“How Do I Grow Gorgeous and Delicious Heirloom Tomatoes?”
A tremendous gardening question! To answer it, I asked 5 dozen gardening experts on Twitter that are friends of mine to reveal their #1 tip when it comes to growing tomatoes.
Nearly 40 passionate gardeners participated and shared their best ideas for helping you grow amazing heirloom tomatoes in pots, bags, patio containers, raised beds, even milk crates! We have a variety of zones represented and several countries. This list of gardening experts is invaluable.
Here were the Top 10 Tomato Growing concepts that were raised, followed by each expert’s personal tips and their contact information so you can connect with them on social media.
- When growing heirloom tomatoes in containers, use gravel in the bottom for weight and drainage
- Use potting MIX, not potting soil along with peat, compost, and coconut coir
- Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of Epsom Salts in the bottom of the planting hole
- Blossom End Rot is caused by a lack of calcium and by irregular watering
- Sun scald is a problem when you improperly harden tomato seedlings
- Tomato cages, stakes and clips or ties are important to support the branches and the weight of the fruit
- Prune! Ignoring suckers can give you smaller fruit and imbalanced plants
- Hand pollinating may be required if your bee population is low
- Use manure tea and compost to put nitrogen back into your soil
- Know the difference between Determinate and Indeterminate varieties for height
If you have a great tomato-growing suggestion, or an old family secret to share, please make a comment below. This garden resource is perfect for sharing on Facebook and Twitter. You can share this on social media with your gardening friends!
40 Gardening Enthusiasts Share Their Top Tips for Growing Amazing Heirloom Tomatoes
Responses listed in the order they were received:
Alexis Watters https://twitter.com/BeanAndBeeBlog
My tip – pinch off the suckers. Keeps energy going to fruit production and keeps the plant a manageable size.
Ben Jones https://twitter.com/ThehortDoctor
I would say patience and warmth. Although seed can last a while they can seem to take an eternity to germinate. Providing a warm humid atmosphere will aid this process.
Melanie J Watts https://twitter.com/Caffinara
In zone 3 Start tomatoes indoors in March. Plant outside beginning of June or in greenhouse mid-May.
Richard Enriquez https://twitter.com/LostthePlot235
I’m not very good at all with toms, all I can say is eat ’em when they’re ripe!
(EDITOR NOTE: thanks for your candor Richard, I understand completely!)
Joel Karsten https://twitter.com/StrawBaleGarden
Grow tomatoes in soil contaminated with fungal spores from last year’s crop and they always get the BLIGHT, grow in straw bales and avoid blight!
Charles Dowding https://twitter.com/charlesdowding
Feed soil with 2-3 inches of mulch or compost then no need to feed, saves time. For earliness, grow Sungold!
Cindy Rajhel https://twitter.com/HomeGrownFun
Tip: “Breed a hawk from a caterpillar.” Help a tomato hornworm pupate into a moth! “Big Book of Home Grown Fun” out mid June.
Laurie Neverman https://twitter.com/CommonSenseIdea
Grow up instead of out for healthier plants, easier picking and more fruit in less space- learn more here …
Doug Oster https://twitter.com/dougoster1
One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid fungal issues is succession planting. After the first crop is planted find space for some more plants to be added to the garden every week, all the way until July first (zone 5). Dates will vary with each zone.
I first discovered the technique after some of my invaluable (wife’s favorite) ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato plants were crushed by a black cherry tree one year during a nasty mid-June thunderstorm.
There were three more scraggly plants in the greenhouse which were subsequently planted on June 15th. I’d never planted that late, but the plants loved the warm soil and air temperatures. By the end of the season, those plants were thriving as my earlier planted succumbed to fungal diseases. They both had the same weather from June 15th on, but the greenhouse plants didn’t go through the cold, wet spring outside.
When choosing plants for later plantings, go with varieties which are bred to put tomatoes on early. Cherry tomatoes, ‘Early Girl,’ patio tomatoes are all good choices. Each plant tag will be labelled with days to maturity. ‘Sungold’ for instance is 49 days from transplant. Planting it on July first will give the plant time to mature before frost.
Mulch to put a barrier between soil borne spores and the plant. Remove lower leaves, it’s farther for the spores to go. Grow lots of different varieties, each one deals with diseases differently. Hope that helps!
More Gardening Resources:
- How To Grow Gargantuan Vegetables
- 19 Things I Love About Gardening
- 10 Garden Bloggers That Are Fabulous
- Heirloom Seeds with Julie Slezak
- Urban Farming with Noah Herron
- Learning How To Garden
Andrea Hughes https://twitter.com/AlhramAndrea
Tip for tomatoes: Grow them in very fertile soil, & pray the weather isn’t a combination of hot & wet! … Or even cool and too wet. Don’t want late blight like last summer!
Katy Copsey https://twitter.com/katycopsey
Consistent water, don’t plant too early and fertilize!
Noelle Johnson https://twitter.com/azplantlady
Ditch the shade cloth & plant sunflowers alongside tomatoes to provide needed afternoon shade in hot, southern gardens.
Janet Cassidy https://twitter.com/janetcassidy
My tip is to plant more than you’ll eat so you have some to preserve. Canned tomatoes make winter easier!
Guy Ewald https://twitter.com/thecombatfarmer
Tomatoes need lots of sunshine for a great taste. Plant tomato plants where they can receive full sunshine for about 8 hours a day. Do not overwater, and have good drainage, because continuously watering will cause disease and eventually kill the plant.
Cheli Cuevas https://twitter.com/gildthegarden
My number one tip for growing tomatoes is feeding with fish emulsion. My tomato plants go crazy for it! Watch the video here
Annie Haven https://twitter.com/GreenSoil
Even watering and regular feedings of #moopootea this will help eliminate end rot and stimulate root growth to assure good bloom and fruit set.
Nell Foster https://twitter.com/JoyUsGarden
Bury your tomatoes a bit when you plant them, even up to the 1st set of leaves is okay. More roots will emerge that way making for a stronger plant which means more tomatoes. (My dad was a farmer & that’s what he always did).
Megan Phelps https://twitter.com/SeedsMulchWeeds
I would say, when choosing tomato plants, look for varieties advertised as having good disease resistance. Those are the only plants that ever do really well in my garden. I start tomatoes from seed, so it’s easy to pick varieties for disease resistance by reading the seed catalogs.
Mick Poultney https://twitter.com/mickpoultney
When planted ( indoors or out ) top dress with straw, this keeps in the moisture and warmth, also keeps the weeds down.
Sara Ward https://twitter.com/HenCorner
Tom Top Tip: germinate early, harden off slowly, support well & harvest at first sign of blight!
Adrianne Denise https://twitter.com/GettinNGarden
I’d say trim the stem! Keep them pruned to 1 main stem. 2nd choice top them off at your height.
Becky Godlasky https://twitter.com/FultonGarden
I plant tomatoes deeply once I’ve grown them from seed and gotten them to planting out in the garden. I dig the deepest hole, remove all the lower leaves, and let the plants put on tons of roots.
Johnathan Lenard https://twitter.com/gardenyoung13
Bury the stem and root system up to the top greens. Everywhere the soil touches the stem it grows roots
Christy Wilhelmi https://twitter.com/gardenerd1
My tip is this: Tomato hornworms are blacklight-reactive, so go out at night with a blacklight and you’ll find them easily.
Matthew Pottage https://twitter.com/Matthew_Pottage
They drink water, gobble food and worship the sun. Give them all in massive supply!
Tracy Blevins https://twitter.com/tracyblevins
As Bill once said he likes to plant tomatoes lying down. LOL. What he meant was we like to plant them in trenches. We like this to give them extra roots for stronger more productive plants. Click here for examples. … And also keeping photos & notes of your growing season. Here’s our Tomatoes for this season And here’s a link to our 2014 tomato varieties & how they did.
Shawn Studer https://twitter.com/BodyMindSoil
My #1 tip for growing tomatoes is to put a handful of bone meal and epsom salts in the hole when you plant tomatoes.
Aaron Dalton https://twitter.com/GardenofAaron
I only grow cherry tomatoes. If you let some cherries drop to the ground, the plant will self-sow and you’ll get free tomatoes next year! 🙂
Mark Gardner https://twitter.com/bughtriggarden
#1tip – remember to pinch out the side shoots and don’t let them dry out they don’t like inconsistency in the watering and talk to them nicely!
Matthew Robinson https://twitter.com/matthewtheplant
Ooo I have a secret mix for the compost I use that I just can’t share sorry but if you ever get to try one you will be blown away. But my tip for early crops would be to warm the water you’re using by keeping it in the heated glasshouse with the toms. This won’t shock them and as a result rate of growth will not slow but will accelerate. Hope that helps and happy gardening.
Jenny Bowring https://twitter.com/jennybowring1
Tomatoes – Plant deep and keep roots covered.
Scot Poirier https://twitter.com/gottagrowit
I have 3 #1’s, but this # 1 tip is do not water over the tops of the plant. Tomatoes are notorious for blights.
Kaz Brown https://twitter.com/LottieLandGirl
🙂 Ohh I don’t grow tomatoes! Have you got another question? Hehe
Leona Schroeder https://twitter.com/flowercents
Here’s my #1 tip for growing tomatoes: If you live in a blight prone area, grow your tomatoes under cover.
Jen McGuiness https://twitter.com/JenMGardens
I put calcium supplements (our store sells TUMS or a generic) in the soil next to the plant. It helps prevent blossom end rot.
Mary Schier https://twitter.com/MarySchier
My tip for growing tomatoes in the North is don’t plant them too soon. Early June is good. http://mynortherngarden.com
Andrea Leigh Ptak https://twitter.com/GreenQueenofMod
TIP: Aggressively trim unproductive stems/leaves to improve air circulation and flower growth.
Alexandra Campbell https://twitter.com/midsizegarden
I find tomatoes always do better in pots or bags than in the soil – we had blight one year & it’s hung around ever since. Pots only way round it as using new soil.
Karen Hugg https://twitter.com/GardenSeaStyle
For the Pacific Northwest, my advice is to give tomato plants as much sun and air circulation as possible. Don’t plant near a fence or under a tree. We’re too moist!
Robin Haglund https://twitter.com/gardenmentor
My #1 tip for growing tomatoes: choose varieties developed for your area. Click here.
Holly Baird https://twitter.com/HollisTomato
It is best to get tomatoes to keep tomatoes off the ground. This will increase your crop. You can use cages, stakes, or even tie string across the rows and the string will support the tomatoes.
Greg Carbone https://twitter.com/diyediblegarden
So here is the #1 tomato tip. Why is it #1? I believe it is because many people are struggling with cages and stakes and have not discovered the “cat’s cradle”. Tip – use the “cat’s cradle” method of tomato trellising to rein in fast growing, indeterminate tomatoes (ones that grow to the heavens). See this post to learn more.
Here is a video about my 4 Favorite Varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes
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Thank you to all my gardening friends for sharing their expert opinions and favorite tips on how to grow heirloom tomatoes, fight the blight, and enjoy tremendous toms!