study up! the basics of growing great tomatoes

Cellpack of young tomato seedlings ready for transplant.
IT’S TOMATO TIME HERE: time to plant out the seedlings, and therefore a perfect moment to review the particulars of growing this favorite crop: Are bigger seedlings really better? Determinate or indeterminate; hybrid or heirloom? How deep do you plant them in the garden? When and what to feed? All this and more, in my Tomato-Growing FAQ (and if you’re farther along, and seeing issues like spotted or yellowing leaves, review this Tomato-Troubles FAQ page, too). So study up: We’ll be having a quiz later. (Kidding. Happy holiday weekend, and may juicy tomatoes be in all our futures.)

  1. Stacy M says:

    I can’t wait for a wonderful fresh tomato! This year I have Yellow Pear Cherry tomatoes, Pineapple tomatoes, and some red ones that World Vision sent me for having a sponsor child.

    I just hear about Current tomatoes, have you ever grown them? I think they look really neat!!

  2. Catherine says:

    I can hardly wait for a ‘real’ tomato. I think tomatoes are masochistic… our best year was the one the cows got out and trampled them. Since then, I am mean to them… I verbally berate them, and occasionally slap them. They love it! :-)

  3. Dee says:

    Catherine, thank you so much! That’s one thing I haven’t tried, here in the land of drought and blight and spotted wilt (northeastern North Carolina). I’m going outside to cuss my ‘maters right now.

  4. Tomatoes have been happily in the ground for a while here. We have nearly 30 plants growing this year. Cages are out of the question (due to room and cost). i have staked them but do you have any better ideas that you can share Margaret??


    P.S – wish I had been in Sharon Springs to meet you – I hope you had great fun.

  5. joshua werber says:

    When you speak, they listen. This weekend I was delighted to see ‘Juliette’ at Hicks nursery on Long Island. Thanks for the suggestion!

  6. Adam says:

    As an alternative to staking or caging tomatoes, I use a support system similar to a tent structure. 1 tomato plant at or near each diagonal (about 45 degrees) support going up to a central backbone type support. I then string twine between the diagonal supports. The tomatoes grow up the supports sideways with only a little assistance needed.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Adam. A good system idea — I keep thinking I’d love to be more creative like that. Thank you, and see you soon!

  7. Cas says:

    Margaret, I love your tomato-growing tips! I just found your blog, but I’ll be back for sure. I have a small container garden and I need all the advice I can get. Thanks for putting together such great information!

  8. Jack says:

    I stopped buying tomatoe seedlings. Just waited till they sprung up from the compost heap and then replanted them in a suitable position…….You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s grown!

  9. Jack says:

    Hi Margaret, thanks for pointing out the potential problems with free seedlings. Although have had no issues in the past, have read your other posts and am better informed so will heed your advice. Tks.

  10. Spencer Drew says:

    This year I had some wonderful tomatoes! I did Roma, and they were great! I use The Garden Master’s Bucket Garden System. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to “in ground” gardening.

  11. I have made the mistake in the past of providing too much of a nutrient rich soil and have had nice shrubby plants but little fruit. I discovered that less fertilizer means more tomatoes. Water is the most important element!

  12. Roger Giovinazzo says:

    that comment up at the top from Catherine cracked me up! I was caught up in the you tube vortex the other day and came across a guy telling us to “spank our tomatoes”. I got nervous where that was leading and quit watching—(:

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