Growing Vegetables: Tomatoes [fact sheet] (2023)

Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops among home gardeners, and with good reason: not only are tomatoes delicious and versatile, they are relatively easy to grow and return high value for the space they occupy. No store-bought tomato can compare with the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato picked from the garden at its peak of ripeness.

A perennial plant in its native tropics, tomato belongs to the nightshade family (Solanacae) and is native to Central and South America. The tomato appeared in European cuisine in the 16th century, although it did not become popular there until the 18th century because of the common belief that it was poisonous.

Soil Requirements

Tomato plants will grow well in well-drained sites that receive full sun for most of the day. The soil pH should be slightly acidic (6.2 to 6.8). Excess nitrogen can result in plants with lush, vigorous foliage but little fruit production. Although it is best to determine lime and fertilizer needs from the results of a soil test, a rule of thumb for gardeners lacking test data is to apply 2½ pounds of a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 (or the equivalent) per 100 square feet of garden area. Work the fertilizer into the soil about 2 weeks before planting.

Selecting the Right Variety

Hundreds of tomato varieties exist to suit every climate, garden site and taste. There are tomatoes that ripen in 55 days and varieties that require three months of hot weather to produce their crop. Some produce vines that will sprawl 25 feet if not maintained by pruning, while others are only 8 inches high at maturity. Fruit range in size from as small as marbles to as large as grapefruits. And the array of colors! With so many varieties available, how do you pick the one or ones that are right for your garden?

(Video) Grow Lots of Tomatoes... Not Leaves // Complete Growing Guide

  • Select varieties that have been bred to grow and produce well in our short growing. A good way to do this is to choose varieties that have been tested under local conditions.
  • Is the variety determinate or indeterminate in growth habit? Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain height and then stop. They flower and set their fruit within a relatively short period of time. Indeterminate tomato varieties grow, flower, and set fruit over the entire growing season. The vines continue growing throughout the season too, so these varieties should be staked, caged or pruned.
  • How you will use the tomatoes? Are you looking for large fruit for slicing? Medium-sized fruits to slice or chop into salads and salsas? Tiny sweet fruits for lunch boxes? Tomatoes for canning or juicing or drying? Many gardeners continue growing old-fashioned, “heirloom” varieties that have been favorites for generations because of their exceptional flavor or unusual appearance.
  • Resistance to diseases, stresses, and disorders can be an important consideration, especially for growers who have experienced these problems in the past. Many variety names are followed by one or more letters indicating resistance to Verticillium wilt (V) or Fusarium wilt (F) diseases, for example, and some varieties are less likely to experience problems such as cracking and yellow shoulders.

Most gardeners do not raise their own tomatoes from seed and may be limited to those varieties offered by local garden centers. Ask sales staff for information, read label descriptions and talk to fellow gardeners about their which tomato varieties they prefer and why. Whether you buy seedlings or start your own, try two or three plants of a different tomato variety each year just for fun and adventure.

Growing Vegetables: Tomatoes [fact sheet] (1)

Purchasing Tomato Seedlings

Because of their long growing season and temperature requirements, tomatoes must be started indoors six to eight weeks before being moved permanently into the garden. When purchasing tomato seedlings, select stocky plants with thick, straight stems and bright green leaves. The ideal transplant is less than six inches tall, as broad as it is high. Do not choose tall, lankyplants, or large, well-established plants with flowers or fruits already visible.

Plants growing in cell packs or individual containers are better choices than those growing in flats, as their roots will suffer less transplant shock. Seedlings should be free of insects and visible signs of disease.

Growing Vegetables: Tomatoes [fact sheet] (2)

Hardening Off

Whether your plants are purchased or homegrown, harden off tomato seedlings before transplanting into the garden. About ten days before transplanting, set plants outdoors for a few hours each day to acclimate them gradually to outdoor conditions. Start by setting plants in filtered light in a setting protected from strong breezes. Each day, prolong the period the tomato seedlings spend outdoors, exposing them gradually to direct sunlight and wind. Remember that seedlings lose water much more rapidly outdoors than inside and will need more frequent watering during the hardening off process.

(Video) Plants You Can Intercrop With Tomatoes To Maximize Yield & Protect Soil Health

Bring plants indoors at night and on days when temperatures fall below 60°F. Below this temperature, tomatoes experience chilling injury, which can delay their growth and may cause a condition called “catfacing” on early fruit.


Wait until danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures have warmed to about 60°F before setting tomatoes into the garden. Throughout much of New Hampshire, Memorial Day weekend is a safe time for transplanting tomatoes, though southern gardeners may often plant a week or two earlier and growers in the northern frost pockets may need to wait until mid- June.

The ideal spacing for tomato plants depends on the growth habit of the variety and whether plants will be pruned:

  • Staked or caged plants: 18 to 24 inches between plants, in rows at least 5 feet apart.
  • Unstaked determinate plants: 12 to 24 inches between plants, in rows 4-6 feet apart.
  • Unstaked indeterminate plants: 2 to 3 feet between plants, in rows 5-7 feet apart.

Use a trowel to dig a hole about twice the size of the tomato seedling and its root ball; set the seedling into the ground at the same level as it grew in its container. Make sure to cover the root ball entirely. If seedlings are growing in peat pots, peel back the rim of the pot so the entire pot is buried below the soil surface, because an exposed peat pot will wick moisture from the soil.

To reduce transplant shock and hasten establishment of seedlings, irrigate the newly-set transplant well with water or with a dilute fertilizer solution.

(Video) How I Grew Potatoes And Tomatoes On The Same Plant

Growing Vegetables: Tomatoes [fact sheet] (3)

Container Growing

Where space is limited or conditions are not suitable for tomato culture, tomatoes may be grown in containers. Although any large container will work as long as it provides adequate drainage; a general recommendation is to plant one tomato plant per four or five-gallon container. Grow containerized tomatoes in artificial potting mix; do not use regular garden topsoil or homemade compost. Pay special attention to water and fertilizer needs, as container-grown tomato plants have no access to the deep soil reservoir of water and nutrients. Most containerized tomato varieties require a stake, trellis or other support.

Cultural Practices

An even moisture supply throughout the time the fruit is developing helps prevent a condition called blossom end rot, as well as for supplying the water needed to develop the fruit - too much water at any one time may cause ripening fruit to split.

Pruning, or selectively removing some of the tomato plant growth, can improve harvestable yields and prolong the harvest season. It can also help reduce some disease problems. The ideal pruning system depends on whether the tomato is a determinate or an indeterminate variety. For more information on pruning methods, please see the fact sheet Pruning Tomatoes. If you plan to use stakes or cages, install them at planting time, rather than later when the plants’ roots are established.

Commercial farmers often grow tomatoes in unheated greenhouses called high tunnels. Keeping the plants under cover keeps the leaves drier, which reduces leaf diseases that are very common problems, such as early blight and Septoria leaf spot. Growing tomatoes under cover can also increase crop yields and quality, while allowing you to work in the crop in inclement weather. Inexpensive temporary tunnels, sometimes called “caterpillar tunnels” are one way to create such a cover for tomatoes, and this strategy may be worth considering if you have a history of crop losses from diseases.

Growing Vegetables: Tomatoes [fact sheet] (4)
(Video) Growing Tomatoes From Sowing to Harvest

Many growers use mulches around the base of tomato plants. Plastic mulches retain soil moisture, raise soil temperature during the early part of the season, and help stabilize soil temperatures throughout the summer. Black plastic mulch suppresses weeds, and also protects the fruit of unstaked plants from coming into contact with soil. Organic mulches offer the same moisture retaining, weed suppressing and fruit protecting advantages as plastic, and eventually decompose, adding to the soil’s supply of organic matter. Tomatoes can be mulched with a thick organic mulch of straw, pine needles or leaves, spread two to four inches deep around plants. Because organic materials delay soil warming, wait until the soil is thoroughly warm before applying these mulches.

Common Problems

Flea beetles may attack young tomato plants. Protect new transplants from this insect during their first two or three weeks of growth with spun-bonded floating row covers. Because tomato seedlings are fragile, drape the row cover over wire hoops or a simple wooden frame to hold it above the plants.

Cutworms are soil-dwelling caterpillars that feed on stems at or just below the soil level, essentially cutting off transplants at the base. This damage can be prevented by using a protective cutworm collar that goes one inch deep and about two inches high around each newly-set transplant. A small paper cup with the bottom removed or a cut-to-size length of stiff paper or plastic, folded into a cylinder and secured with a paper clip are two inexpensive ways to fashion cutworm collars. You could also consider using cutworm bait, if you have a lot of plants to protect and a significant problem.

Hornworms are very large, green caterpillars that feed on the foliage (and sometimes the fruit) of tomatoes. There are two species in New Hampshire, the tobacco hornworm, and the tomato hornworm. Because they blend in with the tomato foliage, it can often be hard to see them until after they have done a lot of damage. They can be easily managed with a biological insecticide or by hand removal. For more information, please refer to the fact sheet: Hornworms on Tomatoes in New Hampshire.

Septoria leaf spot, Early blight, and Late blight are all fungal diseases of tomato. The fungi that cause Septoria leaf spot (Septoria lycopersici) and early blight (Alternaria solani) overwinter on plant debris in the soil. Both are common causes of spots on tomato leaves, with symptoms usually beginning on the lower leaves. Septoria is usually more severe because it can eventually cause the plants to be defoliated and also causes spotting on the stems and petioles. Late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans, does not overwinter in our soils, and arrives via storms each year, usually late in the season. Although it does not cause leaf spots, it does blight leaves, stems and fruit, and can kill plants very quickly. If you suspect fungal diseases are affecting your tomato crops, it is important to identify the disease in order to manage the disease effectively. To help identify problems, you can call our Infoline at 1-877-EXT-GROW (1-877-398-4769) or submit samples to the NH Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.


What is tomato question answer? ›

Germination- 21-25°C, Flowering- 14 -20°C, Fruit- 15-20°C
26What is the popular way of supporting tomato plants?Stalking
27Tomato harvesting at “Green stage” for?Truck Gardening​ (Out of city)
28Tomato harvesting at “Pink stage” for?Local market
13 more rows
Apr 26, 2020

What not to plant with tomatoes? ›

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi can stunt the growth of your tomato plant because they out-compete them for the same nutrients. These vegetables are in the brassica family.

What can damage tomato plants? ›

Inappropriate levels of water, light, temperature and nutrients can all cause problems with the leaves of tomato plants. These are physiological disorders - problems that are caused by the growing conditions rather than resulting from either feeding damage from invertebrates or infection by diseases.

Does Epsom salt help tomatoes? ›

One trick is to put a scoop of Epsom salt into each hole when planting tomatoes. Some gardeners swear it prevents blossom end rot. It's time to debunk that myth. Epsom salt doesn't stop blossom end rot—it leads to more of it.

What does baking soda do for tomato plants? ›

Although it seems silly, this simple garden trick really works. The baking soda absorbs into the soil and lowers its acidity levels giving you tomatoes that are more sweet than tart.

How often do you put Epsom salt on tomatoes? ›

Make up a solution of about a teaspoon of Epsom salts per litre (quarter gallon) of water in a spray bottle. Simply wet the foliage on your tomato plants every two weeks using a fine spray setting. It will quickly be absorbed by the leaves. Avoid spraying on hot, sunny days or when rain is imminent.

What are 3 interesting facts about tomatoes? ›

Sounds messy!
  • The largest ever tomato on record was picked in Oklahoma, USA, in 1986. ...
  • In Ohio, USA, they love tomatoes so much that tomato juice is the official state drink!
  • There are around 10,000 varieties of tomatoes worldwide!
  • The first tomatoes in Europe may originally have been yellow.

What are 3 benefits of tomatoes? ›

Getting more tomatoes into your diet may make you less likely to have a stroke, which is when blood flow gets cut off to a part of your brain. Studies suggest that they may ease inflammation, boost your immune system, lower your cholesterol levels, and keep your blood from clotting.

How long do tomato plants live? ›

ANSWER: A tomato plant will only last a year in most vegetable gardens. As soon as it gets cold and freezes, the tomato plant will die. In places where the temperature never falls below 60 degrees or when indeterminate tomatoes are grown indoors, they are short-lived perennials that will last for two years.

Why is tomato so important? ›

Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.

Is A tomato A vegetable or a fruit? ›

To a botanist, a fruit is an entity that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. This means that tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn kernels, and bean and pea pods are all fruits; so are apples, pears, peaches, apricots, melons and mangos.

Is tomato a root or stem? ›

Tomato plants are dicots, and grow as a series of branching stems, with a terminal bud at the tip that does the actual growing.

What to plant with tomatoes to keep worms away? ›

To keep hornworms away from your tomato plants next year, try interplanting dill or basil; marigolds are also an excellent companion plant.

Can I put coffee grounds around my tomato plants? ›

Coffee grounds contain around 2% nitrogen as well as varying amounts of phosphorus and potassium which are all very important for the growth of tomato plants. By mixing some coffee grounds into the soil below your tomato plants you're introducing these nutrients that the plants need to thrive.

How much space should you leave around tomato plants? ›

They recommend spacing tomato plants two feet or more apart. Air circulation is particularly important considering that disease spread quickly in humid situations, according to researchers from the UC Davis Vegetable Research and Information Center.

Should you cut damaged leaves off of tomato plants? ›

Yes. It's good practice to cut dead leaves off your tomato plant regularly to keep it healthy, and prevent the spread of disease.

What does Overwatered tomato look like? ›

Overwatered plants may have wilted or yellowed stems and leaves, or the leaves might develop bumps and blisters or fall off entirely if plants continue to get too much water. Another way to tell overwatered plants from underwatered ones, once the case is severe enough, is to check the roots.

Can I pour milk on my tomato plants? ›

The same properties that make milk good for a human, such as the calcium and B vitamins, are what benefits plants. The calcium helps the plants grow, as well as prevent blossom end rot, which can be caused by a calcium deficiency. This condition is common in tomato, peppers, and squash plants.

Why do you put aspirin on tomato plants? ›

Aspirin Prevents Blight In Tomato Plants - Use Aspirin To Help Your Grow Healthy Tomatoes.

Can I spray vinegar on my tomato plants? ›

Just like weeds, your tomato plants can be killed by the use of vinegar. Instead, use a proper herbicide that is safe to use in the garden. And for your tomato plants, you should use proper fertilizer and fungicides, not vinegar.

Can I sprinkle Epsom salt around plants? ›

Adding Epsom salt is a simple way to increase the health of their blooms, and is something that you can include easily as a part of a normal routine. For potted plants, simply dissolve two tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water, and substitute this solution for normal watering once a month.

When should I stop watering my tomato plants? ›

Tomatoes taste great with reduced irrigation. The secret is to keep plants well watered as they establish then reduce watering once the fruits start to ripen.

How much Epsom salt do you put in a gallon of water for tomatoes? ›

When planting tomatoes: add 1 tablespoon to planting hole and work into the soil before planting tomato seedlings. Early to mid-season: using a tank sprayer, combine salts in a gallon of water. Use 2 tablespoons salts per gallon when applying once a month; 1 tablespoon per gallon if you apply more than once a month.

How long does tomatoes take to bear? ›

Tomatoes take 60 days to more than 100 days to harvest, depending on the variety (see more about varieties below). Due to their relatively long growing season requirements (and late planting date), most gardeners plant small “starter plants” or transplants instead of seeds after the weather has warmed up in spring.

Do tomatoes need special care? ›

Maintaining Plants. Tomatoes require 1 to 2 inches of water per week. To encourage a healthy root system, water infrequently but deeply, rather than daily and lightly. Fertilize plants every 4 to 6 weeks throughout the growing season to keep them consistently fed and able to produce juicy tomatoes all summer.

What does tomato do to your brain? ›

Tomatoes are a particularly good source of two all-star antioxidants: lycopene and beta-carotene. These are essential to protect brain cells and prevent damage. Tomatoes prove to be one of the most economical ways to increase your brainpower.

Do tomatoes burn belly fat? ›

3. Tomatoes are also enriched with fat-burning amino acids. Tomatoes help stimulate production of the amino acid called carnitine, which is known to boost fat burning abilities of the body.

Is it good to eat tomato everyday? ›

Eating tomatoes daily will ensure that you get an array of nutrients which will help in better functioning of your body. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidants which helps in flushing out the harmful free radicals from the system. Thus, preventing cancer and other deadly diseases.

How many tomatoes can 1 plant produce? ›

For simplicity's sake, I'll say that you can expect to enjoy between 20 and 30 tomatoes from a strong and healthy indeterminate tomato plant that's a larger variety.

Will tomatoes come back year after year? ›

In most cases, tomato plants won't grow back each year as a perennial. Tomatoes are only grown as a perennial plant in tropical areas. In other growing locations they're annuals. However, there are a few ways you can grow tomatoes year after year.

Do tomatoes need new soil every year? ›

First, never plant tomatoes (or potatoes) in the same soil two years in a row. Their presence attracts root knot nematodes, which are not a problem the first year, but as their population builds in the second year, the plants suffer and often die.

What is unique about tomatoes? ›

4. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that is good for the heart and effective against certain cancers. Tomatoes are also packed with vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium. 5.

What nutrients do tomatoes need? ›

"Like many herbaceous plants, tomatoes need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, calcium, and magnesium, along with other trace minerals to grow and fruit successfully," says gardener and tomato growing expert Emma Biggs.

Why do tomatoes make you happy? ›

Tomatoes are high in mood enhancers like folate and magnesium, both used to treat depression. They contain iron, tryptophan and vitamin B6 – the main ingredients needed by your brain to produce important mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable is Apple? ›

Tomatoes are fruits that are considered vegetables by nutritionists. Botanically, a fruit is a ripened flower ovary and contains seeds. Tomatoes, plums, zucchinis, and melons are all edible fruits, but things like maple “helicopters” and floating dandelion puffs are fruits too.

Are tomato leaves edible? ›

Contrary to popular opinion, yes—tomato leaves are flavorful, fragrant, and 100 percent edible. You can cook the fresh, young leaves like most other sturdy garden greens, such as kale, collards, or cabbage (leafy greens that need a little longer cooking time to become tender).

Are tomatoes legally a vegetable? ›

Tomatoes are "vegetables," and not "fruit," within the meaning of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, c. 121.

What are 3 things you should look for when choosing a tomato? ›

Juicier tomatoes are denser, while unripe tomatoes feel a little too light. Touch is also a good way to test heirloom tomatoes, which can be purple, lumpy, tiny or green even when ripe. Finally, test the tomato for its scent. Smell the tomato up by the stem; it should have a strong, sweet, earthy odor.

What happens when you plant tomatoes too close together? ›

If tomatoes are planted so closely together that sunlight and air can't dry out the leaves, the plants will be more likely to develop harmful diseases. Stunted Growth – Plants in your garden compete for resources like water, nutrients in the soil and sunlight.

What causes sudden death in tomato plants? ›

Possible causes include lack of water, fungal wilt diseases, tomato spotted wilt virus, walnut toxicity and stalk borers. Lack of Water. Tomato plants require approximately 1 inch of water per week. Plants may wilt badly when soils are dry, but will revive rapidly when they are watered.

How often do you water tomato plants? ›

Water newly planted tomatoes well to make sure soil is moist and ideal for growing. Early in the growing season, watering plants daily in the morning. As temperatures increase, you might need to water tomato plants twice a day. Garden tomatoes typically require 1-2 inches of water a week.

What is the best fertilizer for tomato plants? ›

Using a liquid fertilizer like compost or worm casting tea every 14 days is the way to go. Fertilizing tomato plants with liquid helps in two distinct ways, absorbing nutrients through the plant's roots, and the leaves. Organic fertilizer, compost tea, or worm casting tea are all great choices for fertilizing plants.

What is the most important fertilizer for tomatoes? ›

What is the Best Tomato Fertilizer?
  • Nitrogen is crucial in the early stages, being responsible for vegetative growth. ...
  • Phosphorus, on the other hand, is essential for stimulating abundant flowering and fruit production. ...
  • Potassium helps regulate photosynthesis and, above all, the proper ripening of fruits.

Are coffee grounds good for tomato plants? ›

Coffee grounds contain around 2% nitrogen as well as varying amounts of phosphorus and potassium which are all very important for the growth of tomato plants. By mixing some coffee grounds into the soil below your tomato plants you're introducing these nutrients that the plants need to thrive.

How many years can you plant tomatoes in the same place? ›

First, never plant tomatoes (or potatoes) in the same soil two years in a row. Their presence attracts root knot nematodes, which are not a problem the first year, but as their population builds in the second year, the plants suffer and often die.

Can you plant tomatoes 12 inches apart? ›

Determinate Tomatoes

The ideal spacing between successive plants ranges from 12-24 inches. For large varieties, 18-24 inches of space between plants is recommended.

Can you plant tomatoes 6 inches apart? ›

“Tomatoes require plenty of room to grow well,” write the UC ANR advisors. They recommend spacing tomato plants two feet or more apart.

Should I cut off wilted tomato leaves? ›

Yes. It's good practice to cut dead leaves off your tomato plant regularly to keep it healthy, and prevent the spread of disease.

What are the signs of Overwatered tomato plants? ›

Overwatered plants may have wilted or yellowed stems and leaves, or the leaves might develop bumps and blisters or fall off entirely if plants continue to get too much water. Another way to tell overwatered plants from underwatered ones, once the case is severe enough, is to check the roots.

How do you get rid of tomato disease in soil? ›

If you have had blighted tomatoes in the past, rotate crops on a three-year cycle to help keep soil disease-free. This means rotating where you plant your tomatoes and allowing three years to pass before planting them in the same spot. The absence of live plants should rid the soil of the disease in this time.


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