How to Care For Tomato Plants for Best Results

Taking care of plants, especially tomatoes are very rewarding and therapeutic. Here is everything you need to know about taking care of tomatoes.

A close look at a tomato plant at a clay pot.

It is common to get overwhelmed by caring for tomato plants. Other pests seem to desire them just as much as we do, they don’t like too much or too little water, and they are very prone to plant diseases.

I’ve made the mistake of trying to raise tomato plants without doing enough research, and being befuddled as to why they were having a hard time producing fruit! Once you learn exactly the things that tomato plants need, raising them should be a breeze.

This article will be focusing on how to care for tomato plants from seeds. We’ll look into which kind of tomato is most appropriate for you, how to love it properly, and how to save your seeds for next season!

Related: Heirloom Tomatoes | Types of Tomatoes 

Choosing Your Type of Tomato

I’ve never understood people who don’t like tomatoes — until I realized it was because they’ve probably never had a good one. When tomatoes are grown in hothouses in weird seasons and are pumped with GMO’s (aka most of the tomatoes found in grocery stores) they’re probably not going to taste amazing. The texture becomes mealy, the flavor unimpressive, and it’s overall an unpleasant experience.

This is a close look at organic ripe tomatoes.

It was always very frustrating never being able to find a good quality tomato, so I started to grow my own! The golden cherry tomatoes were sweet as candy, and the heirloom tomatoes came out with striking purple and yellow stripes.

Varieties of Tomatoes

Determinate tomato varieties are often referred to as “bush” tomatoes, since they don’t grow to be very large and die after their fruiting season. This is a great variety of tomato if you’re looking for one enormous crop.

Much of the time determinate varieties are actually semi-determinate, meaning that they are capable of vining (continuously growing) and will bear fruit up until the first frost of the season, but it won’t come back next season.

Amish Paste Tomatoes (semi-determinate): very few seeds, small body, long oblong shape, very juicy and meaty – great for sauces

Plastic bags of organic ripe tomatoes.

Celebrity Tomatoes (semi-determinate): hybrid, lighter skin, resistant to tomato diseases, very plump and round, robust savory flavor – great raw

A close look at someone picking out tomatoes from the market.

Marglobe Tomatoes (semi-determinate): hybrid, resistant to tomato diseases, large, sweet, juicy – great for sandwiches

A close look at a halved tomato.

Indeterminate tomato varieties are referred to as “vining” tomatoes, as they will continue to grow their stems as long as conditions are right. They will fruit whenever conditions are right, and they can continue to produce fruit season after season.

Their fruiting can be slightly sporadic, so if you’re not too pressed about reliability, indeterminate tomato varieties may be the choice for you.

Better Boy Tomatoes (indeterminate): I just can’t get over the name of this tomato. The name alone should convince you. They produce a very high yield, large, sweet, very juicy tomatoes – they’re good for everything, and pop up often

A look at a couple of tomato halves.

Beefsteak Tomatoes (indeterminate): pink or red skin with many small compartments for seeds, less sweet in flavor, good for stews

A close look at a couple of ripe beefsteak tomatoes.

Cherry Tomatoes (indeterminate): very small and round tomatoes, lots of seeds, they tend to be extremely sweet and juicy – amazing for salads

A bunch of cherry tomatoes.

Sweet Million Tomatoes (indeterminate): very small and round, lots of seeds, very sweet, they grow aplenty – amazing for salads

A look at clusters of sweet million tomatoes.

Caring for Your Tomato Plant

Now that you’ve chosen the type of tomato you’re looking for based off of length of life, flavor, and size, now it’s time to learn how to ensure they thrive.

Picky Planters

Tomatoes really like their own space. It’s a good idea to let them have their own little pot when you’re first planting them.

In order to develop nice and sturdy stems, they need to experience a little bit of wind. If you’re starting your tomatoes indoors, you can either brush their leaves a few times a day, or point a fan at it for 10 minutes per day.

If your house isn’t getting too much light, don’t be afraid to point a grow light at your tomato plant. It can handle up to 18 hours of direct light per day.

A look at tomato seedlings.

Restrict one seed to each seed pot, and keep them right next to a well-insulated, south-facing window for the first portion of their life. Once the first distinguishable set of leaves sprouts up, it’s them time to transfer your seedlings to their own 4-inch pots.

When transferring your seedlings to their new pots, don’t be afraid to put them quite deep into the soil — even so deep so that just their top leaves are showing. This way more roots will grow from the stem and create a stronger base.

Potted tomato seedlings next to window.

The Next Phase

They’re going to need strong, direct sunlight throughout their entire lives. Once they grow to be about a foot tall, they can be transferred to either the garden or their final size of pot. It’s okay to bring them a little closer together, but they still like a good amount of personal space.

When transplanting your tomato to it’s final home, it’s a good idea to mix the soil with some fresh and healthy compost. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and they’ll be thankful for the head start from the composts’ nutrients.

Small potted tomato seedlings by the window.

Tomatoes stems grow rather fast, and so they appear as healthy. It gets confusing when they sprout up but don’t bear any fruit! This is because they will not bear fruit until it’s warm enough. Once the soil and air temperature are nice and warm, the conditions will be right for fruiting.

Watering Your Tomatoes

Try to water regularly. As sensitive as tomatoes are to space and sun, they’re as equally sensitive about water. If you water them regularly and then miss a week, this can lead to a calcium deficiency which will cause the body of the tomato to crack and split. This isn’t detrimental to its taste, but it’s less aesthetically pleasing.

A close look at a healthy potted tomato plant.

Let the soil dry ever so slightly between waterings so that root rot isn’t developed. Tomatoes are particularly prone to this issue.

Once your tomatoes start to ripen, it’s time to slow down on the watering. This is because the tomato will then start to concentrate its sugars which will result in an extremely sweet and lovely tasting tomato.

Prune Prune Prune!

Here is another thing that tomatoes are sensitive to! It’s always a good rule of thumb to pick off leaves or stems that don’t look like they’re doing too well — in order to conserve the plants energy towards bearing delicious fruit.

Remove suckers (small leaves in corners of steams) that develop as they are sucking away energy, and won’t actually produce fruit or be able to photosynthesize that much since they aren’t getting too much sun exposure.

A close look at a tomato plant being pruned.

However, be careful not to prune too much! If you pick off too many leaves, that means there is less surface area available for photosynthesizing, meaning that there will be less sugar, and less sweet tomatoes.

Once the tomato is about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom foot of the stem. These are the leaves that will be most prone to growing fungus and other unfortunate tomato diseases.

Seed Saving

And there you have it! Hopefully by that point your tomato will be perfectly comfortable and willing to reward you with its irresistible fruit.

The seeds of a tomato are collected on a piece of tissue.

Saving seeds for next season is a very easy thing to do, and this process can be done with either determinate or indeterminate varieties.

  1. Pick one of your healthiest and loveliest tomatoes
  2. Save the seeds (still in their juice)
  3. Lay them out flat and let them dry out until a film a mold develops (this is fermentation food preservation!)
  4. Rinse the seeds, dry them, and package them away until next season!

FAQ

How should I support a growing tomato plant?

Tomatoes are very heavy fruits! Tomato plants will usually vine along the ground so that they heavy weight can be supported by the ground, but we often encourage them to grow up so that they aren’t as susceptible to disease.

It’s a good idea to use stakes to help support the tomato stems. OR  if you have an impressive set up, tomato vines do incredibly well if they’re hung from a trellis and the stems hang down and the fruit is hovering far above the ground.

Should I prune my tomato plant?

Yes! But don’t go crazy with it. Tomato leaves are what photosynthesize and produce sugars that will sweeten the tomatoes. Pick away leaves that are yellow, close to the ground, or aren’t getting enough sun.

Can I grow a tomato plant in a pot?

Absolutely, a tomato can spend its entire life in a pot. Tomatoes really prefer having their own territory, and so in some ways a pot may be a better option.

When are tomatoes in season?

Tomatoes will commonly bear fruit in mid-late summer, they produce when the air and soil is the most warm it can be.

What will help tomatoes grow?

Sun, water, and compost. When planting a tomato plant, don’t be afraid to incorporate a lot of compost. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and they will appreciate all of the extra nutrients.

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