This blog is all about How to Plant Tomatos!
First time planting tomatos?
Check out the TLDR blurb below. Come back for the rest when you have a few, or do your planning now. Tomatos are easy to grow. And if you mess up, who cares?!
Just try it. Growing food is cool. Gardening is gangsta, even.
Before you plant your tomatoes, you'll want to harden them off.
Check below for those steps. Let's start with some information you need to go shopping for a tomato to plant.
How long do tomatoes take to grow?
—>> Most tomato varieties take 60 to 100 days to harvest.
Tomatoes have a relatively long growing cycle and a late start date. For beginner gardeners, we recommend buying "starts" from a garden nursery.
What does a good tomato start look like?
Tomato plants are healthy when they're young if they are short and stocky with a dark green color. Straight, sturdy stems about the size of a Bic pen or a little thicker.
Here are some things to leave at the nursery when looking to plant tomatos:
- yellowing leaves
- long skinny or flimsy stalks
- flowers or fruits already in progress
When you buy it from a garden nursery, you want your little tomato plant to be short and stout with no flowers or fruits.
How to determine which Tomato to choose for planting:
There are two types of tomatoes, each including many varieties. Bush varieties grow to be about 2-3 feet tall and can be grown in containers. These are determinate tomatoes.
Vining tomato varieties are perfect in large gardens. Most Cherry and Beefsteak varieties are vining tomatos. Think, if you can buy it on the vine at the grocery store, it's an indeterminate aka vining variety. Indeterminate tomato varieties produce flowers and fruits all summer. Growing up, my mother planted so many cherry tomatoes that she barely had to feed me lunch!
A Cherry tomato is my spirit-plant. Snack size, juice-filled, pops of color that don't stop flowering and fruiting!
Here are some tomato planting tips:
Tomatoes are versatile plants. Plant tomatoes upright, upside down, or sideways! Many will find success in each of these scenarios.
When to plant tomatoes?
You'll want to plant tomatoes after the last frost date.
When nighttime temperatures remain above 50°F.
Check the last frost date link above, enter your zip code, and you'll have your average last frost date.
Plant your tomatoes 10-14 days after the average last frost date. Tomatoes don't like the cold. The first few days of harsh sun will be hard on a tomato if you don't harden it off first. It has a lot of adjusting to do to its new home. Plant in the afternoon. Or an overcast or cloudy day. This gives your tomato the best chance of providing a delicious bounty for your family.
How much space to plant tomatos?
If you're going with the hole method, give your tomatoes about 24 - 30" apart.
Indeterminates need more space since they keep growing until the first frost in the fall.
If you're doing rows, you'll want 5 or 6 feet between each. Then you can walk between rows to weed, water, fertilize, and harvest your tomatos.
If you're planting in pots, just one tomato plant per pot. Taller varieties will need staking.
—>> Before planting your tomatos, you'll want to water them throughly.
If you're planting in a garden, you can go for a trench with more than one, or a hole with just one tomato plant.
Dig your hole out twice as bid as the plant's root ball.
For a trench, you'll go about 6 " deep for 4" tomato starts. And you'll plant the tomato sideways with the top leaves sticking out. The trenching method is fun and works because tomatos are able to grow roots along the stem.
Here's more information about the tomato trench planting method from North Carolina State University.
Inside the hole or trench, you'll put some loose soil and water.
You'll want a mix of the existing soil, potting or garden soil, and compost. Might add some bonemeal and fertilizer. We use Osmocote. Mix it all up. Clip off the bottom leaves.
We're going to plant the tomato pretty deep.
- Add water to the hole.
- Put your tomato plant in there.
- Start covering with the extra soil mix.
It honestly doesn't matter if your tomato plant is upright or not. You can put it in sideways. The tomato plant will adjust and shoot its new growth up towards the sun.
You can even plant tomatoes hanging upside down, but you'll need a contraption. :)
- Use your hands or trowel to compact the dirt around the rootball.
- Add more soil.
- Compact with hand or trowel again to take up space.
- Finish with more of your soil mix.
How to water after planting a tomato:
Tomatos like to drink water at ground level. Tomatos are susceptible to some diseases and wet leaves are one thing that will invite the bad juju in.
How to Harden Off Tomatoes Before Planting
Whether you buy your starts from a nursery or you started your tomatoes from seed, you'll want to harden them off.
Hardening plants off is like how you acclimate a fish to new water. Fish can die if you shock their system by changing all their water in a flash. And this can happen to your tomato if you change its environment abruptly.
Gradual cold exposure allows your plant to toughen up.
Your tomato plant baby has spent its infancy indoors. Protected, with lots of light and little wind.
Allowing the plants to adapt to the new environment will help them produce fruit sooner. If you harden off your tomato plant, it won't be so stressed about the move.
Start to acclimate by bringing your plants out while it's nice. Some sun is okay. But all day direct sun will be very harsh. Plants get stressed, just like us. Bring them in at night for the first few days.
Increase the exposure to elements over the next few days. A little more sun, a little more wind.
Check your tomato seedings each day
Water when you are seeing wilting, or before if you can! The potting soil should be moist but not sopping wet all day.
When night temperatures are above 50°F, you can leave them out at night. After your tomato has survived the night in its pot a few times, it's ready for the garden.
Heirloom Tomato Seed Collection
from: Botanical Interests