I’m so excited to share my 8 secrets to help you have success growing tomatoes of your own!
I just love fresh home-grown tomatoes, and over the years I’ve experimented and had both failures and successes with different processes.
But after about a decade of trying all the things, I’ve ended up with this list of tomato growing secrets that have been working great in our garden!
*This post contains affiliate links to products I know &/or love.
Tomato Growing Secret #1 | Pay Attention to the Varieties You Choose
Tomatoes come in two different categories:
Determinate – These are considered “bush” tomatoes and the plants grow only 3-4′ tall. The flowers blossom and the fruit ripens all at the same time. (This makes them really good for canning and preserving.)
Indeterminate – These varieties keep growing and producing fruit as long as the weather cooperates. Once they get a hard frost, they’re finished for the season. But until then, they can keep growing, easily past 6′ tall! (This makes them really good for eating fresh through the season.)
When you’re considering your individual varieties, they should always be marked with either of the categories above.
And depending on what you want to use them for, you might want to chose all tomatoes from one category or the other, or a combination of both!
My personal favorite varieties are:
- Mortage Lifter – Indeterminate
- Roma – Determinate
- Sungold Cherry – Indeterminate
- Sweet Million Cherry – Indeterminate
- Big Beef – Indeterminate
- Brandywine – Indeterminate
My Dad really loves and recommends the Early Girl (Indeterminate) variety, which I do love because they have a short growing season and produce quicker than other types!
These other varieties also grow and ripen quickly:
- Plum Tomatoes – Indeterminate
- Cherry Tomatoes – Indeterminate (Some types can be determinate)
- Sweet Pea Tomatoes – Indeterminate
- Grape Tomatoes – Indeterminate & Determinate
- Currant Tomatoes – Indeterminate
It’s currently too late in our season here to grow tomatoes from seeds, but if you’re looking for a specific type or variety to try next year, check out Territorial Seed Company – I love their seeds and have used them frequently in the past!
Secret #2 | Give the Root System a Boost
When you look closely at a tomato plant stem, you’ll see it is covered in fine hairs. Those hairs actually have the potential to become roots!
If you’re using “starts” or transplanting your own tomatoes grown from seed into the ground, pick one with a “leggy” stalk, and remove all of the branches leaving just the top 2-3 sets of leaves. Lay the tomato down on it’s side in a 4″ deep prepared trench (see steps #3-6) in your garden bed with just those few sets of leaves sticking up from the soil.
It looks funny, and feels kind of sad to feel like you’re rewinding the clock on all that growth, but have no fear!
This easy process helps you by investing in an incredible root system below the soil.
Tomato Growing Secret #3 | Add Egg shell Powder.
This is the first of the 3 amendments I add into my 4″ trench that my tomato plant will be laying down in.
I save our shells from whenever we eat eggs and once they’re dried, crush them in our blender and store the powder for this purpose!
I know some people who simply crush their shells into smaller pieces, but I’ve found that making a true powder helps with an even distribution and makes it more readily available to be taken up by the plant.
The egg shells contain calcium which helps protect tomato plants from getting a disease called “blossom end rot”.
I use about 1/4″ cup egg shell powder per plant.
Secret #4 | Add Aspirin
Aspirin is good for more than just aches and pains!
The salicylic acid in aspirin helps trigger the natural immune system response of the tomatoes – which means they’re ready and able to fight off disease more readily if they contract anything!
I also use my blender to crush the asprin down into a powder.
Aspirin can be dangerous for pets, so I always amend it well into the soil where it is not easily ingested. Some people do aspirin foliar sprays (on the leaves) of their tomatoes, but I prefer the in-ground method.
Tomato Growing Secret #5 | Add Wood Ash
We collect the ash from our fireplace and amend that into our tomato trenches, as well.
Ash contains potassium which is actually very important to various aspects of tomato growth like their ripening and their coloring.
Secret #6 | Water Heavily & Add Fish Fertilizer
Tomatoes LOVE a large drink of water once they’re transplanted. I’ve heard some people say to even do as much as 5 gallons of water!
I always add a bit of fish fertilizer (yes, it smells as bad as it sounds) to my initial watering once I transplant tomatoes.
If you have access to them, you can also use fish parts or bones straight in your trench.
Tomato Growing Secret #7 | Prune your Tomatoes to Encourage Fruit Production & Growth.
Before you prune your tomatoes, make sure to pay attention to which category they fall into.
- As a general rule, determinate tomato varieties do not need to be pruned.
- Indeterminate varieties should almost always be pruned.
The exact method you use to prune your tomatoes is up to you, and there are lots of different styles and tricks out there!
One thing I always do to my indeterminate varieties is to remove suckers!
Suckers are the new bits of growth at the joint where the branches leave the stem. (In the little “Y” made by the branch and the main stalk.)
You can safely remove all of these on indeterminate varieties, because all they end up doing is stealing resources (water & energy) from your fruit!
Clearing these away also keeps the inside of the plant and branches a bit more open for better air flow.
Tomato Growing Secret #8 | Support your Plants
Remembering that indeterminate varieties can grow 6″+ tall, you want to make sure you have a way to support them, especially once they start bearing fruit!
Some of my favorite ways to stake tomatoes are to use:
- 2×2″ wooden stakes with Reusable zippy ties.
- Homemade french tuteurs
Over on Instagram, I’ve been loving the pictures of the tuteurs that this community has been building! If you build some of your own, please tag your picture with #sheholdsdearlyinspired so I can see it and share it!
I hope you find this list helpful and have something new to try with your tomatoes this season!
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