Today I want to talk about the best way to grow tomatoes. It’s getting to be that time of year when we are starting our vegetable gardens and tomatoes are usually one of the vegetables most popular in the vegetable garden. Growing tomatoes is the #1 crop for vegetable gardens in North America. Actually a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable but your garden doesn’t care if it’s a fruit or vegetable, they are awesome in any vegetable garden.
I grew tomatoes in our garden last year and canned them for the first time ever. During the winter we would eat some of the canned tomatoes and they were the best. It was like eating sunshine in the winter. Any dish I made that required canned tomatoes, my canned tomatoes made the dish much more tastier. If you want to know the best way to grow tomatoes, keep reading!
Different Types of Tomatoes
If you decide to grow tomatoes from seed, you will need to pick the variety you want to grow. There are different types of tomatoes; Is it for slicing, cooking for sauces, making a salad or eating slices like a tomato steak?
There are two kinds of tomatoes; determinate or the bush variety and indeterminate varieties and there are Heirloom seeds that can be a determinate or indeterminate variety.
Determinate or bush variety – only grow to about 3 feet tall. This type of tomato bush produces fruit all at once and are good for making sauces or canning when you want a bunch of tomatoes all at once. The bush tomato plant will still need to be caged and supported. Some bushes are good for container gardening too.
Indeterminate variety – will keep producing fruit until the end of the season when the plant is finally killed by frost. This type of tomato plant will get very large, up to 5 feet tall. When planting stake and cage this type early, fruit left on the ground are prone to disease. Indeterminate tomatoes are good for salads and sandwiches.
Heirloom Variety – Are generations-old seeds grown for there specific characteristics like color, shape, taste and texture. The heirloom varieties are organic and non-GMO
Pick tomato seeds that will work with your climate. I live in Michigan so I need to start my tomato plants indoors and find tomatoes that will be done by frost date. If you have hot summers find some varieties that are heat tolerant.
Tomato Types – Determinate
Beefsteak variety – has large and sometimes irregular shaped fruits. These are a tasty fruit and ideal for burgers, salads and just eating by the slice.
Roma Variety – high yielding and good for making sauces, salsa’s and canning, this variety is very fleshy and not many seeds. Ideal for container gardening or in the ground. Harvest at 76 days.
Standard Round – I’m growing a standard round tomato from seed. Produces 7 ounce fruits that are bright red with nice interior color, does well in unfavorable conditions, tolerant to cracking and strong disease resistant. Harvest in 80 days.
Tomato Types – Indeterminate
Cherry Tomatoes – I am growing the sweetie variety. Cherry tomatoes come in a size as small as a pea to the size of a cherry. They grow in small clusters on tall plants. The cherry tomato is very sweet and excellent for eating right off the vine or use for shih-ka-bobs and great size for kids.
Grape Tomatoes – I have a super sweet red grape tomato seeds I am planting. This is a sweet variety, not sure when the harvest is, it doesn’t say on the package. They will be ready to harvest when they turn red.
Hybrid SuperSauce Tomato – I am growing this hybrid from seed that I got from Burpee. It’s there own exclusive variety. I have never grown this variety before. The pack states it grows gallons of seedless sauce from a single plant. Fruit weighing in at 2 lbs per fruit and this plant will reach 5 1/2 feet tall, so stake and cage early for this one. Burpee states one tomato fills an entire sauce jar. Harvest is about 70 days.
How to Grow Tomatoes from Seed
If you live in a cool climate or just want to start your plants early, you can start you tomato plants from seed. Get a growing medium, small pot and put in some organic potting soil mix or a seed starting formula.
Place the seed in the soil about a 1/4 inch deep in individual containers.
Water the seeds with a spray mist bottle to not drowned the seeds. Keep moist, in a warm, well lit area. Seeds will start to germinate in 7 to 10 days at 70 – 75 degrees. Start your seeds 6 to 8 weeks indoors before planting outdoors.
Before just transplanting the plants into the ground, harden them off by placing them outside in a warm sheltered area and bring them in at night for a week, then plant in the ground after your free of frost, by spacing them 3 to 4 feet apart in a full sun location.
Once the plants are in the ground, make sure you have something to support or use tomato cages to keep the plant and fruit off the ground. This will help keep pests and disease away.
I started canning for the first time last year. I canned tomatoes and they tasted so good in the middle of winter. It was like tasting sunshine and improved every dish I made with them. I will be canning again this year.
How to Care for Tomato Plants
The most common issue for tomato plants is blight. Mold and residue from last years soil can produce early blight in your tomato plants that are constantly wet. Make sure to clean any fallen debris from the garden before planting and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. I think this is where people make mistakes by watering too much.
There is also late blight that can destroy whole crops in a matter of a week. It can spread really fast. Remove any infected plants before it spreads to the others.
Another concern is blossom end rot. This produces hard, brown patches on the tomatoes and is caused by too much nitrogen in the soil or uneven waterings.
Look out for pests! They like tomatoes too! Aphids, cutworms, flea beetles and horn worms can also affect your crops and worms are especially, they can eat an entire tomato plant in a matter of hours. There are natural and organic ways to rid of these pests.
When to Harvest Tomatoes
The time to harvest tomatoes is usually 60 to 85 days from planting depending on the variety you planted. I have planted some that will be done 70 to 80 days.
The determinate tomatoes will ripen all at one time, all within a couple weeks. This is usually a big harvest so be prepared to do something with them like canning, making homemade spaghetti sauce, marinara, salsa’s or making tomato juice.
The indeterminate tomatoes will ripen all season long, like the cherry or grape tomatoes. Just pick them off the vine and eat them when they are ripe. To help set fruit earlier, you can pinch off the tips of the main stems in early summer.
When do you know the tomato is ripe?
It has turned the color of ripeness on the vine. The red tomato is red, the pink tomato is pink, green tomatoes are green and yellow is yellow.
The entire tomato is in full color, not half color and half green, or any green. The tomato is full color. If you have the heirloom varieties, they ripen before they completely turn color. The heirloom tomatoes need to be picked before they look ripe.
Pick when the fruit is between firm and soft. Cherry tomatoes if left on the vine too long will crack. Also pick them before they look perfectly ripe. Cherry tomatoes are great eating from the vine.
The best way to pick a tomato is grasp a ripe tomato and gently twist it until it snaps off the vine or you can use garden clippers to remove the fruit from the vine.
I hope you found this information helpful. Just remember to plant tomato plants to go with your grow zone. Tomato plants can be started inside, as I have 4 different kinds started in my home right now, that I mentioned above. If you are starting seeds indoors, make sure to keep them moist and in a warm, sunny or grow light location until they can be planted in the garden or container outside.
Are you growing tomatoes in your garden?
What varieties are you planting?
Leave a comment below and let me know what tomatoes you are growing, I would love to hear from you!