The Best Way to Grow Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes


The heirloom tomato variety known as the Mortgage Lifter has an interesting past. Radiator repairman Marshall C. Byles began crossbreeding the largest tomato varieties when his business slowed during the Great Depression. Although he knew little about breeding plants, he produced the large Mortgage Lifter tomato plant that produces a pinkish red tomato that can weigh up to 2 lbs. each. The Mortgage Lifter tomato is an indeterminate variety, which means it produces tomatoes on a long vine over a longer period than bush or determinate varieties.

Step 1

Locate an area of the garden that gets six hours or more of full sun each day. Plant the Mortgage Lifter tomato plants as soon as possible after the average last frost date. Tomato plants produce tomatoes best when nighttime temperatures are above 55 degrees F. Mortgage Lifter tomato plants are planted 36 inches apart and rows should be 4 to 5 feet apart.

Step 2

Clean the area of all weeds and debris and pulverize the soil to a depth of 12 inches with a shovel and a hoe. The tomato roots can spread over a large area, up to 36 inches away from the plant, and up to 1 foot deep. Loosened soil helps the roots spread out easily to seek water and nutrients.

Step 3

Spread 1 inch of compost and the amount of granulated organic fertilizer recommended on the fertilizer container label over the planting area with a shovel or by hand. Work the fertilizer and compost mixture into the top 6 inches of soil with a hoe and rake the area smooth.

Step 4

Add a trellis, stake or other support so the tomatoes will not touch the ground when they begin to form on the plant. Using cloth or plastic strips to hold the tomato plant on the trellis, which helps support the plant without damaging the stem. The stakes, trellis or cages must be very sturdy to protect from wind damage. When building the trellis or other support, keep in mind that the Mortgage Lifter tomato plant can grow to over 6 feet long or tall. Tomatoes touching the ground will quickly rot and attract pests and disease.

Step 5

Plant the Mortgage Lifter tomato plants with 80 percent of the stem below the ground level. To plant correctly, plant at an angle with the the base of the root system no more than 6 inches below ground. Pinch off any leaves that will be below the ground level. Although the top of the plant will be at an angle after the dirt is lightly firmed over the stem and root base, it will correct itself and start growing upright in a day or so. Do not allow the Mortgage Lifter plants to dry out during the growing season. Tomato plants grow best if the soil is kept moist, but not wet, up to 8 inches deep.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Granulated organic fertilizer
  • Shovel
  • Hoe
  • Rake
  • Trellis


  • Hobby Farms: "Mortgage Lifter" Heirloom Tomato
  • Clemson Extension: Heirloom Vegetables
  • MSU Cares: Heirloom tomatoes add tradition, taste to gardens
  • Missouri Edu: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
  • NCDC: Average Frost Date Map
Keywords: mortgage lifter, heirloom tomatoes, gowing heirlooms

About this Author

Based in Rockdale Texas, Jim Gober has been writing garden-related articles for 25 years. His articles appear in several Texas newspapers including The Rockdale Reporter, The Lexington Leader, The Cameron Herald and The Hearne Democrat. He is a Master Gardener and Certified Texas Nursery and Landscape Professional. He holds bachelor degrees in English Writing from St. Edward's University and Finance from Lamar University.