How To Grow Tomatoes

how to grow tomatoesIf you want to learn how to grow tomatoes, you’re in the right place.

Since my friends kept asking me questions such as: “how to grow garden tomatoes?“, “how to grow tomato seedlings?“, “what is the best time to plant tomatoes?“, “is fertilizing tomatoes a good practice?“, “how to ripen a tomato?“, “do you know any how to grow tomatoes video guide?” or even “how to grow tomatoes indoors?“, I figured it would be more convenient to write a guide that will answer all these questions.

It is very likely that you ate something today with a tomato in it. Whether fresh in a salad, in a soup, on a pizza, or as catsup, tomatoes are ubiquitous in American cuisine.

The typical American consumes eighteen pounds of fresh tomatoes and seventy pounds of processed tomatoes every year. How a small green fruit from South America came to be an essential part of home gardens and cuisine worldwide is a fascinating tale.

By the time Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs in 1519, tomatoes were already an important part of their diet. He may have been the first explorer to bring them back to Europe. The earliest description of tomatoes in European literature appeared in an encyclopedia of plants written in 1544, where it was described as a new type of eggplant by the botanist Pietro Mattoli. Since then tomatoes have become a staple in backyard gardens. They are not difficult to grow, although they do present some challenges.

In this guide about how to grow tomatoes, I will discuss the different kinds of tomatoes available to home gardeners who want to learn how to grow tomatoes, and talk about the drawbacks and advantages of growing heirloom or hybrid tomatoes. Then I will explain how to grow tomatoes from seed the right way, and the basics of growing healthy, happy tomatoes. I will talk about steps that can be taken to prevent diseases and ward of pests when you learn how to grow tomatoes, and conclude with a short discussion on using your harvest. I learned how to grow tomatoes many years ago and have been growing some every year since. I consider tomatoes an indispensable addition to my garden. I hope you will as well after you learn how to grow tomatoes.

1. Types of Tomatoes

types of tomatoesThe typical vegetable gardening catalog has dozens of different tomato varieties, and it complicates the life of gardeners who want to learn how to grow tomatoes. They range from the smallest cherry tomatoes to the biggest beefsteaks. The color palette of the tomato section ranges from white to green, every shade of red, yellow, and purples that are so deep they are almost black. In spite of these differences, they are all varieties of the same domesticated plant species: Lycopersicon esculentum. Within this species there are four varieties: cherry tomatoes, pear tomatoes, potato-leaved tomatoes, and upright or compact-habit tomatoes. When you learn how to grow tomatoes, remember that all of these are relatively easy to interbreed with one another to create new tomato varieties.

A species called the currant tomato is a close relative of the domestic tomato. It is resistant to many tomato diseases such as verticillium wilt. Because this plant readily crosses with domestic tomatoes, it has been hybridized with a number of them to produce disease resistant varieties that you can use when you learn how to grow tomatoes.

When you learn how to grow tomatoes, the tomato varieties you can use fall into two general categories: open-pollinated and hybrids. Open-pollinated tomatoes are those that pollinate themselves without any assistance from insects or other pollinators. Open-pollinated tomatoes typically breed true. True breeding means that the seeds from any open-pollinated variety will produce plants that are functionally identical to the parent plant, and yield tomatoes that look and taste just like the ones from the parent plant.

Of course there is a good deal of naturally occurring variability when you learn how to grow tomatoes plants, and this is added to by self pollination. A plant that self pollinates allows for recessive mutations to be expressed more easily without being affected by the genes from another plant. Occasionally tomato plants from different varieties exchange pollen accidentally. This is how natural hybrids are created between varieties. Keep an eye on your plants to see if any of them are odd looking. If a natural hybrid has qualities that are desirable – new coloration, larger size, better flavor, at least some of the seeds from that plant will as well. When you learn how to grow tomatoes, as you breed successive generations of the original mutant, the desirable qualities will begin to breed true, and eventually all of the seeds carry the mutation, passing it on predictably to the next generation. When this happens, a new variety is created.

One of the most important natural mutations that occurred in tomatoes was the development of the determinate tomato in 1914. Before then, tomatoes grew on sprawling vines that continued to put out new shoots throughout the season until the plant was killed by frost. These plants would have tomatoes in various stages of maturity all through the season. In 1914, a plant appeared that grew in a compact bush, and ripened all of its fruits more or less at the same time. This was the first determinate tomato. Breeders immediately saw the value of this and began breeding the gene into other varieties. Now determinate tomatoes are the most common kind grown by farmers and gardeners.

Heirloom varieties have the benefit of being diversely shaped and colored, with striking differences in flavor and appearance. Heirlooms are nothing if not interesting in their aesthetic, not only in the fruits themselves but in the size and shape of the plant. Heirlooms will have a distinct, old-fashioned tomato taste and are typically bursting with flavor. Of course, one’s point of view will affect how they see heirlooms. One gardener’s interesting and idiosyncratic tomato is another gardener’s unpredictable, weird-looking plant. At the same time, it is difficult to argue with the delicious, aromatic flavor of an heirloom.

Heirlooms are more difficult to grow than hybrids. They are not as readily adaptable to local environmental conditions. They have often been bred to grow in a particular climate or location, and may not travel well. Heirlooms also have the drawback of not being as disease resistant as hybrids. As we will see in the section on disease and pests, a number of steps can be taken to help prevent disease in your plants, but be forewarned that heirlooms are more susceptible to them.

Hybrids will be more uniform in flavor and appearance, more disease and pest resistant, and able to grow well in more types of environments. However their uniformity is to some degree their main drawback. Hybrids will not have quite as strong a flavor as heirlooms, and they will not have wildly interesting colors or mottled appearances. But they are easier to grow. If this is your first time growing tomatoes, you may want to stick to hybrids for now, and then graduate to heirlooms once you are comfortable with the various challenges associated with growing tomatoes. If you do decide to start with heirlooms, it can be a good idea to talk with other gardeners in your area, or find a master gardener at your local conservatory or botanic gardens to ask advice on which varieties do best in your climate.

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2. Growing Tomatoes from Seed

how to grow tomatoes from seedTomato seeds are extremely hardy. If any tomato seeds wind up in your compost pile, you will find volunteers sprouting anywhere you spread the compost. Like the seeds of many other fruits, tomato seeds actually will sprout better if they have been through a digestive tract. Fortunately, however, tomato seeds will also grow just as fine without being ingested first. Tomatoes are relatively easy to start from seeds, although doing so is not without pitfalls.

If you are growing open pollinated or heirloom tomatoes, you can save your own seeds, provided you want to keep growing the same varieties. Because seeds from hybrid tomatoes do not breed true, as discussed in the last section, there is no reason to save them. Because you will only need one or two tomatoes from each variety of heirlooms you are growing, it is not a huge loss to save the seed. Furthermore if your varieties are uncommon or remarkable, saving the seeds and sharing them with others will be a huge contribution to maintaining the genetic diversity of the garden.

Let’s begin with saving the seeds. Look at your tomato plants as they start to bear ripe fruit, and select one that is both heavy with fruit and gives you a strong overall sense of robust health. Keep an eye on the tomatoes while they ripen. Choose one or two that look particularly nicely shaped and colored – what you think represents the ideal of that particular variety. These will be your seed tomatoes. Tie a ribbon on the stem so as not to forget and pick them for eating. When the tomatoes have come into their full color, pick them.

Wash the seed tomatoes under running water, and cut them in half horizontally. That is, slice through the equator, not from the top. This will expose the seed cavities, called locules, which should be bursting with seeds suspended in a clear gel. Gently squeeze them into a bowl or wide mouthed jar, and add about a cup of water. Stir gently to separate the seeds from the gel.

Let the jar sit uncovered for a couple of days at room temperature. The mixture will begin to ferment. You will be able to notice this happening because it will become bubbly and slightly smelly. It may also develop a bit of mold on top. This fermentation is important to kill any disease organisms that might be on the seeds. When the mixture reaches this point, immediately add a few more cups of water to the container, and stir it thoroughly. The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar. Carefully pour off most of the liquid, leaving the good seeds at the bottom. Add more water and pour it off again, repeating until you have cleaned off all of the scum.

Drain the seeds into a strainer with a fine mesh, or through cheesecloth, and rinse them under cold running water for three to five minutes. Spread them out to dry in a thin layer on a relatively smooth surface. Glass baking dishes work very well for this. Paper towels, newspapers, coffee filters etc. are not as good, as the seeds ten to stick to them, which will make it hard to remove them for storing. Don’t leave the seeds in direct sunlight when they are drying. Try to do all of this when the weather is dry; humid weather may cause the seeds to sprout before they have completely dried. If it is humid, run a fan near the seeds to keep air moving over them, which will help them dry faster. However you want to avoid drying the seeds to quickly, ans this could shrink the outer seed coat, and lower the seed quality.

Then, take a small envelope and write the name of the variety and the date you dried the seeds. Put the seeds in the envelope, and organize your seed packets in a small box. If you have a desiccant like activated charcoal or a silica gel pack, add that to the box as well. Store your seeds in a cool, dark, dry place. Generally, your seeds will be good for at least three years after you save them, and probably for much longer. The majority of them will germinate if they are planted within three years, though.

Depending on the variety, each tomato should easily provide you with somewhere between fifty and a hundred seeds, which is usually more than enough for the average backyard gardener. By comparison, store-bought seed packets typically have only twenty or thirty seeds. Saving seeds from your own garden provides you with the satisfaction of self-reliance, but at the same time most garden catalogs have seeds from so many varieties, including rare heirlooms, that saving them is not entirely necessary.

You should start your seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost date for your region. You should consider the timing of starting them carefully. If you start them too early, you can wind up with leggy transplants that do not grow enough foliage for proper fruiting. But if you start them too late, your harvest will be delayed, or even killed by the first autumn frost.

There are several schools of thought about which containers are best for starting tomato seeds. Some people prefer small pots, while others plant the seeds in flats. You can pretty much start your seeds in anything that has a hole in the bottom for drainage. You can buy special containers for starting the seeds, or use paper or Styrofoam cups.

An excellent method for starting seeds is to use biodegradable “Jiffy” pots. These are planting pots made of peat moss, which is completely compostable. These pots are available in two forms: preformed pots, and pellets. When water is added to the pellets, they expand into a combination pot and planting medium. Some varieties have fertilizer added as well. When it is time to transplant the seedlings, you can simply dig a hole and place the entire pot into it. This helps to avoid transplant stress; your seedlings will start growing well as soon as they are planted, and will be more resistant to insects and disease.

Another option is to use plug trays or pop out cells. These are trays that have a matrix of cells about one inch square and two inches deep. When it is time to transplant, the seedlings are easily popped out of the cells. These are excellent if you are planning to set a lot of plants, as you can raise as many as 72 seedlings in only two square feet of space.

No matter what kind of container you decide to plant your seeds in, the planting mixture is one of the most important factors to their success. Your seedlings will be vulnerable to a variety of soil-borne problems, so you have to make sure the mix is sterile. If you choose to use soil from your garden beds or compost pile, you should consider sterilizing it in your oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius). Spread the soil in a shallow baking pan and leave it in the oven for thirty minutes. You will want to open some windows while you are doing this, as the soil will fill the house with a somewhat earthy smell otherwise.

You can also purchase potting soil at a garden center, or select a soilless potting mix. Soilless mixes are made of sphagnum peat moss that is loaded with nutrients in a loose, lightweight mixture. To initially soak soilless mix before planting, fill your pots about three quarters full, and then press down on the mixture to compress it. Then, slowly add water, stirring gently while you do. Make sure the mixture is completely moist but not soaking wet. It should feel damp, like a wrung-out washcloth.

The next step is sowing the seeds. Use a pencil to make a hole about a quarter of an inch in the center of each pot. Drop in two or three seeds and lightly cover the hole with soil or potting mix. If you are using flats, scatter the seeds in a thin layer across the surface and then cover them with a quarter inch of potting mix. Use a spray bottle to water the seeds gently but thoroughly.

Be certain to label the pots or trays with the name of the variety and the planting date. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to remember what you planted, especially if you are growing more than one variety, or starting other vegetables as well.

Keep the containers evenly moist but not wet; you will probably need to water them every day or every other day. You also need to keep the containers warm; an optimal temperature during the day is 70 degrees F (25 C) during the day. The containers can get cooler at night. Leaving them in a sunny, South-facing window during the day should be satisfactory. If you are starting them on a porch or in a basement, you might consider purchasing an electric heating mat to place under the containers.

Typically the seeds will germinate in anywhere between two and ten days, depending on the variety, the environment, and the soil temperature. They will emerge in one or two weeks. The minute you see a tiny loop of stem beginning to poke out of the soil, you will want to provide the seedling with as much sunlight as possible. If you have South-facing windows, leave them there so they get at least eight hours of sunshine a day. Rotate the plants a quarter turn every day. This will prevent them from leaning toward the sunlight and getting leggy.

You may also consider growing your seedlings under artificial lights. Ordinary fluorescent lights will be fine for the tomatoes; you do not need to invest in a special grow light. Arrange the lights so they are only two or three inches above the tops of the plants. If the lights are farther away than this, the plants will get leggy. Leave them on for twelve to eighteen hours a day. You can put them on a timer to make sure they get uniform light every day.

By the time the seedlings are six weeks old, they should have sturdy stems, about as thick as a pencil, a few sets of true leaves, and a healthy root system. To avoid transplant stress, harden them off for about a week before you plant them. Carry your plants outside for a few hours, and leave them in a sheltered spot out of the wind and direct sunlight. Repeat for the next few days. After that, leave the plants out all day in partial sun for a few days. Bring them in at night if there is a threat of frost; otherwise, leave them out overnight.

A week or two after the last frost in your area, and when the seedlings have been hardened off, it is time to plant them. To reduce transplant stress, wait for a warm, overcast afternoon. If it has been a wet spring, make sure the soil is not too soggy. Too much water is very bad for your seedlings.

Tomatoes should be planted deep. Dig a hole that is deep enough to hold the entire root ball and the stem of the seeding up to the first pair of leaves. This is the secret to great tomatoes. Planting the tomatoes this deep makes them put out extra roots, and the true secret of great tomatoes is strong roots. Generally, the hole will be about six inches deep. Space the holes between two and four feet apart. Rows should be three to four feet apart.

Put a trowelful of compost in the bottom of the hole, and then place the seedling in the hole. If you used peat pots, plant the whole thing. Fill in the hole and gently tamp down the soil. Be careful not to compact the soil too well. Water the soil generously at the base of the plant. Stake or cage your plants early. This has the advantage of growing the plant up into the cage if you are using one, which is easier than trying to force a cage over a mature plant. It also helps avoid root damage from staking the plants too late. After the soil has warmed up, mulch heavily around the tomatoes with hay, compost, dead leaves, wood chips, or whatever else you prefer to use.

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3. How To Grow Tomatoes

3a. How To Grow Tomatoes With The Right Soil

growing tomatoesTomatoes will grow well just about anywhere, but they will grow best in rich, organic, slightly acidic, well drained soil. If you have been gardening organically for at least five years, the soil will probably be perfect for tomatoes. Otherwise you will need to do a bit of work to get the ground ready.

The ideas garden soil is loam. This is soil that contains a good mixture of sand, clay, and humus (see earlier guides for more about loam). One of the best additives to loam is compost. If you do not have your own compost pile, I strongly recommend you begin one. In the meantime, see if your local community garden or park district has compost available for gardeners. Usually the compost will be free.

You can check the acidity of your soil, preferably in the early spring or fall, with an inexpensive soil testing kit from your garden center. You can also contact labs online for testing and advice. Tomatoes, like the majority of garden vegetables, prefer slightly acidic soil, in a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. If your soil is to alkaline (or basic), you can acidify it by adding more organic material to it, such as dead leaves, peat moss, or sphagnum moss. If the soil is too acidic, you can add lime, bone meal, or wood ash. Either way, till the additions into the soil along with compost in the fall, and repeat in the spring.

3b. Water

Watering can be the trickiest part of growing tomatoes. Tomatoes need a good amount of water but not too much – too much water can result in cracked, swollen tomatoes. As a general rule, tomatoes need about an inch of water every week. For the typical tomato, that works out to about four gallons or ten liters of water a week. They will need more if the weather is particularly hot or dry. It is best if they are watered evenly all week, rather than getting a weekly flooding. It is also better to water them early in the morning, before the sun has burned off the dew. To decide whether the soil needs water, push a metal stake about six inches into it. Dry soil will be harder to push through than moist soil.

The goal is to water down to the roots without getting the foliage or fruits wet. Spraying the plants with a hose or sprinkler is the worst way to water them. It wastes water and wets the leaves and fruits. Shallow watering results in shallow roots, which means the plant will not grow well or stand up to droughts.

There are a couple of great ways to water tomatoes. One way is to sink a plastic or metal pipe into the soil next to the plant. You can also sink a half-gallon milk jug, upside down and with the cap removed and bottom cut off, into the soil. Fill these with water, which will slowly soak into the roots. You will only need to fill them every two or three days as well.

Another method is to bury a soaker hose beneath mulch along each row of tomatoes. These hoses are porous, and allow water to slowly seep directly into the soil. They are very efficient, lose almost no water to evaporation, and leave the foliage and fruits dry. These hoses are environmentally friendly, as they use the least water for the most benefit. Run them for about an hour every other day.

If you grow tomatoes in containers, you will have to water them far more frequently. Containers dry out very quickly, especially if they are hanging containers. In very hot and dry weather, containers may need to be watered as often as twice daily. Water them gently at the soil level to avoid splashing the foliage with water. See the guide to container gardening for more on this subject.

3c. Staking

You should undoubtedly stake your tomatoes – always. Staking keeps the tomatoes off the ground, where they would be susceptible to disease and more easily eaten by squirrels. It makes harvesting them far easier as well. Staking makes more efficient use of the space in your garden, because the tomatoes grow upward instead of sprawling across the ground. Furthermore, the fruit on a healthy tomato can weigh as much as twenty pounds (nine kilos), so without stakes to support it, the plant can fall over under its own weight. When this happens, the fruits are damaged, branches get broken, and the main stem can even be snapped.

There are many schools of thought on how to stake your tomatoes. There are single stakes, tepees, wire cages, trellises, and rings. If you have less than a dozen plants, any of these work quite well, and what you choose is up to your personal preference. If you stake, any plain sturdy stick will do; you can buy new ones at the garden center or dig around the garage to see what you find. Be sure to sink it firmly at least a foot into the soil, or the weight of the plant may pull it down. Then loop soft ties around the tomato. Do not use wire, twine, or anything else that may cut into the stem, as this will damage the tomatoes. Tie the tomatoes loosely. Tying them tightly will stifle air and water circulation.

A lot of gardeners prefer to use wire cages, which surround the plant and support it that way. Cages do not require tying or pruning, and the stems are trained through the wire for support, allowing you to easily reach in and harvest the tomatoes. If you are using soaker hoses and mulch, put them down before you put in the cages. Cages have the added advantage that when frost threatens, you can drape plastic sheeting over them to create temporary cold frames. Clip the sheets to the cages using clothespins. Cages are also better if you live in a particularly windy area.

3d. Pruning

Pruning is very important for healthy fruit yields. Prune away the side shoots (suckers) from the forks (axils) where healthy branches are growing off the main stem. Tomato suckers are rather obvious. The only time you are in danger of doing any real damage is if you cut off a bearing branch by mistake. Even then, you haven’t particularly harmed the whole plant.

If you do not get around to pruning your plants, you will still yield plenty of great tomatoes, but they will be smaller and harder to find among the foliage. Pruning makes the plants more manageable and results in bigger fruits, but be careful that you don’t overdo it. Tomatoes need plenty of leaves for proper growth. If you think the plant needs more leaves, just trim the suckers back enough to keep them from blossoming.

Even if you don’t prune all season long, toward the end of the growing season you should check your plants for small, dark clusters of green fruits and cut them away. They will not ripen before the first frost, and will drain energy and resources away from those tomatoes that will.

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4. Problems when Growing Tomatoes

4a. Disease

problems when growing tomatoesTomatoes are vulnerable to a variety of diseases caused by fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Prevention is the best solution to almost all of these diseases. It is best to take a twofold approach. First, choose varieties that are resistant to the most common diseases. There are lots of great reasons to grow heirloom varieties, but these are not very resistant to most diseases. Open pollinated varieties are much more disease resistant. Most hybrids are bred for resistance to the most common tomato diseases. In catalogs and on seed packets, the variety name of the tomato is generally followed by initials that indicate which diseases it resists. Here is what these letters mean:

  • A – Alternaria solani
  • As – Alternaria stem canker
  • F, FF, F2 – Fusarium wilt
  • L, St – Leaf spot
  • N – Nematodes
  • T – Tobacco mosaic virus
  • V – Verticillium wilt

The second important aspect of disease control is properly caring for your tomatoes. This is particularly true for watering practices. Wet leaves are a prime breeding ground for diseases. Keep the soil clean of plant detritus, mulch heavily, and take care not to use too much fertilizer. Monitor your plants carefully and remove any that seem diseased or sick. Rotate your tomatoes from year to year. Most diseases are able to survive the winter in your garden, which can make them very hard to get rid of. It is important to break that cycle. If you do not, the diseases will become worse from one year to the next. The first step is to uproot and compost all the dead tomato vines and detritus at the end of the growing season. This gets rid of a lot of hiding places. Rotating your plants from one bed to another is also very helpful, especially for nematodes. Planting a winter cover crop can also be very effective. Cover crops are planted not for eating but instead to improve the soil. The roots of cool-weather cover crops put sulfur compounds in the soil that help control disease. See the last part of the guide to vegetable gardening for more about cover crops.

4b. Pests

There is a battery of organic techniques that can be mustered to prevent and eradicate insects. Insects typically will keep one another in check in a balanced ecosystem, and this is the end result you should seek to achieve. Even the harmful insects, in low concentrations, help to keep the balance by attacking weakened or stressed plants, assisting in the survival of the fittest. Heavy infestations of harmful bugs on your tomatoes can be controlled by two main techniques: organic insecticides and repellents, and predatory insects.

Organic insecticides should be used as a last resort, as even they cannot discriminate between “good” and “bad” insects. They should be chosen depending on what is infesting your plants. Soap and water can be used to control aphids, spider mites, and other small pests. Garlic spray and cayenne pepper spray act as mild repellents to insects as well as mammalian herbivores.

Diatomaceous earth is available at garden centers, and it consists of the remains of ancient phytoplankton. Although it appears to be dust to the naked eye, it is in fact composed of thousands of razor-sharp diatom remains. The sharp edges lacerate insects’ exoskeletons and dry out their body fluids, causing them to dry from dehydration. Spreading it on your plot will help keep crawling insects away from the tomatoes. If you choose to apply diatomaceous earth to your tomatoes plot, be sure to wear a dust mask when doing so. To reiterate, like any insecticide it is nonselective, and will kill beneficial insects as well as pests.

The insects that act as your local police force should be protected and replenished when necessary. The garden where you have planted your tomatoes should provide conditions that attract and sustain these predators, but a newly established tomato garden may require their introduction. These beneficial insects include ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantises, spiders, dragonflies, and damselflies. Many of them can be acquired from online providers, and are generally inexpensive.

It is best to release these predators soon after you have planted seedlings, as this is when the plants are most vulnerable to aphids and other pests. Aphids are best controlled by ladybugs, which are available from retailers by the thousand. Read reviews about retailers to make sure you are buying from a trusted provider. Ladybugs should be released directly onto plants at dusk.

Green lacewings control a wide variety of pests, including aphids, thrips, spider mites, and caterpillars. They can be purchased as eggs or larvae, and should be released during the cooler part of the day, preferably at dusk. The larvae are voracious predators. Lacewings should be released several times during the growing season to establish a natural population.

You should also consider having at least one praying mantis watching over your tomatoes. These beautiful creatures will eat any insect they come across, and especially like to feed on caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. Praying mantis egg cases can be purchased online; they should be placed in the garden at dusk to hatch when ready.

With a balanced regiment of top predators policing the tomato beds, you should not need to apply insecticides, natural or otherwise, to them. Ideally, they will multiply to spread throughout the local ecosystem, improving the organic quality of the entire garden as well.

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5. Final Word

how to grow tomatoesI hope this guide has been enjoyable and informative. Growing tomatoes can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. If you have done well, you will have more tomatoes than you can eat in one sitting or even in a week! Everyone loves home grown tomatoes, so you can certainly give some away to your friends and family. But you will hopefully be picking tomatoes all summer long. It is best to ripen tomatoes on the vine, if possible. Green tomatoes can be picked and ripened indoors; if there are any still on the vine as the first frost approaches, you should do this. If you want to hasten ripening green tomatoes, place them in a brown paper bag with a banana peel. This will ripen them in a day or two.

I like to save my summer tomatoes a variety of ways so that I can enjoy them well into the winter. You can make and freeze tomato sauce for pasta and salsa for tacos. You can make sweet or spicy tomato chutney, which will keep in the fridge for months. You can make your own tomato catsup, which will keep for months as well. You can “sun-dry” tomatoes if you happen to have access to a dehydrator, or you can make them in the oven at very low heat. You can also can your tomatoes in ball jars. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as opening a jar of summer tomatoes in the middle of winter, especially when all the tomatoes available at the grocery store at that time are bland and flavorless.

Now that you know everything about how to grow tomatoes, you just have to get started!