Tomatoes are not simply the red, perfectly round, tasteless fruits you get from the supermarket. There are hundreds of heirloom tomato varieties available for the home grower, each with unique colors or flavors you may not be used to. Most tomatoes require similar growing conditions.
Almost all varieties of tomato are warm-season fruits and require planting at the correct time of the year for success. Tomato plants are susceptible to low overnight temperatures, says the Ohio State University Extension website, and require protection if the temperature goes below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomatoes prefer a mild climate, however, as temperatures over 90 degrees during the summer days and 76 degrees during the nights may cause blossom drop.
Tomatoes prefer a deep, fertile soil that is well-draining and has a lot of organic material. According to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension website, tomatoes grow well in a soil with a pH around 6.5. Soil is good for planting when it can be worked without it sticking to the digging material.
Tomatoes require a lot of fertilization, as they are heavy feeders. A starter fertilizer is recommended when the plant is transplanted. A complete soil fertilizer is required in the soil when the soil is prepared. One to 2 pounds of 10-20-10 for every 100 square feet will prepare the soil, says Oklahoma State's website. Once fruit appears, the Clemson University Extension website recommends using 1 1/2 ounces of 33-0-0 for every 10 feet of tomato row once fruit is the size of a quarter. Another application of fertilizer is required two weeks after the production of the first ripe tomato.
Some tomato plants grow large fruit, and the stalks also grow quite large, requiring the plant be supported with a stake or trellis system. This prevents the plant from falling over as the fruit develops. Oklahoma State's website recommends placing the stake into the dirt as the tomato is transplanted to reduce root damage to the plant. The plant requires tying to the stake or trellis at every 12 inches with a rag.
Tomato growers often run into problems with fruit production. Extreme temperature, dry soil, too much shade and excessive nitrogen are the main culprits, says the Clemson University Extension website. Sun scald due to direct sunlight in hot weather will damage the plant as well. Cold temperatures during fruit setting cause a condition called cat-facing, causing the fruit to be malformed and scarred. Tomatoes may crack during drought conditions.