How to Grow the Perfect Tomato


The perfect tomato is firm but slightly soft to the touch, and contains an equal ratio of sugar to organic acid. The quest to grow a perfect tomato can be simplified by knowing the color and growth habit of the variety you intend to plant. The fruit color can range from red to yellow and from maroon to white. A tomato plant also develops a determinate or indeterminate growth habit. A determinate variety grows to a fixed height and forms a compact shrub. An indeterminate variety grows continuously throughout the season and forms a sprawling vine.

Step 1

Start the tomato from seed indoors six to eight weeks before the average last frost date. Or purchase a seedling just before transplanting outdoors. Look for a sturdy dark-green plant, 6 to 10 inches tall. Avoid a stressed plant with yellow leaves, spots or aphids. Do not buy a flowering or fruiting plant, because it will not get much bigger.

Step 2

Prepare a planting site that receives at least eight hours of sun. A tomato plant requires well-drained and slightly acidic soil, so till compost into the soil to improve drainage and fertility.

Step 3

Dig a planting hole 2 inches deeper than the container's depth. Remove the tomato plant from the container, and place it in the planting hole. Backfill the soil until it is level with the leaves. Tamp to firm, and stake or cage indeterminate plants.

Step 4

Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around the plant a month after planting. Organic mulch, such as dried leaf clippings or straw, retains moisture and suppresses weeds.

Step 5

Check the moisture of the soil with your finger, and water as necessary. The amount of water a tomato plant requires depends on the cultivar, soil condition, growth stage and weather. Use a soaker hose to water the tomato plant evenly.

Step 6

Apply fertilizer to the plant when it is about 1 foot tall. Mix a solution of 2 tbps. 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer to 1 gallon of water, and pour it around the base of the plant. Repeat the application at the time of flowering, if necessary.

Step 7

Check a staked, indeterminate plant regularly for suckers, or the side branches that form in the joints where leaves join the stems. Pinch off suckers just beyond the first two leaves that develop. Do not prune a determinate tomato variety.

Step 8

Pick the tomato as soon as it reaches peak cultivar color and size. Apply slight pressure with your thumb to the spot where the calyx joins the stem, then twist the fruit off. Store your perfect tomato in a dark, warm area to ripen.

Tips and Warnings

  • Inconsistent moisture causes cracking, a condition where the skin tissue splits, and blossom-end rot, a condition where the skin turns black and leathery.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Pots
  • Compost
  • Stakes
  • Cages
  • Soaker hose
  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • Michigan State University Extension: Tomato Tip Sheet
  • This Old House: Growing Perfect Tomatoes
  • Organic Gardening: The Perfect Tomato Plan
  • Clemson Extension: Tomato

Who Can Help

  • Sunset: Your Perfect Tomato
Keywords: grow perfect tomato, tomato plant care, tomato compost mulch, fertilize tomatoes, prune tomato plants, tomato cage stake

About this Author

Renee Vians has been writing online since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism and language arts certification from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Her articles have appeared on eHow, Garden Guides and a variety of other websites.