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How to Grow Vine Tomatoes

tomatoe plant image by Coralie Palmeri from

Tomato plants produce an abundant crop of fresh vegetables throughout the warm months. There are many varieties of tomatoes available, but the vine types often produce more than one crop each season on larger plants than the smaller, bush-type tomatoes. Growing vine tomatoes in your garden requires planning and proper care throughout the summer. Otherwise, the large plants sprawl over the ground, become overgrown or break under their own weight. Training the tomatoes to a stake provides the support they need while also making the fruits readily accessible at harvest time.

Prepare a well-draining garden bed in an area that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Apply 1 pound of 10-20-10 fertilizer per each 100 square feet of garden bed. Work the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil.

Plant the tomatoes outdoors once the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit and after all frost danger is past. Set the transplants in the soil 1 inch deeper than they are at in their nursery pots. The University of Missouri Extension recommends spacing large-vined tomatoes 36 inches apart in rows 4 to 5 feet apart.

Insert a 6-foot stake into the ground behind each plant immediately after transplanting. Push the stake 10 to 12 inches into the ground approximately 5 inches behind the stem.

Water the bed thoroughly after transplanting, moistening the soil to a 6-inch depth. Water once a week, maintaining the 6 inches of moisture in the soil.

Tie the main vine of the tomato plant to the stake every 8 inches as the plant grows. Wrap a plant tie around the vine and stake, twisting the tie into a figure-eight. Place the cross of the figure-eight between the vine and stake to provide a cushion. Place plant ties above leaf clusters and stems so that the fruit is not stripped off by the tie if the tomato plant sags.

Pinch off side shoots and suckers as they form between the juncture of a leaf and the main vine. Bend these small stems to the side until they snap off. These suckers grow into new vines if left in place, making it difficult to train and maintain the tomato plant.

Apply 1 pound of 33-0-0 fertilizer per every 100-foot row when the tomato fruits reach one-third of their mature size. Work the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil between rows. Fertilize a second time two weeks after the first tomato harvest and third time one month after the second fertilization.


Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to the bed to help prevent weeds and to aid moisture retention in the soil.


Do not tie the main vine tightly to the stake. As the plant grows, the tie will sever the vine if the tie is too tight.

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