Discover how to grow Tomatoes with instructions on starting seed, transplanting, site selection, care and maintenance, water and fertilization requirements, pests and disease, and harvesting and storage.
Tomatoes Garden Guide
Tomatoes Stats at a Glance
Soil Conditions: Well-drained, fertile soil
Sun: Full sun
Can I Start Tomatoes from Seed?
Tomatoes require a long growing season so it is recommended that seeds be started indoors or transplants be purchased rather than attempting to direct seed into the garden.
To start indoors, fill individual peat pots with a fertile commercial soil starter and moisten. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil. Press them lightly into the soil to ensure contact with growing medium. Place in a room with a constant temperature of 70-75°F. Cover with clear plastic wrap to maintain the soil moisture and temperature. Keep the soil moist. When seedlings appear, remove the plastic wrap and move to a sunny location.
When to Start Seeds: 6-8 weeks prior to planting
Time to Germination: 5-14 days
Germination Seed Range: 65-85°F
Optimal Temp. for Germination: 85°F
Harden off seedlings prior to transplanting in the garden by slowly acclimating them to the outdoors about a week or so prior to planting. Set them out for a few hours a day in a protected location for the first few days, lengthening their exposure as the week progresses. Do not set them out in temperatures below 60°F.
When Do I Plant Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are cold sensitive and should not be planted until after the last frost and the soil has reached at least 60°F. They will germinate much more quickly in warmer soil. You can hasten the warming of the soil with black plastic mulch.
Soil Temperature: 60°F
Where Do I Plant Tomatoes?
Tomato plants perform best in loamy, well-drained soil high in organic matter but will grow in nearly any good garden soil that receives full sun and is well-drained. Incorporating several inches of organic matter into the soil when preparing the bed will improve growth and development.
Soil Type: Well-drained
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil pH: 6.2-6.8
How Far Apart Do I Plant Tomatoes?
How much space tomatoes require will depend on how you are going to grow them. In rows, give each plant ample space, about three feet around each plant, for air circulation.
Caged tomatoes require three feet of space between plants.
Tomatoes Plant Care and Maintenance
How Often Should I Water Tomatoes?
Newly transplanted seedlings should be watered directly after setting into the garden.
The key to watering Tomatoes is to maintain a consistent moisture level. This is especially important during flower and fruit development. The soil should be moist to a depth of 6”. Allowing the soil to dry out between watering will result in a shallow root system as well as encourage blossom end rot.
Water the soil around the plant. Overhead watering will encourage disease. Drip irrigation is best.
Mulch around the plant will help to lock in moisture.
Too much water can result in the fruit splitting.
Should I Fertilize Tomatoes?
Fertilizing decisions should be based on a soil test. If a soil test cannot be obtained, Tomatoes generally perform well with a low nitrogen/high phosphorous fertilizer, such as 8-32-16, worked into the soil two weeks prior to planting.
Do not fertilize again until the first tomatoes are beginning to mature. Side dress with a 10-10-10- fertilizer. You can fertilize again a few weeks after the first tomatoes have ripened and then a month later.
Fertilize the soil around the plant at least 6” from the plant base.
Be aware that over fertilization of nitrogen will result in lush foliage growth at the expense of fruit development.
Additional Care Instructions
To encourage more fruit production, pinch off suckers as they develop.
Blossom end rot is a common problem with Tomatoes, which is an indication that the plant is not receiving enough calcium nourishment from the soil. You can avoid this by adding organic matter to the soil and by ensuring that the plants are receiving a balanced moisture uptake. Using mulch and consistent watering will help with maintaining adequate moisture levels. Additionally, over fertilization may cause this problem.
Hand pull weeds that development in the garden as more aggressive cultivation could harm the plant roots.
At the end of the season, remove all spent plants from the garden to discourage mildew.
The most common diseases associated with this plant include anthracnose, bacterial spot, blossom end rot, catfacing, cracking, curly top virus, early blight, flower drop, fusarium wilt, leaf roll, scalding, septoria leaf spot, tobacco mosaic virus, and verticillium wilt.
The most common pests associated with this plant include aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, hornworms, leaf miners, spider mite, stalk borer, stinkbug, and tomato fruitworm
Harvesting and Storing Tomatoes
When Do I Harvest Tomatoes?
Tomatoes should be harvested when the fruits have ripened and are firm, but not soft.
How Do I Store Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are best when stored at room temperature. Prior to a frost, you can pick the remaining tomatoes that have not yet ripened and force them to ripen off the vine by wrapping them in paper and storing them at a cool 60-65°F.