How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Tomatoes

In this article, we share a comprehensive guide to growing tomato at home.

Quick Guide Information

Common Name: Tomato

Scientific Name: Solanum lycopersicum

Family: Solanaceae

Plant Type:  Bush or Vine

Life Span: Annual or Short-lived Perennial

Time Till Harvest: 120 - 150 days

Light Requirement: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Optimum pH: 6.0 - 6.8

Tomatoes are a favorite amongst gardeners around the world. After all, no tomato tastes better than one grown at home. They are an essential ingredient to many of our cherished recipes and they are generally easy and prolific plants to grow.

They originate from Mexico and Central America where they were first domesticated, long before they ever made their way into European cuisine. Once brought to Europe, breeding efforts resulted in a grand array of diverse and unique varieties. While many varieties of tomato have been lost as a result of industrialization and urbanization, many continue to be cultivated and further developed in modern day.

All of these varieties of tomatoes fall into two main categories that are important to consider as a gardener.

+ Determinate varieties which are also known as bush tomatoes. These require no trellising and grow as medium to large bushes. These typically produce all their flowers simultaneously after roughly 90 days and thus produce a large simultaneous flush of tomatoes. After this flush, these tomatoes lose their vigorosity and are typically replaced by a new crop.
+ Indeterminate varieties are longer lived and typically have a vining growth pattern. These can grow as short-lived perennials in tropical and subtropical climates. Instead of producing simultaneous large flushes like the latter variety, these have a staggered flowering which results in the production of tomatoes little by little. 


Tomatoes are easy to start by seed and this is the preferred method for most gardeners. Seeds typically require temperatures between 15-29°C for germination which occurs within 5-10 days. They should be transplanted into larger pots within another 5-10 days if started in seedling trays.

Propagating From a Tuber

Plants should be put in the garden in spring after the last chance of frost. Avoid planting in an area where Tomatoes were cultivated in the past 2-3 seasons to reduce the risk of pests and disease that persist from the last crop.

Nutrient poor soils can be amended with 5-10 liters of well-aged compost, while cultivated soils that have been previously amended can do with 1-2 liters. Growers who cultivate in soils too rich in nutrients often experience excessive growth in foliage with less fruit production.

Traditionally tomatoes are cultivated with a stake that helps support the central stalk. Alternatively, a cage can also be used. Many growers prefer to train tomatoes onto a mesh trellis or wire fencing to help the tomatoes sprawl out easier.  Tie plants with special nursery twine, particularly elastic twines can be effective.

Most gardeners prune their tomatoes based on the belief that this increases final yield. This is typically done by removing “suckers” growing from the nodes. Gardeners typically leave 3-4 main vines for fruiting. While many people have success with pruning, and even deem it as mandatory, some sources suggest heavy pruning may actually not improve the yield.

Common Problems

Powdery Mildew and Other Foliage Disease - Fungal diseases on tomatoes leaves are not an uncommon problem. This is most common if you are experience wet and humid conditions for extended periods of time.

+ Avoid wetting leaves while watering, this is a common cause with sprinklers and other overhead irrigation.

+ Pruning can help increase airflow and evaporation from leaf surfaces, thus resulting in less moisture and dew on leaf surfaces. Prune during dry conditions to avoid further spreading fungal diseases.

Blossom End Rot - This is when the base of the tomato starts rotting. This is typically caused by the lack of calcium.
Tomato Mosaic Virus - This is seen by a mosaic like discoloration on the leaf surface. This can greatly reduce yield and productivity. There is no good way of treating this but be careful when handling the plant to avoid spreading it to other tomatoes and relatives.
Sudden Wilting and Death - This is common in tropical climates. This is typically caused by soil nematodes and is hard to treat. If you repeatedly experience this, consider growing in containers.

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