Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Search posts:

How to Grow Tomato Plants

Posted May 16 2012 10:02am

Nothing evokes the taste of summer like a ripe, juicy tomato. Anyone who has ever tasted a tomato freshly picked from the garden will attest that these beauties have little, if anything, in common with their grocery store cousins. They are firmer, juicier, healthier, and much tastier. Want some home-grown tomatoes of your own but don’t know where to start?

It’s easier to grow tomatoes in your home garden than you may think!

Growing Tomatoes picture

Grow your own tomatoes!

Photo courtesy of

Here’s how:

Types of Tomato Plants

Native to South America, tomatoes found their way to North America during the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. Though perennial in their homeland, tomatoes are grown as annual plants in the United States and Canada. There are more than 7,500 different kinds of tomatoes. The following types are popular among gardeners and relatively easy to care for:

  • Beefsteak Tomatoes – Big, round, juicy tomatoes, ideal for slicing and adding raw to salads and pastas.
  • Plum Tomatoes – smallish, slightly-elongated tomatoes, these are good for making marinara and other tomato-based sauces. They have a slightly sweet flavor.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – These tiny tomatoes, no bigger than a SilverDollar, are good on vegetable trays with dip as well as garnishing salads and pasta dishes.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes – These increasingly-popular varieties of tomatoes are naturally-pollinated (not hybrids) and are generally organic. Many of these come from seeds originally collected generations ago.

Preparing the Seeds and Soil

Tomato seeds can be purchased at your local greenhouse or home improvement store rather inexpensively. Before planting your newly-purchased seeds, you will need to harden them. Hardening refers to getting your seeds ready for the unpredictable outdoor environment. You do this by setting the seeds in the shade (outdoors) during the day and bringing them back indoors once the sun has gone down.  The hardening process will take a least a week.

Tomato Seedlings picture

You can buy tomato seedlings if you don't want to grow from seed.

Also, before planting the seeds, make sure that the soil is ready. Cultivating the soil involves hoeing the dirt, adding compost, and clearing the area of weeds and debris. The most important step is adding compost because it improves the texture of the soil and makes it easier for the plants to receive moisture. Compost can be made from pretty much anything, but mulching lawn clippings, leaves, and leftover food together is a good starting point.

If you want to skip the whole soil hassle, you can also grow your tomatoes in an aeroponic vertical garden with no weeding or tilling.

When and Where to Plant Tomatoes

Tomato plants cannot tolerate frost, so wait to plant your tomatoes until after the last frost date in your area. Depending on where you live, that can range from early April to June. Plant your tomato plants where they will get full sunlight for at least six to eight hours each day. With less sun, you won’t get much fruit on your vines. Space your plants at least one foot to 18 inches apart and make sure that you have plenty of room. Tomato plants typically grow to be three to eight feet tall.

Tomato Plant picture

You can also grow tomatoes in a large pot.

Photo courtesy of

Planting tomatoes with onions, garlic and/or chives benefits both plants. Folk wisdom maintains that insects can’t smell the tomatoes over the pungent smell of garlic and onions. Carrots are also traditionally planted alongside tomatoes.

Caring for Tomato Plants

Tomatoes require regular watering and weeding. Most plants also benefit from staking, attaching the plant to a stick that’s been buried at least a foot in the ground. This supports the plant and keeps the fruit off of the ground where it is likely to rot.

Harvesting Your Tomatoes

Most tomato varieties mature in 55 to 75 days. Pick the fruit when the tomatoes are fully red, but before they begin to crack around the stem. Freshly-picked tomatoes should be stored at room temperature as they lose their flavor when refrigerated. At the end of the season, you can pick those last tomatoes when they are still green (before the frost destroys them) and ripen them indoors in a paper bag.

Harvesting Tomatoes picture

Harvest time! Make sure you have a plan for all those ripe tomatoes!

Photo courtesy of

Be sure to add a few tomato plants to your garden this summer. Come August, you’ll be enjoying freshly sliced tomatoes, tomato sauce and salsa–all made with tomatoes that you grew yourself.

Author Bio:

Elli is a writer for . She was born and raised in Colorado and now enjoys skiing, playing tennis, and hiking in the mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Post a comment
Write a comment:

Related Searches