23 Tips for Growing Great Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the top crops you’ll find in any home garden. There’s good reason they are so popular—there isn’t much that beats the taste of a fresh homegrown tomato. Plus, tomatoes are relatively easy to grow.

This site is packed with information on growing tomatoes. If you need to know it about tomatoes, it’s here. In fact, we aren’t going to beat around the “tomato” bush with this site. We’ll jump right in and start you out with 23 Tomato Growing Tips.

Gardening Tips for Tomatoes

Try these easy tips to ensure that your tomato plants produce the best tasting tomatoes!

1.) When preparing your tomato bed, add two pounds of horticultural corn meal to every 10×10 foot area. This will help prevent many fungal diseases that affect tomato plants.

2.) Adding two pounds of dried molasses to every one hundred square feet of garden soil will also reduce fungi, as well as providing base nutrients to the soil.

3.) Planting marigolds with tomatoes not only looks good, it helps reduce the number of nematodes in the soil.

4.) Plant a border of chives and basil around your tomato bed to reduce insect problems.

5.) Avoid planting potatoes near tomatoes. Potatoes can carry bacterial wilt.

6.) Use old panty hose to tie up your tomato plants if they need support. Cut the hose into two inch wide strips to avoid pinching the stems when you tie them.

7.) If rabbits are a problem in your area, tie small bars of soap to stakes scattered around your garden. Deer don’t like the smell, either.

8.) Always water tomatoes early in the day, and avoid watering from the top. A drip irrigation system is best; if you don’t have one, you can make a root watering system out of old cans with holes punched in the sides. Bury the cans up to their necks near your plants, and pour water directly into the cans so it will be released slowly into the soil at the roots.

9.) To prevent sunscald, keep developing tomatoes shaded by the leaves of their parent plants. If leaf cover is scarce, dry off exposed tomatoes after a sun shower, if you have a small garden.

10.) Make collars for your seedlings out of toilet paper tubes to discourage cutworms.

11.) Plant garlic near tomatoes to reduce fungi and improve the flavor of your tomatoes.

12.) Avoid planting near walnut, butternut, tobacco, and daffodils.

13.) Plant a trap for pests; sunflowers, carrots, broom corn, and broccoli are all good trap crops. Situate your trap crop on the opposite side of the garden from your tomatoes.

14.) Prevent fungal infections in established beds by lightly misting the soil weekly with a mixture of garlic and water. Don’t worry about the strength of the garlic; if you can smell it, it’s strong enough. Lightly work the garlic spray into the soil with a garden claw.

15.) Wait until the last possible moment to harvest tomatoes, to give them time to ripen on the vine. If you must harvest before ripening, ripen your tomatoes in paper bags in a dark, cool area; tomatoes don’t need sunlight to ripen off the vine.

16.) Provide adequate moisture throughout the growing season to avoid problems with cat-facing, splitting, and cracking. You’ll also end up with thinner skinned tomatoes if you keep them well watered.

17.) For larger tomatoes, pinch out some of the suckers that develop at the “V” between the trunk of the plant and the branches. Suckers will usually produce fruit, but the overall size of the tomatoes on the whole plant will be smaller if you allow too many fruits to set on one plant. Pinch out about half the suckers, and allow the rest to grow to ensure that your tomato plants are able to support the amount of fruit that develop.

18.) If you’ve had problems with slugs or snails in the past, place thin strips of copper around the edges of your garden beds. The copper will cause a chemical reaction with the pests’ slime, resulting in a nasty shock to them, but it’s harmless to pets, plants, and humans.

19.) If copper is out of your budget, you can deter slugs and snails with a thin line of salt around your beds, as well. Avoid salting directly under your plants, though, or you might kill your plants. If you’ve got the space to do it, making a border of rock salt around the outer edge of your garden will eliminate slugs and snails for months.

20.) Soils with poor calcium content can be amended by working crushed egg shell directly into the ground. Spraying diluted powdered milk onto tomato beds before planting can also help with calcium uptake, and may help prevent certain fungal diseases.

21.) Remove and destroy any plant that shows signs of disease. It may sound harsh, but many tomato diseases can’t be treated-only prevented.

22.) To reduce the spread of disease among established plants, provide adequate space between plants-at least two feet apart. You can grow tomatoes closer together if they’re staked and kept tied, but bush varieties need room to spread. Keeping air space between plants will allow you to inspect your plants more thoroughly, as well as helping eliminate the possibility of diseases spreading through contact with infected plants.

23.) Make friends with the local predator insects by planting habitat crops for them. You can also buy predator insects and attractants at many garden supply stores; lacewings and ladybugs are good choices if preying mantises scare you.

Above all, choose only healthy seedlings to start your garden with, and don’t be in a hurry to get started. Wait until all possibility of frost is past, and check with your county extension agent to find the “ideal” planting time for your area. Avoid trying to be the first person in your area to set out their garden; as tempting as it is to beat the rush, you might end up regretting it later when your tomatoes are killed by a late frost or you end up with “mutant” fruit from incomplete pollination. Take your time, do it right, and you’ll enjoy a bountiful crop of beautiful tomatoes.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

abu safiullah December 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm

We are planning to grow 500 Tomato plant in raised bed as our soil is rock and gravel. Each row is 2 feet for bed plus 3 feet walk way, so a total of 5 feet wide and about 100 feet long. We want to plant tomato plant every 1.5 feet apart.
We were thinking to use peat moss, compost, topsoil, vermiculite and any other product you suggest and mix it up and fill up the bed. And in the walk way fill it up with wood chip. The hight of the bed will be around 16 inches or so.
Here in Austin Texas in summer temperature around 95 to 100 degrees are very common. So holding the moisture is very important.
Your suggestion will be highly appreciated.
Please refer us to any publication in this matter.

A. Safiullah
Texas Produce Farm

lars December 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

@abu safiullah

I am a huge fan of the Square Foot Gardening soil recipe of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat or coir and 1/3 vermiculite. I’ve had very good luck with it up in Dallas. That’s very similar to what you are describing, so I think you are on the right track.

The biggest problem with growing tomatoes in Texas, as you know, is the heat. So it’s important to get your plants started as early as possible for the planting dates in the Austin area. That way you’ll get the maximum yield before it gets too hot for the blossoms to set.

I really like the book The Total Tomato by Fred DuBose.

You will also be interested in this method:

I also use Epsom Salt (described in that link above) and have had excellent results with it.

Tom Coleman March 5, 2011 at 7:07 pm

In planting seeds from your own tomatos, do they have to be dried for a certain time?

mark cliver April 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thanks!! We have recently planted a “garden” in our back-yard and have quite an assortment of veggies. The advice will surely help. M. Cliver 531 S.W. Prado Ave. Pt.St. Lucie Fl. 34983 Again, Thanks

Michael Schuster April 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I am having an issues with some tomatoes I started from seeds. Do you have any idea what these spots are on the leaves?

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