Inside: Find great tips for growing tomatoes in your backyard garden. Enjoy fresh, delicious tomatoes right out of your own backyard with these tips.
Tomatoes are one of those crops that are fairly easy to grow in almost any backyard garden. With these tips for growing tomatoes, you too can have fresh, delicious tomatoes right out of your own backyard. Even if you have a small yard or very little growing space.
Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Your Backyard Garden
Below you’ll find all the tips I have to share about how to grow tomatoes. You can’t purchase a tomato from the grocery store that tastes as good as a homegrown tomato. And growing them at home isn’t too hard at all.
If you don’t have garden space you can grow them in a container on the patio or deck. You don’t need to have a big garden to grow delicious tomatoes, but if you do have a big garden you can grow a lot of tomatoes and preserve them for winter use.
Best Tomatoes to Grow
There are quite a few varieties of tomatoes you can grow. I read that there are about 700 of them currently. But there are a few things you want to consider when deciding which variety to plant.
Which tomatoes you grow can vary by a few factors. You want to consider how much room you have. Whether you have a support system for them and what you’ll be doing with the tomatoes.
Determinate or Indeterminate, How to Choose
The first thing to consider is if you’ll use supports or not. That will determine whether you want to grow determinate or indeterminate tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes usually stay around 2-3 feet tall. They will set the fruit and then the fruit ripens.
The indeterminate tomatoes will need support. They will grow, set fruit and grow more.
If you are limited on space or will be growing tomatoes in containers the determinate type will be a better choice. If you have more room and can deal with sprawling tomato plants by confining them on a trellis, in a tomato cage, or with staking, the indeterminate variety may be a better choice for you.
With determinate varieties, the fruit ripens in a span of two to three weeks. The indeterminate varieties can set fruit and keep producing until frost sets in.
Which Tomato to Grow, Paste, Slicing, Cherry or All Three
We always grow a paste tomato, a slicing tomato, and a cherry tomato variety. The paste tomatoes are good for cooking, canning, and drying. They are meatier with less liquid. Roma tomatoes mature in about 75 days.
Slicing Tomatoes are those big tomatoes that can be sliced and eaten as a meal themselves or added to a burger. If you have a shorter growing season the slicing tomatoes might be a challenge to grow since they take about 90 days to mature.
Cherry Tomatoes are those little tomatoes that you can eat right off the plant. There are many varieties available in many different colors. These are a little quicker to mature, about 70 days.
Heirloom or Hybrid
If you will be saving seeds from the tomatoes you grow you’ll want to purchase open-pollinated or heirloom seeds. Hybrid seeds can be grown and are good for disease resistance but if you collect the seeds those seeds won’t produce the same type of tomatoes the next year.
Best Location to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are sun loving plants. You’ll want to plant your tomatoes where they will get at least 6 hours of sun a day. If you are in an area with hot summers like in the south, you’ll want to plant your tomatoes where they will get a little afternoon shade.
Tomatoes can be planted in late spring or early summer in all zones except zone 10. In zone 10 they should be planted as a fall crop.
You can grow tomatoes in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers. If your garden doesn’t have a good area to grow tomatoes in, plant your tomatoes in containers.
Container tomatoes can do just as well as other tomato plants and can be moved to the ideal place in the garden for sun. 5-gallon buckets are great containers for growing tomatoes.
Indeterminate varieties need a little more room so plant them about 3 feet apart. Determinate tomatoes can be planted closer together at about 2 feet apart.
Tomato Planting Tips to Get the Best Growth
To get your tomatoes off to a great start and keep them growing you’ll want to follow these tomato planting tips.
First, you’ll need to decide if you want to trench your tomatoes in or dig them in deep. I use both techniques and they work equally well.
With either technique, you’ll want to add powdered milk and a banana peel to the hole or trench when planting. I’ve been doing this for years and it really does make a difference. Then after planting sprinkle a little more powdered milk around the plant.
Also when planting be sure to take off all leaves except for the top leaves and plant the stem in the ground up to the top leaves that are left. The tomato plant will be smaller to start but planting the extra stem helps to produce more roots on the plant.
Caring for Tomato Plants
Tomatoes grow really well when you have the right conditions. Make sure to add compost to your soil and loosen the dirt to about a foot deep or more if planting deeply.
Right after transplanting tomato plants be sure to water generously. Then after the tomato plants are established water about 2 inches per week. Mulching around the tomato plants helps to retain moisture.
Remove the tiny suckers that form in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t help produce more tomatoes and can take energy away from the plant.
It’s also a good idea to remove the lower leaves. Removing the lower leaves up to about 1 foot helps to keep the plant healthy and less likely for it to develop fungus problems.
If you feel your tomato plants need extra fertilizer, add it a week or two before the first harvest and then again in another week or two. I usually add an organic fertilizer near the base of each plant and work it in when needed.
Harvesting Tomatoes and End of Season Ideas
Depending on which type of tomatoes you decided to grow you may be harvesting a few tomatoes here and there or a bunch all at once.
If you planted determinate varieties your harvest will be close together over a few weeks. If you planted indeterminate varieties you can have a few ready to harvest over the season until the first frost.
I like to leave the tomatoes on the plants until they are fully ripened. My Grandma and Mom used to harvest them when they were orange, almost red, and let them ripen on the counter a day or two before eating. Either way, will work well.
If you come to the end of the growing season and a frost is coming soon, be sure to harvest all of your green tomatoes. You can bring your green tomatoes in and ripen them indoors. We do this every year with our green tomatoes.
Related Reading: Ripening Green Tomatoes Indoors
Saving Tomato Seeds
If you are growing heirloom or open pollinated tomatoes, you can save seeds to plant for the next year. Each year I keep seeds from each variety of tomato we grow so I can use the seeds for next years planting.
I’ve found the easiest way to save tomato seeds is when slicing the tomato, place the seeds on a paper towel and let them dry out. Then just peel them off.
I store our saved vegetable seeds in paper envelopes with the kind of seed it contains and the date saved on the outside of the envelope.
Related Reading: Saving Seeds for Next Years Garden
3 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes
Preserving tomatoes can be really easy if you’ll be freezing them. It’s an easy process and if you haven’t frozen tomatoes before you can see how I freeze tomatoes for soups, stews, sauces with this link. But freezing whole tomatoes can take quite a bit of room you might not have in the freezer.
The second way to preserve tomatoes is to dry them. You can see the whole process for how to dry tomatoes in this article. I like to dry at least half of our tomatoes each year. We eat most of them as they ripen but as we approach the end of the growing season the number of tomatoes we harvest can be more than we can eat. That’s when I’ll dry our surplus.
Dried tomatoes can be used in sauces, soups, and casseroles. You can reconstitute them in warm water for other uses. Or you can grind the dried tomatoes and add water to make tomato paste or tomato sauce for recipes. Dried tomatoes are really versatile and don’t take any energy to store them. Once dried they can be stored in a sealed bag in the pantry until ready to use.
Related Reading: How to Dry Tomatoes and How to Freeze Tomatoes for Soup, Stews, and Sauces
The third way to preserve your tomato harvest is to can the tomatoes. I’ve canned tomatoes in the past before I purchased my dehydrator. You can water bath can or pressure can tomatoes. You can read the full process on how to can tomatoes at this link.
Now you have tips for growing tomatoes in your garden, be sure to take the time to visit the other Tuesdays in the Garden bloggers tips for growing other plants.
This week Michelle is sharing how to care for an orchard. Angie is giving tips for growing scarlet runner beans. Diane has great ideas on how to grow parsnips. Jami is sharing her ideas for growing corn. To visit their pages all you need to do is click on the photo or links below.
What’s one of your best tips for growing tomatoes? I would love to have you share them in the comments below.