Growing Tomatoes: Tips For A Bountiful Harvest

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Tomatoes are definitely the king of any vegetable garden.

Gardeners take pride when that first ripe tomato is ready to be harvested.

It’s a rite of passage for summer.

I have been growing tomatoes since I was a kid.

We had a large garden and grew different varieties every year.

We ate, canned, and shared them with neighbors and friends.

3 Ripe Tomatoes in a Basket

Over the years, I learned a lot of tips that made the difference between a bountiful season and one that was so-so.

Here are my best tips to have the earliest, juiciest, best-tasting tomatoes in the neighborhood!


Which Tomatoes Should I Grow?

Before buying tomato plants, review the information about each variety.

I recommend selecting varieties that are known for their disease resistance.

This will save a tremendous amount of time problem-solving later in the season.

This is critical for growing organic tomatoes, without the use of chemicals.

These varieties have a high level of disease resistance and have grown well for me: Fourth of July, Celebrity, and Bush Early Girl.

Another consideration when selecting tomatoes is the length of time to maturity.

This is the number of days it takes for the fruit to ripen.

Generally, smaller tomatoes such as “cherry” types will ripen sooner than larger “slicing” tomatoes.

If you are a tomato fan, I recommend growing a variety of sizes so that the harvest time is staggered throughout the season.

If canning is your objective, then select “determinate” tomato varieties.

These grow to a set height and will ripen in large quantities.

Plant tags will note if a variety is ideal for canning.

Green and Red Tomatoes on a Tomato plant


Planting Tomatoes

Plant tomatoes once the chance of frost has passed.

In northeast Ohio, that is generally mid-to-late May.

They prefer warm temperatures, so waiting until warm weather arrives is best.

Tomatoes can be planted until late June.

Tomatoes need a warm, sunny location in which to thrive.

Ripe Cherry Tomato

Select a planting location that receives a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight each day.

Barring shade, the south or west side of a home is generally ideal.

Well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5-6.8 is ideal.

Local garden centers can provide soil testing kits to determine your soil’s pH.

Tomatoes generally don’t grow well in heavy clay, so if that is a challenge in your location, consider growing in containers.

One of the keys to having productive, healthy tomato plants is a strong, deep root system.

To achieve this, remove all the leaves except the top 2-5 sets, depending on the size of the tomato plant,

Dig a hole deep enough to plant a large portion of the stem and roots except for the remaining leaves.

New roots will develop along the buried stem, creating an extensive root system for absorbing water and nutrients all season!

Watering Tomato Plants

Leaf diseases are common for many types of tomatoes.

Several of these diseases originate from water splashing off the soil, depositing spores or bacteria on leaves.

To avoid this, add 1-2 inches of organic mulch such as grass clippings or decomposed compost to cover the soil surface.

This provides a barrier between the soil and tomato leaves.

It will also enrich the soil. Avoid bark mulches as they can make nitrogen unavailable to the plants.

Similarly, when watering, focus the water on the soil.

Avoid overhead watering to keep the leaves dry.

Soaker hoses are an ideal way to water and will pay dividends in preventing leaf diseases.

Tomatoes Should be Staked

Tomatoes are vining plants, but to get the best yield, it is best to stake them.

Wooden stakes are my favorite.

I use strips of cloth or long twist ties to loosely tie the main stem to the stake.

Generally, it’s only necessary to place ties every 12-16 inches.

Tomato cages work well too, but I find that they can interfere when I am harvesting!

Fertilizing Tomato Plants

I prefer to only use organic fertilizers for tomatoes.

Providing, healthy organic food is the primary reason I like to grow my own vegetables.

There are quite a few great organic fertilizers that will give you a tremendous tomato harvest!

If using a traditional fertilizer, be careful not to over-fertilize.

Excess nitrogen can potentially burn roots.

Also, it can overstimulate leaf production creating lush green plants with little fruit!

How to Remove Sucker Growth

Tomatoes produce side shoots that develop along the main stem and leaves.

These are known as suckers.

This is a normal process for the plant, but they can draw valuable resources (water and nutrients) from the main plant.

It is advantageous to remove these “suckers” so that more energy is available to the main plant.

Use pruners to clip them off or simply remove them by hand

A close up of a sucker side shoot growth on a tomato plant
Remove this sucker growth to keep one main stem and keep all the plant’s resources focused on fruit production

When in the garden, take a peek under leaves and along stems for any insect damage.

Often these can be removed with a strong stream of water or with a glove to avoid using chemicals.

Growing tomatoes is rewarding.

I hope you try a few different varieties this summer!

Want to grow your own tomatoes from seed? Click here for great tips!

Pinterest Pin photo of Ripe tomatoes with text overlay: Tips For Growing Beautiful, Bountiful Tomatoes

13 thoughts on “Growing Tomatoes: Tips For A Bountiful Harvest”

    • Hi Lynnae, I would suggest contacting a local garden center or agriculture department to get the best timing on that as I am based in the U.S. and your area is unique with the ocean influence. Best wishes! -Shannon

  1. I live in mo and the heat and humidity is crazy 100 so hot. Any ideas.

    • Hi Alice, tomatoes love hot and humid weather, so they should do great! I suggest contacting a local garden center or county extension office to see if they recommend varieties that perform well in your area. Another tip is to ask farmers at a local farmers market which type they recommend. Best wishes! -Shannon

  2. My tomatoes bush is pretty and green ,it did have lots of green tomatoes, but the bottom turned brown like rot, so I pulled them off! Now what’s do ? Help

    • Hi Sudie, this is called blossom end rot. To prevent it, make sure that your tomatoes receive even amounts of water- meaning they don’t get too dry or too much water. Also, don’t overfertilize plants as this can make it worse. Ideally, it would be best to have your soil tested for calcium to see if it needs more added as this is the key nutrient for this issue. In the short term adding bone meal to the soil will help. Best wishes, Shannon

      • Hi Shannon, my tomato plants are growing well but they are tall and kind of skinny, not bushy. Is that a bad thing?

        • Hi Jessica, It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be a sign that they aren’t getting enough sun. If you are getting flowers and tomatoes, that’s all that matters! Best wishes, Shannon

  3. I can’t grow tomatoes at all. Just read about the mulch. Think that’s what I’m doing wrong. Going to try again this spring


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