Grow the Best Tomatoes

Published on
May 17, 2021 11:43:00 AM PDT May 17, 2021 11:43:00 AM PDTth, May 17, 2021 11:43:00 AM PDT

A good tomato is hard to forget. You know you’ve hit the jackpot in that first, juicy bite. All tomatoes have the potential to be great and some extra attention now will pay off big time come harvest. Set the stage for a stellar performance by this year’s crops with these tips.

Choosing Your Plants

Different Types

Choose your plants based on your growing space. Tomatoes are classified by their growth habits.

Determinate tomatoes, also called bush, will stop growing when they reach a specific height and most fruit will ripen about the same time. These are better for smaller gardens and great for decks and patios. They will require cages and/or stakes for support.

Indeterminate, or vining will continue to grow and produce fruit until frost kills the plant. They need to be planted about 4’ apart and require caging and/or staking for substantial support.

Look for the letters

When looking for the perfect plant you might have wondered what those letters on the tag mean (VFNT). They represent the list of common problems/diseases that the tomato is resistant to. The more letters, the better.


Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants 

Enrich the soil with Tomato Tone or Tomato Maker Fertilizer. Customers rave about how well their tomatoes perform when they use these.

Plant Deep

Make sure to plant your tomatoes deep into the ground. Tomatoes are one of the few plants you can safely plant deeper. Approximately one-third of the plant should be in the dirt and remember to pinch off the bottom leaves. They like rich, dark, soil with organic matter.

Prevent Blossom End Rot

These dark patches that form on the bottom of the tomato cannot be reversed. One of the causes is a lack of calcium. Spray your plants early with Rot-Stop liquid calcium blossom end-rot control.

Cover the Soil

Mulch blocks weeds, saves water and protects your fruit from soil-borne fungi. Adding it is easy! Spread a 2-3” layer of chopped weed-free straw, leaving 2” of room around the stem so water can reach the roots. This will also help prevent blossom end rot.

Watering & Feeding

Water Well

During hot weather, tomato plants need deep watering. Tomatoes are also less likely to crack when the soil is kept consistently moist. Water at the ground, never water overhead. Overhead watering can be a recipe for disaster. In the Midwest you can almost always count on humid, hot summers. Watering overhead causes the leaves to be wet longer and more susceptible to disease. Keep the moisture even. When the plant gets dry and then receives a lot of water it can cause the tomatoes to “burst” causing splits. A soaker hose works great for garden watering.

Go Granular

Earl May's Garden and Plant Food is formulated with a balance of nutrients for your tomatoes and garden crops. Unlike other quick release brands, Earl May’s is time released, slowly feeding vegetable plants the nutrients they need over a long period.


The secret to getting great tomatoes is to keep soil levels and temperatures from fluctuating and to add extra calcium. Cover the soil around your plants with weed free chopped straw and spray leaves with liquid calcium for best results. Pick tomatoes before they get mushy or soft and don't ripen tomatoes in the refrigerator.

Having other issues with your tomatoes? Check out How to Control or Avoid Tomato Blight.