For strong, healthy homegrown tomatoes, home gardeners must use the best practices possible to increase the yield on every tomato plant. Tomato plants bought as seedlings offer a greater chance of success for the home gardener. You have lots of different varieties of tomatoes to choose from, such as early or later ripening tomatoes, large beefsteak tomatoes or sweet cherry tomatoes, tomatoes for making sauces or tomatoes for eating straight from the vine. No matter what the variety, the tips for the best way to grow your tomatoes remain the same.
Pick your tomato plant with care. Choose a plant that is as wide as it is tall, with lots of lower leaves; tall, leggy plants have not developed the amount of foliage necessary for later tomato production.
Choose a planting location that will get the most sun. Enhance the warmth that tomatoes love by placing reflective foil behind the tomato if it is grown near a fence or wall.
Prepare the soil. Tomatoes prefer well-draining soil, so add peat moss or vermiculite if necessary.
Strip off approximately two-thirds of the lower leaves from the tomato when planting. Place the tomato into the ground so that the bare two-thirds of the plant is underground. The plant will develop a strong root system from the leaf buds and will not be stressed from having to support upper foliage at this point.
Place a wire mesh cage around the plant to support future tomatoes and to avoid breaking branches once they are heavy with fruit. Or, use wooden or metal stakes on either side of the plant with string to tie the plant to as it grows.
Cover the ground beneath the plant with red or black plastic to keep the soil temperature warm until the hot summer temperatures develop.
Fertilize your tomato lightly every two weeks after the first blossoms appear. Use fish emulsion, compost tea or any fertilizer designed specifically for vegetables .
Water the tomato frequently during the first few months and less frequently after the fruit begins to ripen.
Remove the suckers that grow between the main stem and main branches.
Brush your plant with your hands two or three times a week to encourage the production of a hormone called cytokine. “In Praise of Tomatoes” author Ronni Lundy advocates this practice to promote strong plant stems.
Spray or dust the plant with a commercial product for disease or insects if needed.