Tomato Growing Tips you can't live without

 1) Choose the right tomato variety

There are two basic types of tomato Indeterminate or cordon tomatoes and Determinate or bush tomatoes. The space you have available will be the main factor in your decision of which to grow.

What is the difference between Cordon and Bush Tomatoes?

graphic showing the difference between indeterminate tomatoes and determinate tomatoes
Indeterminate or Cordon varieties (right)

This is your typical, tall tomato plant. They have a single long stem and usually grow up canes or twine up to 6' (1.8m) in height.  

Determinate or bush varieties (left)

These are smaller. low, sprawling tomato plants that are great for growing in containers, hanging baskets or anywhere space is limited  

For more details on tomato types Grow at Home: tomatoes 

2) Choose the Right pot and soil for tomato plants

To grow great tomatoes you need great soil and enough of it.  Tomatoes have long roots and are heavy feeders.

So whether you are growing tomatoes in containers or in the ground you need between 15cm (6") and 30cm (1') of good, nutrient rich, free draining soil. If your soil isn't free draining then a raised bed or planter may be a better option for you 

The pH should be between 6 and 6.8 too - you can buy easy to use kits in Garden Centres to test the pH.  If your soil isn't the right pH then the plants won't be able to absorb the nutrients they need so you will need to add improvers to adjust the soil or go for a planter as above. 

(Now you know why so many people use grow bag planters!)

 3) Choose the right garden position for tomatoes 

5 tips for choosing the right spot for tomato plants - select a spot that is :- 

  1. sunny - tomato plants like 6 to 8 hours sun a day
  2. against a wall or fence to protect from wind damage
  3. but not against a hedge (too dry)
  4. in a raised bed, pot or planter to ensure the right soil
  5. in a well drained spot where roots won't get waterlogged 

4) Sow in pots - never sow tomatoes direct

Ever wonder why no one sows tomatoes direct into the soil?  Its not that they wouldn't grow - they would. 

But tomato plants grow new roots from any part of the stem buried in the soil.  So when you plant them out you can plant it deeper than it was in its original pot.  The new roots that grow will not only stabilise the plant but will mean they will require less frequent watering when its hot and not suffer as badly when its windy.  

5) Feed your tomato plants! 

Tomato plants are hungry! So, even before you plant your tomato seedling you need to prepare the planting site.  With a Tomato Planter simply buy the best vegetable or specific tomato compost that you can find. 

If you are growing tomatoes in the ground then dig your hole a little deeper than needed and put in a couple of inches of compost as a minimum.  You could also add crushed eggshells for calcium, a tablespoon of magnesium or Epsom salts to help with fruit production and even a couple of aspirin to ward off fungus.  Cover with a little more compost and then plant your tomato plant.  

Once they are growing you need an organic seaweed fertiliser to feed the tomatoes every two weeks and some more magnesium occasionally too. 

6) Support your tomato plants

The main reason for supporting the plants is to get them off the ground 

Tomato grow rapidly doubling in size in around 2 weeks once established. And then the plants get large! This makes both the stem and heavy branches prone to snapping before the tomatoes are ripe.  So its important to think about this support right from the start while planting. 

The least you will need is a bamboo canes or stakes and Soft Tie to attach the tomato stems.

You can also use strings attached up high to the greenhouse or frame so the plants can grow up them.  If using string then one technique is to wind it gently round the root ball as you plant so that it gets woven into the soil by the developing roots.   

But by far the easiest way is to use a Tomato Crop Booster.  This can be used over planters on a patio or on the plot and has adjustable bars that gently support the heavy tomato plants. It keeps both fruit and foliage off the floor where it would be susceptible to  pests and diseases. Check out this Video to see it in action 

Independent trials have shown that plants supported in this way give up to 30% higher yield of tomatoes. 

Failing all of that you can grow tomatoes upside down - find out how here!

7) Prune Your Tomato Plants

All tomatoes need enough space for good air circulation. They need to dry quickly when they get wet so fungus and diseases do not take over.  So the first rule is never prune when leaves are wet.

If you are growing determinant varieties then they aren't vigorous so need little pruning apart from to take out all the suckers below the first cluster.  But for indeterminate tomatoes careful, regular pruning is essential to get big juicy tomatoes. In general, more stems means more but smaller fruits so you will need to pinch them out.

Pinching out Tomato plants

Using thumb and finger pinch out any side shoots, or suckers, that form between the leaves and the main stem. If left alone, these suckers will produce flowers and fruit and drain the plants' energy.

8) Mulch your Tomato Plants
This means putting a layer on the soil around the plant stem.  This can be organic matter like grass clippings or straw or a sheet of plastic.  It serves a number of purposes:-

How to mulch tomatoes
9) Keep your garden clean!
Plant diseases can spread around your allotment or garden so it is important to keep everything that touches your tomato plant clean. That means anything that can carry diseases - your secateurs / scissors, hands, shoes and gloves. 

And keep the space around the plant clean too.  Pick off dead leaves and collect any from underneath that could attract bacteria and fungus, and cause diseases like blossom end rot and blight. 

10) Watering tomato plants

Arguably the most important one - regular water is important for growing great tomatoes that taste good and don't split.  

When to water tomatoes

Water in the early morning. There will be less evaporation and the plant will be set up before the heat of the day hits.

Water tomato plants deeply and consistently.
Tomato plants have deep roots so you need to water deeply.  The deeper the roots go the more nutrients they can access and the stronger your plants will be.

But, just as important is to keep your watering consistent.  Too much and you will get waterlogged tomatoes which will not taste good.  Too little and your tomatoes will split. So make it regular and don't let them dry out between watering. If the top 5cm (2″) has dried out then it is time to water again.

How to Water Tomatoes

Water at ground level (remember we are trying to keep those leaves dry)

So now you have all the tips head to our Grow At Home: tomatoes to see exactly when and how to plant them.  Today is the day!

If you have already grown your own then you may be interested in our 5 Ways to Ripen Green Tomatoes Blog  or if you can't be bothered with that, our tasty Green Tomato Chutney recipe! .   

Sarah Talbot