Grow your best tomatoes with these expert tips!

2020-04-14T16:27:30-05:00Gardening, Vegetable Gardens|
  • red and green tomatoes on a vine

Know what you need

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.

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.

What about water

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.

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.


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.