How to Grow Great Tomatoes

Buying Tomato Plants
Growing Tomatoes
Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

Nothing says summer quite like eating a rich-red, perfectly-juicy tomato straight from the garden. You just can’t beat their sweet, tangy flavor that pairs perfectly with all our staple summer meals – especially the ones that come fresh off the BBQ. Here’s how to grow your own at home:

Buying Tomato Plants

One of the most popular fruits (yes, fruits – not vegetables!) to grow in all of North America, tomatoes are incredibly easy to grow! But, with hundreds of varieties to choose from, the task can seem a little daunting. The trick here is to know what you’re looking to eat. Smaller tomatoes tend to be sweeter, whereas larger ones typically have a bit more tang and are made for stacking on sandwiches and burgers.

Once you’ve picked your type, all you need to worry about is picking the right plant. Look for tomato plants that are stocky. If they’re floppy or pale green when you pick them up, put ‘em down and keep walking!

Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are sun lovers and should be planted somewhere they get at least 6 hours of full sun – or at least somewhere where they will see the afternoon sun. They do particularly well in containers or raised beds, where the soil will always drain well.

As much as we hate when the wind whips around our hair and clothes, tomatoes hate it twice as much without any bones holding them together. If you have a spot in your yard that’s got a little more wind protection, they’ll definitely appreciate it. The best real estate is near a light-colored, south-facing wall that they can sunbathe against all day.

Nobody likes going about their day with water in their shoes, including tomatoes. Check to see if your soil is well draining by pouring some water on the surface to see how long it takes to drain. If it takes a while or just sits there in a puddle, you’ll want to amend the soil with high-quality compost to open it up a bit. For the best performance, you’ll want evenly moist conditions and regular feeding with an organic, slow-release fertilizer like Fox Farms Tomato and Veg or MicroLife ultimate.

While we may get worried that our transplanted plants won’t root into the soil, tomatoes are actually known for their ability to sprout roots wherever the soil touches their stem – making them an easy fit. To make the most of your plant, you’ll want to bury about one-third of the plant, so long as it doesn’t require taking off too many stems.

You’ll know your tomatoes are ready for harvest when they are a nice, juicy red that looks good enough to eat. If you’re working with a variety with a unique color, though, like orange or yellow, you’ll just want to ensure they reach an even coloring. They should also be nice and firm to the touch. Snap them off the stem, leaving an inch or two intact, and enjoy!

Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes

Many people picking out tomatoes for the first time are often left baffled and confused when confronted with one of the most common tomato questions: determinate or indeterminate tomatoes. What’s the difference?

Well, these terms are actually pretty simple. They’re just talking about the plant’s growth habits. Determinate tomatoes are those that don’t need pruning and pinching, and tend to grow in a bushy shape, these are more of your saucing varieties like Roma and San Marzano.  Determinate varieties set a lot of tomatoes all at once so there’s enough to process and store. Indeterminate tomatoes, like Beefmaster, Early Girl, and Sweet Million varieties, usually grow taller and need staking and pinching. They may require more work, but they will set fruit throughout the season.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Possibly the most popular tomatoes we see here in Houston, heirlooms are old-fashioned classics that have seen a rejuvenation of popularity in recent years. They offer just the most sensational flavor and you can even keep their seeds to grow new plants again next year, where hybrids often don’t reproduce well from seed.

Whether you’re a plucking them off the vine to pop in your mouth, chopping them into salads, or adding them to your sandwiches, sauces, or dips, everyone loves a good tomato. And if you’re looking forward to enjoying them fresh from your garden this season, the time is ripe to be getting them in the ground. Stop by our garden center today and find your perfect fit for your best summer dishes ever! Don’t wait or it will be too late!!! No worries though, in Houston we get a second chance with a Fall planting in August.

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