. 

Keyword: developed. 

Tomatoes are not ripe until they turn red (yellow, or green-striped). That said if you pick them while green, they will continue to ripen off the vine.

Red and yellow and orange tomatoes that are half-ripe, freshly picked, lying on straw.
These freshly picked tomatoes are well on their way to being ripe, we picked them early to protect them from pests and the weather, they will finish ripening inside on the widow seals. (August, 2020)

Simply harvest the tomatoes by hand, as you would vine-ripened fruits, and set them inside. Make sure to place them near a kitchen window or somewhere that receives a bit of sunlight.

We keep our green-mature tomatoes on the windowsill in the lobby of our house. 

Pro Tip: fully ripe/fresh tomatoes can generally be stored at temperatures as high as 50 to 55-degrees for up to 30 days.

Saving Tomato Seeds

Over-ripe tomatoes on the vine ready for picking and seed collection.
Tomatoes ready for their seeds to be collected.

If so inclined to do so, saving tomato seeds from your garden is an easy way to propagate generations of new tomatoes for free.

There are several popular ways to do so:

  • Cut tomatoes and remove the pulp to be dried deseed
  • Add pulp to containers full of water for five days and collect seeds from the bottom
  • Rinse pulp in the sink with a screen or colander

However you decide to collect your tomato seeds, drying and storing them properly is crucial. Wet seeds will mold and become useless.

Likewise, if the storage container isn’t air-tight and moisture-free, the seeds will rot.

For the best results, dry tomato seeds on paper towels or newspaper for several days and then seal them in glass jars with lids. Additionally, they’ll need to be stored in a dark place. If not, they may begin to germinate early.

Growing Tomatoes is Simple, Fun, and Rewarding

Tomatoes are a favorite vegetable to countless gardeners for several reasons. They’re easy to grow, once you know what you’re doing, taste great raw, and are the main ingredient in everything from salsa to pizza sauce.

A close up shot of a bright green tomato planting wiht a green bloom with yellow petals opening.
A close-up of an early summer tomato plant just beginning to bloom in the back yard. (May, 2020)

We hope our guide answers all your questions about growing tomatoes!

Do you have a tomato growing tip or trick to share with us? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments section below!

Happy tomato growing, and thanks for reading!

Suggested Reading: HOW TO GROW AND TRANSPLANT SEEDLINGS

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