The Best Way to Grow Large Tomatoes


Large tomatoes, such as the "Beefsteak" varieties, are popular for slicing onto barbecued hamburgers and other summer sandwiches. Large tomatoes take longer to ripen than smaller ones such as cherry and plum types, but they can be worth the wait. The Beefsteak varieties can reach 2 lbs. each and include such heirloom cultivars as Aker's West Virginia, Aunt Ginny's Purple and Brandywine. Hybrids include Beefmaster, Big Beef and Brandy Boy. All large tomatoes have the same growing and cultural requirements, so plant them as early as possible and enjoy them later in the summer.

Best Way to Grow Large Tomatoes

Step 1

Test your soil in fall or winter to determine its pH reading. Make certain the area where you plan to plant your tomatoes will receive at least seven hours of full sun every day. Tomatoes need a slightly acidic growing environment between 6.0 and 6.5, according to North Carolina State University. If your soil tests alkaline, which is above 7.0, add about 3.6 oz. of sulfur to every square yard of garden at least two months before you set out your tomato plants. Tomatoes also prefer silty or clay loam soil, so most soils will support your tomatoes better if you dig in at least 1 gallon bucket of any well-rotted animal manure or organic compost for every 5 feet of garden row.

Step 2

Set your large variety tomato plants into holes you have dug in your improved soil after the threat of frost has passed. Tomatoes prefer deep watering when the soil is dry, so it can help to create a shallow basin where you plant each tomato plant. Then when you water, you can flood the basin and your tomato will get the water it needs to set large fruit.

Step 3

Provide support for your large tomatoes, especially if they are an indeterminate variety, which continue sending out vinelike growth during their entire growing season. You can use wooden or plastic stakes, or simply tie your tomato plant's branches to a fence or arbor.

Step 4

Fertilizer with a balanced fertilizer having equal quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium only once while the plants are young. After they begin to flower and set fruit, cut back on the nitrogen. If you want, you can give your plants a low-nitrogen plant food, which will encourage blossom formation and a larger number of fruits.

Step 5

Control tomato hornworms by hand picking and squashing them. Spray your plants with insecticidal soap every other day if you notice ants, aphids, mealybugs, spider mites or whiteflies. Continue spraying until all signs of the problem insect are gone and reapply if they return. You can also hang yellow sticky traps, available at garden supply stores, if you have a whitefly problem.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not allow tobacco to be used near your tomato plants. If you are a smoker or if a smoker will handle your plants, be sure to wash your hands before you touch tomato plants to avoid introducing the tobacco mosaic virus.

Things You'll Need

  • Young tomato plant(s)
  • Well-rotted manure
  • Compost
  • Acidic soil
  • Trowel
  • Shovel
  • Supports
  • Nursery tape or cloth strips
  • Tomato fertilizer
  • Insecticidal soap (optional)
  • Yellow sticky traps (optional)


  • Tomato Growers: Tomatoes: Beefsteaks
  • North Carolina State University: Tomato Production Practices
  • Cornell University: Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Tomatoes
  • Organic Gardening: Tomato Growing Tips
Keywords: tomato plants, Beefsteak Beefmaster, gardening heirlooms

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.