Gardening

How To Plant and Care For Your Patio Tomatoes

The most popular fruit of the season grows best with full sun and well-nourished soil.

Growing and harvesting your own crop of patio tomatoes to enjoy is actually easier than you think. This much-loved, healthy fruit loves the warmer days of spring and will thrive on your patio with access to full sun and well-nourished soil. There are two types of tomatoes, indeterminate and determinate. Indeterminate tomatoes fruit continuously throughout your growing season, while determinate tomatoes will ripen all at once for a one-time harvest. 

WHEN TO PLANT TOMATOES

When you plant tomatoes depends on the weather, a general rule of thumb is to plant outdoors once any danger of frost in your area has passed and soil temperatures are around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the benefits of growing tomatoes in Grow Bags is the ease that they can be moved around. If an unexpected overnight frost is forecasted simply move your garden inside for the night. 

SOIL MATTERS

Providing healthy soil for your tomatoes from the start will impact your tomato season. Make sure you have well-draining soil. Tomatoes are heavy feeders so keeping your soil alive and thriving throughout the season is important. Tomatoes prefer acidic soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8.  

CHOOSE YOUR POT WISELY

Tomatoes have an expansive root system, so remember to place tomatoes in a pot big enough so the tomato plant receives enough water and nutrients throughout the growing season.

  1. For each tomato plant, you need at least 1 square foot or two gallons.
  2. Planting tomatoes in grow bags can help take some of the guesswork out of watering. Good grow bags are made of porous fabric which will allow air to circulate through the soil and excess water to drain.
  3. Grow bags also provide a healthy, convenient, and controlled growing environment for your tomato plants, allowing for healthier root systems and optimal growth conditions.
  4. The most important advice when growing tomatoes in pots is to make sure the container has good drainage so the roots will remain moist and not soggy.

HOW TO PLANT TOMATOES

When you are transplanting tomato plants there are several steps that will help ensure a successful season.

  1. Water the tomato plant well prior to planting. We recommend placing your tomato plant in a shallow dish of water so it can hydrate from the bottom up.
  2. Remove the bottom set of stems and leaves.
  3. Remove any tomato flowers that are on the plant. You want the plant to focus its energy on developing a robust and healthy root system, not focused on fruiting.
  4. Dig a hole 3 times as deep as the nursery pot it comes in. Most of your plant will be buried in the planting hole. The tomato plant will produce roots along the buried stem, this will encourage a stronger root system and sturdier plants.
  5. Remove any side shoots (leafy suckers). A sucker is a side shoot because it will sap energy from the main plant.

GROW YOUR TOMATOES IN A PLACE THAT ENJOYS DIRECT SUNLIGHT

Tomato plants require full sun, which means at least 6-8 hours per day between the hours of 9 and 3. Place your garden in a location that enjoys sunlight all day. Tomato plants love warmer temperatures (not hot, but warm). If temperatures soar above 90 degrees, provide afternoon shade so your plants will continue producing flowers and fruit. 

HOW TO CARE FOR TOMATOES

Water

  1. The key to watering your tomato plants is consistency. Water your tomato plants in the morning to provide hydration all day and to help ensure any damp foliage can dry out during the daylight hours.
  2. Water the soil, not the plant.
  3. When the temperatures are over 80 or the days are windy, you might need to water your plants twice a day. If your tomato plant receives too little hydration, the plant will wilt and weaken.
  4. Water your plants deeply, approximately 1-2” of water twice a week.

Trim

Trimming or pruning your tomato plants is often debated among master garners. The most important thing to remember is to only prune indeterminate varieties, which produce continuously through the growing season. The reason you prune is to improve airflow and help produce bigger fruit due to more light which will direct energy toward creating and ripening fruit instead of making more leaves. 

  1. Prune any branches off the bottom of the tomato plant that is touching the soil.
  2. Use clean garden shears.
  3. Locate and prune the suckers. Suckers grow in the “V” space between the main stem and the branches on your tomato plant. Suckers under a few inches can be pinched off with your fingers. For larger suckers, use a pair of clean pruners.
  4. Prune your plant when the foliage is dry.

Support

Some tomato plants will benefit from a support structure. Indeterminate tomato plants need the added support for the vining behavior and the weight of the fruit.

  1. Tomato cages are an option, choose a cage about 25 inches high for larger varieties.
  2. Bamboo is always an option. As the tomato plant grows, secure the stems with a piece of twine to support the growth.

Feed Your Plants

Feed your soil and that will feed your tomatoes.

  1. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, make sure to feed your garden soil weekly.
  2. Keep nutrients alive in your soil with a well-balanced soil amendment once a week.   Feeding the soil is the process of adding organic matter to improve the nutrient value of the soil.

How and When to Harvest Your Tomatoes

  1. The best time to harvest tomatoes is when they are a good size, fully colored, and have shiny, supple, yet firm skin.
  2. Ripe tomatoes will come off the plant easily.
  3. Feel the tomato, it should give slightly when you give it a gentle squeeze.
  4. Harvest your tomatoes in the morning before the heat of the day sets in.

Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops to grow and for good reason; this delicious fruit is full of nutrients, is fun to watch grow, and is relatively simple to grow.

Gardenuity

Recent Posts

GARDENING & MENTAL HEALTH

May marks a pivotal period dedicated to awareness around an often-silent struggle: mental health. Mental… Read More

1 day ago

Veggie & Herb Gardening: 3 Tips For Beginners

Starting your own vegetable and herb garden is more than just a way to bring… Read More

1 week ago

7 IDEAS TO TURN YOUR PATIO INTO A PLACE YOUR LOVE

There’s something undeniably enchanting about stepping onto a patio that feels like an extension of… Read More

1 week ago

A CITY GIRL’S GUIDE TO GARDENING

Gardening in the city can seem like a challenge, but it’s an incredibly rewarding one… Read More

1 week ago

What The Soil? | Understanding the Difference Between Soil And Dirt and Why Soil is so Vital to Our Way of Life

In everyday conversation, the terms "soil" and "dirt" are often used interchangeably, but when it… Read More

2 weeks ago

7 Tips and Tricks for Growing Basil in Containers

Basil is one of the most beloved herbs in kitchens around the world. Known for… Read More

2 weeks ago