Growing Tomatoes: Everything I Wish I Knew Before Starting


I made a lot of cub mistakes my first year grow tomatoes and I ‘m sharing all of them in my complete semen to harvest steer. Follow along ampere I contribution my cub tomato gardening journey !
Tomatoes with text.
This post is a little different than I ‘m used to sharing — as in there is n’t a recipe attached or any nutrition information to learn from — but I ‘ve learned indeed much in my beginning year growing tomatoes that I ca n’t keep the data to myself .
I ‘ve always wanted a big garden but until now have been stuck with unproductive container gardens and indoor plants. It ‘s easy to romanticize the theme of a big garden when you only have to water system several plants weekly.

This was the first year that I had adequate room in my yard to grow an actual garden, so I went at it full military unit. Tomatoes were my independent concenter because they seem like an “ easy ” start ( since then I have learned that they are somehow as easy to grow as they are complex ). I besides picked out seeds for broccoli, red onions and bell and cayenne peppers. I ‘ll reserve what I learned about growing those for another post .
In January I started planning the seeds I would plant in February. By mid-february I had a modest jungle growing on clear of my wash machine ( the only area in the house that the cats could n’t reach the plants ). Fast ahead to March and transplants are headed to the garden, and by August they are flourishing and still producing. Because, yes, I chose indeterminate tomatoes without actually knowing what that intend .
I learned a batch this temper and I made a crowd of mistakes, but somehow my tomatoes still thrived. Give them some water, healthy dirty and the hotness of the summer sun and they ‘ll grow. They ‘re fair like that .
I ‘ll contribution a few of the cub mistakes I made and how I plan to learn from them adjacent year. Let ‘s startle with choosing seeds .
side eminence : I am in growing zone 8A and I am by no means a garden adept. This steer is meant to serve as inspiration to try your own tomato garden. Check out your local county extension ‘s web site for specific garden advice for your region .
Raised bed filled with tall tomato plants.

Planning

Where you grow your tomatoes depends a batch on what kind of sunday your yard has. This was my beginning year in my house and I underestimated the size of the pecan tree in my neighbor ‘s backyard. It is adult. The shadows cover a fortune of the yard where I put my planters for a lot of the day. Oops .
Tomatoes need a batch of sunlight but I learned that they will distillery produce and do well with less than 8 hours of direct sunlight. My tomato plants ended up quite leggy due to the varying sun, but they still produced well .
What I learned: Visit the plot to where you plan to plant your tomatoes at different times throughout the day to see how much sunlight the smudge truly receives. Remember that surrounding trees have a lot less leaf in March than they do in July .

Buying seeds

Choosing seeds to grow was a bite unlike this year, what with seed shortages at major retailers due to an uptick in home gardening. thankfully I purchased my seeds at Lowe ‘s second in January — I am impatient !
The assortment was not bang-up. I went with a “ culinary tomato blend ” and “ grapeshot tomatoes ”. These were intelligibly mass-produced seeds that promised to be something, but I was n’t actually surely what that something was .
In planning for my hang garden, I went ahead and ordered from Baker Creek because they have a huge diverseness of rare and just plain fun seeds. There are besides reviews to show how well they grew for unlike gardeners. This is a courteous departure from choosing between the two to three varieties that the big base improvement stores have .
What I learned: Choose online semen catalogues for better assortment but do n’t fret besides much about choosing big box shop seeds. They are seeds, they will likely grow .
Image showing tomato seedlings and transplanted seedlings.

Starting seeds indoors

I grew my seeds in a Jiffy seed starting greenhouse ( see left trope above ). It took about ten days for the tomatoes to germinate. When they did germinate they very took off .
I do n’t have a good south facing window in my house so I purchased an cheap grow lamp ( this is the matchless that I used ). My seedlings ended up quite leggy, so I now know I could have done with two lamps .
The more I think about it, the less I feel that I actually needed to start my tomato seeds indoors. Georgia has a long develop season. It was a fun experiment but the accuracy is that the tomatoes grow sol cursorily outdoors that I think they would have germinated merely american samoa well outdoors in late March as they did indoors in February .
Plus, having a sow place indoors is a commitment. particularly since it was sitting on top of the frequently used desiccant .
What I learned: Growing seeds indoors is a committedness. next year I plan to start half my seeds outdoors and half indoors to see how they fare .

Transplanting

My indoor seed starts were very, very leggy. Like I said, they could use more easy than I gave them. thankfully leggy tomatoes are easy to fix .
When my seedlings were 6 inches grandiloquent I transferred them to cup and pint-size pots. I covered up closely half of hte tomato with dirt beause tomato stems can actually grow roots. Long legged tomato plants fixed !
I let these transplants hang out inside for another respective weeks, until I was indisputable the last frost had passed. Tomatoes do not like frost and I was not about to risk my month of seed parenting on an inevitable late-season freeze .
What I learned: Legginess in tomatoes can be fixed by transplanting. transplant seedlings to larger containers when their roots start to grow out of their initial containers .
Small tomato plant in raised bed.

Hardening off

This term was fresh to me when I started growing seeds but it is a very crucial step. Hardening off seedlings means lento acclimating them to the outdoor temperatures before planting them in the garden .
I transferred my 10 tomatoes plants to a cookie sheet so that I could easily bring them out to my porch. I hardened them off over a 2 week period because I was being very careful .
I started by taking them outside for 30 minutes, then 1 hour, possibly one hour again the next day, then a match of hours. It was easy to tell when the plants did n’t like what I was doing to them — they wilted up promptly ! That was my polarity to dial bet on the time outdoors .
What I learned: Do n’t forget your transplants outside while hardening them off. truly, set a timer and do n’t snooze it. Avoid direct afternoon sunlight at first gear because the seedlings are not used to such hard light up .
Cherry tomatoes on a tomato plant.

My garden

I grew besides many tomatoes. There, I said it. I got excited about the prognosis of growing my own seedlings and in truth went over board. This resulted in 10 tomato plants in a 6 by 3 feet raised bed and a few more disperse across bombastic containers and an ad-lib in-ground garden bed.

My dad visited in early February and built me two 6 by 3 feet raised beds using untreated cedar fencing. They are fantastic, but I will note that they were more expensive than I anticipated. One planter filled up with cow manure and raised bed dirt cost about $ 100 !
Raised garden bed filled with soil.

Raised beds vs containers vs in-ground

I decided to experiment with the tomato plants that didnt ‘ make it into the raised bed. I put two in distinguish large containers using the same soil. One near the raised go to bed and one up front so that the lone unlike variable star was the container .
In ground: I besides planted one tomato plant in a dirt mend that I dug up in my front yard. I will note that the plants I grew in-ground ( affixed with a few bags of constituent dirt and cow manure ) grew way better than evening my raised bed garden. I think this is because it was “ good ” land and the garden dries out more slowly, which accounts for my sometimes derelict watering methods .
Containers: Speaking of watering. Those container tomatoes did not do well at all. This is coherent with my former container tomato attempts. They need water therefore much more than the raised bed and in-ground tomatoes. In fact, they needed about twice day by day watering when it was 95 degrees out. That does n’t mean I did that, and they did not boom. Oops .
Raised beds: My biggest write out with the raised beds is that they needed supernumerary dirt about halfway through the season. Random holes appeare, thanks to friendly neighborhood squirrels and birds. Soil washed away due to dramatic rainstorms and an fanatic water hosiery. That being said, I would decidedly use these raised beds for tomatoes again .
What I learned: If you have good dirt you might have the best success with in-ground tomato plants. Yes, there are more weeds and yes, pests are more likely. But it ‘s less expensive and gardens are n’t brassy ! Plus, edible landscaping .
Two images showing tomato plants with and without cages.

Staking tomatoes

I did n’t think this through when I first base transplanted my tomatoes to the raised beds. “ Oh, how about two 24 inch tall cages on a copulate of the plants and the rest I can tie to a few sticks I found in the thousand ? ”
No. That did not work. As the plants grew, and oh did they grow ( as I write this they are at least five feet tall ), they started leaning from the system of weights of the tomatoes. What a mess, I could n’t even tell what was going on !
My neighbor saved the day with three old and rusted, but decidedly feasible, six feet improbable tomato cages from Tractor Supply. See the photograph above for before ( left ) and after ( right field ) staking. In early June I put these in my garden and the plants instantaneously went from horizontal monsters to a bit more control vertical monsters. At the advice of my neighbor I besides trimmed off around 20 % of the tomato limbs that were wholly out of operate .
I will say that I did n’t stake one of my tomato plants and rather let it vine over the edge of its container. It looks a moment angry but is producing all the same .
What I learned: You need to buy tomato cages, specially with indeterminate varieties. Buy large tomato cages, the tomatoes will probably grow into them and if they do n’t you will hush have great corroborate for the plants .
side notice : proper cut can prevent giant and gangling tomato plants. I recommend reading up on tomato snip if you want to avoid a jungle. I did not do much pruning this class, so I do not have any tips to share .
Ladybug on tomato leaf.

Pests

Let me start by saying I was indeed golden with pests. Raised beds do help with that, but even my in-ground tomatoes suffered very little from pests .
I had a brief bust with aphids in early June. I found aphid all over two of my tomato plants and promptly set to googling “ How do I get rid of aphids on tomato plants naturally ? ? ? ” because I did n’t come all this means barely to use an insecticide .
thoroughly news : a dim-witted mix of 1 teaspoon dish soap and 2 cups water in a spray bottle, applied liberally and daily in the good morning shade, wiped those babies away. I applied to every single flick on every individual tomato plant and it took some time but saved me from a set of disappointment .
side bill : The visualize above shows a ladybug on a tomato plant. Ladybugs eat aphids ! This one showed up around the lapp time that my aphid trouble resolved .
What I learned: Inspect your plants daily. Spotting a pest early can make or break that plant surviving. dish soap and urine are a amazingly effective discussion for aphids .
Three green tomatoes growing on a tomato plant.

Fertilizing and composting

I never got around to fertilizing my tomato plants. I probably should have but they did fine anyhow. I ‘ll try this future year .
adenine far as compost goes, I have a composter set up but the dirt is lone just now ready. I plan to use it for my fall garden .
What I learned: Use a mix of high quality organic territory and compost ( I used Black Cow manure ). I will decidedly try fertilzing and composting next year .
Yellow grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes in white bowl.

Harvesting

Like I said earlier, I chose indeterminate tomato plants. That means they keep producing until they die in the fall from frost. That means lots and lots of tomatoes, which is good but actually can end up overwhelming if you do n’t have a design for them .
I ‘d be lying if I said that I was n’t overwhelmed by the come of tomatoes my plants grew. Yes, I love it, but evening though I ended up with several pounds a workweek, it was never adequate to actually can the tomatoes .
I ‘ve been making one jolt of tomato sauce hebdomadally using a kind of “ culinary blend tomatoes ” and the grape tomatoes. otherwise I slice them up and put them on sandwiches. Having a batch of tomatoes means getting creative in the kitchen .
What I learned: You may not need as many tomato plants as you think. Start little — you can always add storebought transplants late in the season .
Red tomatoes carried in red dress.

Conclusion

Growing outdoor plants in a hobby garden is an equal balance of relax, rewarding, confusing and at times overwhelming .
I am still tickled every time I harvest a crowd of cerise tomatoes and add them to my dinner. It gives me a new sense of appreciation for the unvoiced, hard sour that goes into keeping our food supply going.

I hope this steer gives you the confidence to try growing your own tomatoes. I started out with very fiddling have and relied heavily on my county extension ‘s web site for advice. I recommend googling your city + “ county extension ” and “ gardening ” for more placement specific advice .
What ‘s in store for next year ? decidedly more tomatoes. credibly a bigger plat. And surely more plan !
In the entail time, I ‘ll be making cherry tomato pasta sauce on the regular !

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Category : How To

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