How to Grow Tomatoes Organically

Overview

Organic tomatoes are ones grown without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Tomatoes can be grown in all parts of the U.S., but they are very sensitive to frost, so the trick is to plant your young tomatoes outdoors after the risk of a late frost has passed. When growing tomatoes organically, you can choose modern hybrids or older heirlooms. Heirlooms range in color from yellow, purple and green to the traditional red; some varieties are even multicolored. Although some people start tomatoes indoors and transplant them outside, you'll have much better luck growing them if you use young plants from a nursery.

Step 1

Prepare your tomato patch by digging down 12 to 18 inches and turning the soil. This should be done only after the risk of a late frost has passed. Be sure to dig up the roots of any vegetation that was growing there previously. Each tomato plant needs 3 to 4 square feet of space.

Step 2

Add a couple inches of organic compost to the tomato patch and break up clumps of soil with a hoe. The largest clump should be about the size of a pea. If your soil is very heavy, you may need to use your hands to break the soil down to that size.

Step 3

Smooth out the soil with a rake.

Step 4

Remove your young organically raised tomato plants from their nursery pots and dig holes about the size of the root ball. If your plants came in peat pots, plant the entire pot in the ground. Plant your tomatoes at least 12 inches apart, or as indicated on the stake included with the plants. The size of the plant and its root ball will depend on how early it was started in the greenhouse. Younger plants have root balls about the size of a softball; older plants will have larger root balls if grown in bigger pots.

Step 5

Place a stake in the ground next to the plant to help support it, and tie the plant to the stake.

Step 6

Add an inch or two of organic mulch, such as straw, leaves or dried grass, around the plant to keep the soil from drying out and to help control weed growth. Give each plant about a gallon of water as soon as it is mulched.

Step 7

Add a handful of organic fertilizer to each plant twice during the growing season. Growing seasons vary widely, depending on where you live. The growing season for tomatoes is generally defined as two weeks after the last hard frost in spring to the first hard frost in fall. How long this will be depends on your location and the annual variables in your local climate.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Organic compost
  • Hoe
  • Rake
  • Young organically grown tomato plants
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Organic mulch
  • Organic fertilizer

References

  • Maggie's Garden: Growing Tomatoes Organically
  • Tomato Gardening Guru: Growing Killer Tomatoes
  • Organic Gardening: Tomato Growing Tips
  • Texas Gardener: Growing Tomatoes Organically
  • The Daily Green: How to Grow Great Organic Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Planet Natural: How to Grow Tomatoes: Organic Tomato Gardening
  • University of Illinois: Watch Your Garden Grow: Tomato
Keywords: organic tomato gardening, organic tomatoes, growing organic tomatoes

About this Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.