QUESTION

How do I get my tomato plants to produce more tomatoes?


curated by 1371 crowd contributors

We pulled together 14 of the most popular web sites to create this page, including www.hgtvgardens.com, gardening.about.com, www.vegetable-gardening-gnomes.com. We've organized their information into the most commonly discussed topics below, ranging from Tomatos - feeding to Tomatos - stakes and support. A total of 432 crowdworkers were involved during the process, of which 13 of them gathered the information, 419 of them organized the information by different topics, and 0 of them synthesized the information into this article.


Overview

Tomatos - feeding: This article summarizes the key points someone would need to know to successfully grow tomato plants. It outlines the soil requirements of a tomato plant, and the alternatives to traditional "cold-turkey" fertilizer application. The article describes how to effectively use compost to create a beneficial potting mix and then goes on to explain proper feeding practices for tomato plants.

Tomatos - pruning: To help your tomato plants grow, pruning is a very useful technique. This article teaches you how to prune. In addition, it goes over the benefits and advantages of doing so.

Maintenance and harvesting: Pruning will help increase the flavor and yield of the tomatoes. If unpruned, there is an increased chance of disease. Harvest the ripe tomatoes to relieve stress on the plant.

Tomatos - proper potting procedure: Tomato plants need specific conditions to grow the best. They need loose soil and a lot of room to grow solid roots, which will in time lead to bigger yields of produce. If you grow tomatoes in pots, you must be conscientious about being their sole source of food and water.

Weather and sunlight conditions: How to produce more tomatoes using the weather

Tomatos - growth advice: How to grow a tomato plant. Includes instructions on growing them outside or in a container. Great information about vining tomatoes.

Tomatos - stakes and support: When growing tomatoes it is important to keep them from harmful substances like insects and mildew. A good way to do this is to stake them and keep them off of the ground. You could also use a cage or trellis for your tomatoes


Tomatos - feeding

Tomatos - Feeding

This article summarizes the key points someone would need to know to successfully grow tomato plants.

Soil is the most important thing you can do to help your tomatoes thrive. Tomatoes are very hungry feeders. Enrich your soil beds with compost (either your own or purchased), dry timed release fertilizer, and the best amendment of all: worm castings. For every 50 square foot garden space, add 5 cubic feet of Gardner & Bloome compost, 5 quarts of Gardner & Bloome 4-6-3 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb fertilizer, and a quart of 100% pure worm castings.

We use a few applications of compost tea to get our plants off to a strong start.

Tomatoes take up nutrients best when the soil pH ranges from 6.2 to 6.8, and they need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients. To begin, stop giving them nitrogen-rich fertilizers cold turkey, including compost and manure.

To provide the major nutrients, mix a balanced timed-release or organic fertilizer into the soil as you prepare planting holes, following the rates given on the fertilizer label.

At the same time, mix in 3 to 4 inches of compost. The compost will provide minor nutrients and help hold moisture and fertilizer in the soil until it is needed by the plants. Or, in place of the fertilizer, feed your tomatoes with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food when planting and every couple of weeks during the growing season.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders – and even with the best of soil – they can certainly benefit from a little added nutrition. We use an application of our compost tea liquid fertilizer (See: How To Make Compost Tea) to give a good feeding to the plants.

Tomatoes are best grown in a good quality multipurpose or potting compost. Egg shells and coffee grounds…perfect for the compost bin – and your tomato plants!
If you have a wormery, mix in 10–15% worm compost to add nutrients and soil life.

The other amendment that should go into the planting hole is a handful of bone meal. Bone meal is a high-phosphorous fertilizer and is essential to getting a lot of tomatoes on your plant later.

Feeding tomatoes regularly is critical for a good yield. At the minimum you need a good liquid tomato feed, high in potassium (K).
Any tomato feed from a garden centre will do the job. But if you really want to push the boat out, check out Sea Nymph’s natural seaweed based feed, or BioBizz’s, BioGrow, which has added molasses to feed the microbes in your soil. I also add a 1in (2.5cm) layer of worm compost or manure (from the local city farm) to the top of my tomato containers about half way through the season. They love the extra nutrients and soil life this adds.

I also add a 1in (2.5cm) layer of worm compost or manure (from the local city farm) to the top of my tomato containers about half way through the season. They love the extra nutrients and soil life this adds.

Tomatoes are best grown in a good quality multipurpose or potting compost. If you have a wormery, mix in 10–15% worm compost to add nutrients and soil life. Egg shells and coffee grounds…perfect for the compost bin – and your tomato plants!

At the bottom of two-foot-deep planting hole, I like to put a fresh fish head. Raccoons or dogs will not dig up a fish head buried two feet deep. Don't bother to do this if growing in a pot or if you can't dig a two foot deep hole. The fish head slowly decomposes, feeding both nitrogen and calcium to the tomato plant.

Amend your soil beds with compost (either your own or purchased), dry timed release fertilizer, and the best amendment of all: worm castings. For every 50 square foot garden space, add 5 cubic feet of Gardner & Bloome compost, 5 quarts of Gardner & Bloome 4-6-3 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb fertilizer, and a quart of 100% pure worm castings.

Overly vigorous tomatoes can also be the result of too much water or fertilizer. Instead of using a high-nitrogen fertilizer, try something light, such as fish emulsion.

Tomatos - pruning

Tomatos - Pruning

To help your tomato plants grow, pruning is a very useful technique.

To help with air flow and water drainage, pruning up to 8' under each tomato plant is recommended. While this puts the plant under moderate stress, they actually produce more flowers and fruit in an effort to reproduce. By pruning away withered leaves and branches, you can rescue any unhealthy tomato plants.

Not only does pruning under the tomato plant improve its overall health, pruning foilage in the middle of the plant will increase air circulation and slow the spread of foliar diseases. It's recommended to prune away any of the foliage below the first flower cluster. In addition, pruning the leafy stems that grow below the flower stems will direct the plant’s energy into fruit production. Pruning tomato sucker shoots when they are young and tender is better than waiting until the it is mature and strong.
Stems or leaves that turn yellow during the growing season should be pruned away immediately.

When you prune a plant, you remove some of its leaves that make food. However, you also remove leaves that might provide shade to the branches with the fruit on them, increasing sunlight to the rest of the plant. This aids in the plant's ability to do photosynthesis.
Pruning can also minimize your risk of disease by removing any leaves or branches that touch the ground where disease can splash up on them. A properly pruned plant has a single-stem, presents all of its leaves to the sun, and has enough leaves to shade and protect the fruit.

Pruning tomato plants isn’t required; you may choose not to prune your tomatoes and still have an acceptable crop. Tomatoes require only sun, water, and nutrients to grow. However, pruning does enhances production – bigger, more plentiful, and more flavorful tomatoes

Go easy on pruning. Determinate varieties and set the bulk of their crop one at a time. Each plant will produce a limited number of fruit before ceasing production. Avoid pruning tomato determinate varieties or pinch back only suckers that appear below the first flower cluster, or you will reduce your yield.

Maintenance and harvesting

Maintenance and Harvesting

Pruning will help increase the flavor and yield of the tomatoes.

As your tomato plants grow, pruning will play an important part in flavor and yield. Pinching off the offshoots that try to grow in the "V" where the stems meet the stalk will direct the sugars to the stronger stems creating more blossoms and sweeter tomatoes.

After a leaf or fruit shoot has formed off the main vine, another vine will start to form at the base of the shoot between it and the main vine. It will look at first like little leaves. Pinch this off. That’s all there is to it.

Disease Prevention. If unsupported, un-pruned tomato plants spread into a horizontal position on the ground. Water splashes up on leaves, spreading fungi and bacteria. Plants become more susceptible to diseases like leaf spot and tomato rot. When you prune suckers, leaves stay drier and diseases don’t spread as easily.

Meanwhile, promptly harvest ripe tomatoes to relieve stressed plants of their heavy burden. Soak your tomato bed once a week, or every five days at the height of summer. Water directly on the soil, not on the leaves.

Tomatos - proper potting procedure

Tomatos - Proper Potting Procedure

Tomato plants need specific conditions to grow the best.

To grow really strong tomato plants, we recommend burying two-thirds of the plant's stem when planting. This crucial step will allow them to sprout roots along the buried stem allowing your plant to better find water in drought. Please note this deep-planting method is best for tomatoes (and tomatillos), not other vegetables.

Loose, uncompacted soil is a key component to the growth of tomatoes. The more you step in and around them, the more compacted the soil becomes and the less root growth will develop. Its is best to never step withing 12" of the ground right around each plant, to promote good root structure.

Finally, mulch the area around your tomatoes to help keep in the moisture and keep the soil at a moderate temperature. We like to use our compost to mulch about a 6' diameter around each stalk. This also provides nutrients for the plant as the compost breaks down and is watered into the soil. You can also use grass clippings, straw, or shredded leaves.

To help satiate the tomato’s desire for food and water, it’s best to grow all but the smallest varieties in decent sized pots – 10 litres (2.6 gallons) or more. A container with a water reservoir is a good investment for tomatoes. It makes watering easier and you’ll get higher yields.

For those who only have space for one small plant on an apartment balcony in a pot, try a dwarf variety or a cherry tomato. Pots should be at least 56 litres (15 gallons or a half wine barrel), and use only the very best potting soil. You may need to water pots every day when it's hot and fertilize once a week if you grow in a pot. Plants in pots cannot search out moisture and food, so you have to be their sole provider.

If planting in grow boxes you can plant them only 1 ½ feet apart.

Plant your tomato seedlings up to the first true leaves. New roots will quickly sprout on the stems. Additional roots garnish more fruit.

Weather and sunlight conditions

Choose a bright, airy spot.
Tomato plants need a lot of light and this needs to start as soon as your seedlings pop up through the soil. Tomato seedlings will need either strong, direct sunlight or 14-18 hours under grow lights. Place the young plants only a couple of inches from florescent grow lights. This can be done with direct sunlight, florescent lights or both. Plant your tomatoes outside in the sunniest part of your vegetable plot.

Devote a prime sunny spot, which will grow into a tall screen of green foliage studded with ripening fruits in mid- to late summer. You will need at least six hours of sun a day for most tomatoes to do well, and at least 8 hours of sun to bring out their best flavors.
You will need to stake, trellis, or cage the sprawling plants to keep them off the ground. Decide on a support plan before you set out your plants, then add that support directly after planting.

Tomatoes do best in a warm climate. Plant in late spring and early summer, except in zone 10, where they are a fall and winter crop.
Tomatoes love heat. Cover the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. Those extra degrees of warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes. A reader, David, wrote to say clear plastic works best. It "...lets the sun's energy through, and then traps that heat energy." It causes weed seeds to germinate and then fries them, so they won't come back.

We recommend that you give your tomatoes some afternoon shade in summer. They need some relief.
However, It will be almost impossible to grow your tomatoes completely in the shade, or with less than 3 hours of direct sunlight. With up to 5 hours of sunlight it may only be worthwhile to grow small or cherry tomatoes. If you have 5 or more hours of sunlight, you should be able to grow a large tomato.Unwittingly, some people plant their tomatoes up against a solid fence, which serves the nefarious purpose of blocking out several hours of precious sunlight in the morning or afternoon.

Every garden, even if right next door to each other, may have differing needs. Your tomato plants may receive fewer hours of sunlight than your neighbor across the street because of a tree shading part of your garden. You may not be able to grow a large tomato if you are too close to the ocean and get a lot of coastal fog. You might have to wait later to plant your tomatoes if you are at a higher elevation (even a slight elevation can make a difference). You may only be able to grow a tomato in a container on your deck because you don't have any ground to grow in.

Tomatos - growth advice

Tomatos - Growth Advice

How to grow a tomato plant.

Choosing tomato varieties can be confusing, but it’sreccomended that you plant a wide variety. Placing tomatoes in a vine makes good use of vertical space by going up. Support them well, using a cane, a tomato cage, or string. Secure the string to a hook about 4 feet above the tomato, and wind the string round the tomato as it grows . Eventually the vine will reach the top of the stake and grow beyond it.

Given proper attention, tomatoes can be very productive in containers. Each plant will give you several pounds of bright red, orange, yellow or even black fruits. Grow a few plants and you’ll have tomatoes coming from your eyeballs from August to mid October.

Tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems. It is important to note that you can either dig a deeper hole or simply dig a shallow tunnel and lay the plant sideways. It will straighten up and grow toward the sun.

To nurture the production potential of the tomato in containers, you need to remember that it’s a greedy plant. It needs sun, food and water – and does best with a generous amount of all three.

If you find that your plants didn’t produce a lot of fruit, they might need to be in a sunnier area. Experiment until you find the best place for growing your delicious tomatoes!

Tomatos - stakes and support

Tomatos - Stakes and Support

When growing tomatoes it is important to keep them from harmful substances like insects and mildew.

Give good support for your tomatoes. We use our home made stake cage, a blend of a stake and a cage all in one. However, if you live in a moist area where mildew or insects like slugs and snails may be a problem, or you have a small space to work within, then by all means stake your tomatoes and get them up off the ground. Most tomatoes work best with a 5- to 6-foot trellis, stake, or cage. Buy the largest cage possible or make your own from concrete reinforcement wire.

For the ties to attach the plants to the cages, use some soft cloth or green growing tape.

You will need stake or cage, trellis for plants to keep them off the ground.