How to Grow Tomatoes – Easy Step By Step Guide

How to Grow Tomatoes - Easy Step by Step Guide
How to Grow Tomatoes – Easy Step by Step Guide

In this post, you’ll learn step by step how to grow tomatoes in your garden. By following these simple steps, you can easily grow tomato plants from seeds.

Do you think growing tomatoes is a bit of a tricky task? You’re mistaken. Though these plants are prone to a few problems, you can successfully grow them in your home garden with proper care.

Let’s briefly explain how to grow tomatoes? Sow the tomato seeds indoors into the containers for a head start. Water and leave the container in a warm and dark cabinet. Seedlings will appear after germination. Keep the soil moist, not wet. Transfer seedlings outdoors when the temperature goes above 59oF (15oC). Fertilize after every 14 days (every two weeks). After 3 to 4 months, the fruits will be ready to harvest.

On the commercial level, mostly tomatoes are grown using artificial fertilizers. They are harvested before ripening and travel long distances to reach the supermarket’s shelf. They look nice on the store’s shelves, but they do not taste as good as homegrown tomatoes.

Homegrown tomatoes will enhance the taste of your salads, pasta, and sauces.

In this, how to grow tomatoes article, you will learn:

How to Grow Tomatoes From Seeds?
Step 1. Collect Tomato Seeds
Step 2. Prepare Containers for Tomatoes
Step 3. Prepare Soil for Tomatoes
Step 4. Planting Tomato Seeds
Step 5. Caring for Tomato Seedlings
Step 6. Transplanting Tomato Plants
Step 7. Caring for Tomatoes
Tomato Plant Pests and Diseases
Tomato Companion and Enemy Plants
Final Tips

How to Grow Tomatoes From Seeds?

Growing your own tomatoes is the healthiest and most satisfying option. You can enjoy different varieties of this veggie from your home garden.

A complete step-by-step guide on how to grow tomatoes in the garden and containers is explained below. Have a look to learn more.

Step 1. Collect Tomato Seeds

How to Grow Tomatoes - Tomato Seed Harvesting
How to Grow Tomatoes – Tomato Seed Harvesting

First of all, you have to collect the tomato seeds. There are two straightforward ways:

  1. Buy your seeds. You can easily purchase the common tomato seeds from any garden store or your local seed market. If you are looking for heirloom seed varieties, you can get them in reputable online seed stores.
  1. Harvest your seeds. Though there are several methods of tomato seed harvest, let’s discuss the two most effective ways:

Method 1:

This method takes a lot of time and effort, but it prevents the plant from seed-borne diseases in the next generation.

  • Scoop the seeds out of the selected tomato into a container filled with water.
  • Stir the mixture. This will clean the seeds.
  • Leave the mixture for 15 minutes.
  • Discard the fleshy tomato bits floating in the water
  • Pour the dirty water out.
  • Repeat the cleaning process again.
  • The seeds will settle at the bottom of the container.
  • Spread the seeds on a sheet of paper.
  • Let the seeds dry for a couple of days.
  • Carefully collect the dried seeds and store them in a cool and dry place.

Method 2:

  • Cut thin slices of tomato.
  • You can sow the slices that contain the seeds directly into the garden soil or container.

Pro Tip: Using Method 2, you will get a big cluster of tomato plants. Ensure to thin the plants early in the growing process (after the second set of true leaves appear) or cut the weakest plants at the soil level and discard them.

Step 2. Prepare Containers for Tomatoes

How to Grow Tomatoes - Containers
How to Grow Tomatoes – Containers

Container selection is an easy process. You can choose from specially made seedling trays to a homemade newspaper pot… Do people still buy newspapers…? My point is, you could make anything into a container. My favorites are simple plastic cups with drilled holes at the bottom.

Below is the list to help you choose the containers for your tomatoes, but don’t overthink it:

  • Seed starting trays
  • Cell trays
  • Flower pots
  • Peat pots

Or alternatively:

  • Plastic cups
  • Newspaper pot
  • Paper coffee cups
  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic milk bottles
  • Milk cartons
  • Or any other recycled container

Pro Tip: it is always recommended to start the tomatoes indoors before their actual growing season to give them a boost. So, select a larger container to reduce transplanting.

Step 3. Prepare Soil for Tomatoes

How to Grow Tomatoes - Soil Preparation
How to Grow Tomatoes – Soil Preparation

Next, you have to prepare a soil mix. Multipurpose compost is excellent for seed germination and seedling growth.

For container planting:

  • Take your chosen container with drainage holes for planting seeds.
  • Fill the container with multipurpose compost.

For outside planting:

  • Loosen the compacted soil.
  • Use multipurpose compost and mix it into the garden soil.
  • Use animal manure (chicken or well-rotted cow manure), and mix it into the garden soil.

Step 4. Planting Tomato Seeds

How to Grow Tomatoes - Planting Tomato Seeds
How to Grow Tomatoes – Planting Tomato Seeds

It’s time to plant the seeds!

  • Make a small hole in the prepared soil mix.
  • Overseed! Sow 2 to 4 seeds in one hole in the seed tray or container.

Pro Tip: the rule of thumb is that the depth of the seed should be 3 times the size of the seed.

  • Cover the seeds with the soil mix and water well.
  • Place the containers in a warm and dark cabinet.
  • Keep an eye on the soil mix in the container. If the soil is dry, water it, but avoid overwatering. The soil should be moist, not wet.

Step 5. Caring for Tomato Seedlings

How to Grow Tomatoes - Caring for Tomato Seedlings
How to Grow Tomatoes – Caring for Tomato Seedlings

Some seeds might not germinate. Don’t feel bad! It’s not necessarily your mistake. Some seeds might have been damaged or too old to grow.

  • The seeds will sprout in 1 – 2 weeks.
  • After the seedlings emerge, place them on the sunniest windowsill.
  • Lower the frequency of watering after the seedlings begin to grow.
  • Only fertilize if you were using garden soil to grow your tomatoes. Multipurpose compost has enough nutrition for your seedlings.
  • If the temperature does not fall below 150C (590F) for a week, tomato plants are ready to be transferred to your garden.

Step 6. Transplanting Tomato Plants

How to Grow Tomatoes - Transplanting Tomatoes
How to Grow Tomatoes – Transplanting Tomatoes

Transplanting Tomatoes into Container

If your containers are getting too small for your tomato plants and the outside is still too cold, transplant the plants into bigger containers.

  • Take a larger container with drainage holes at the bottom.
  • Fill the container with 50% garden soil and 50% multipurpose compost.
  • Place the tomato plant deeper into the container covering the stem with the soil mix. The roots will develop from tiny hairs on the tomato plant stem (Trichomes) and strengthen your plant.
  • Gently press the soil mix around the tomato plant.
  • Water the tomato plant heavily. 

Hardening off Tomato Plants

When your plants are big enough, and the temperature outside is not falling below 150C (590F), start hardening off your tomatoes before transplanting them outdoors. This will reduce the shock to your tomato plants when you change the growing conditions from indoors to outdoors. Gradually introduce your tomato plants to the real harsh world.

  • Start with 1 to 2 hours daily and gradually increase the time your plants spend outside. This process will allow your tomato plants to get used to the temperature fluctuation.
  • Slightly reduce the watering, but water your tomato plants if you see leaves wilting.
  • Skip the bad days. Don’t bring tomato plants outside if the weather is too harsh.

Transplanting Tomatoes Outside

The hardening-off process should take from 1 to 2 weeks. When you come to the point where your tomato plants can stay outside for the whole day, it’s time to transplant them outdoors.

  • Reduce the watering before transplanting. If the soil is dry, the plant will dislodge easily from the container. Minimum losses! If the soil is wet, it will be hard to dislodge the plant with roots intact.
  • Prepare the spot in the garden for your tomatoes. Dig a deep enough hole in the soil, considering that you will have to bury your tomato plant deeper than it is in your container.
  • Remove the lower leaves from the tomato plants. It is necessary to remove the bottom tomato leaves. If leaves sit on the soil for too long, they can catch a soil-borne disease and infect the whole plant. Don’t let the plant leaves sit on the ground!
  • Gently take the tomato plant out of the container. Don’t pull! Invert the container while holding the stem and the soil. Slightly squeeze the container sizes and then tap the bottom of the container. The tomato should slide out, keeping the root ball intact.
  • Place the tomato into the hole and bury it deeply to encourage good root growth. Ensure no roots are sticking out above the soil.
  • Fill the hole. Gently push down the tomato plant and fill the gap with soil. Press the ground around the tomato plant, ensuring the roots are not sticking out.
  • Water tomatoes heavily. Avoid wetting the foliage. Try your best to only water the soil.
  • Patience! Your tomato plants will look sad after transplantation. This is normal. Give your tomato plants a couple of days to get used to their new home.

Pro Tip: Keep a journal with the dates of sowing, germination, and transplanting. If something goes wrong, you can adjust the dates for the following year.

Step 7. Caring for Tomatoes

How to Grow Tomatoes - Caring for Tomato Plants
How to Grow Tomatoes – Caring for Tomato Plants

Well, you are not done yet! There is still a lot to do, but you are halfway there.

As your tomato plants grow in size and flowers appear, follow these final steps on how to grow tomatoes successfully.

  • Plant Support. As the plants grow in size, they will need support. Take untreated wooden stakes (2×1 are the best) of approximately 5 feet (~1.5 m). Hammer the stakes into the soil close to the plant. Use a garden rope to tie the tomato plants to the wooden stakes.
  • Plant Pollination. When the flowers appear on your tomato plants, they are typically pollinated by wind and some insects. Sometimes, with the lack of wind and a lack of insects, the flowers might fail to pollinate. They will not become fruit and will drop off the plant. You should gently shake your plants (once a week) if that happens. This will encourage the distribution of pollen. You can also use a soft brush and manually pollinate the flowers. For the best results, create a pollinator garden. [1]
  • Fertilize. Every 14 days (every two weeks), use organic liquid fertilizer for your tomato plants.
  • Topping Your Tomatoes. One month before the end of the season, top your tomato plants. This is done by cutting the top of the tomato plant stem. Doing this will divert the energy from plant and leaf growth into fruit growth. More fruit before the end of the season.
  • Harvesting Tomatoes. The tomato plants will be ready to harvest in 3 to 4 months after planting.

Tomato Plant Pests and Diseases

Tomato plants are strong and have a high tolerance to most pests and some diseases. However, there are a few that can become problematic. Read below to learn how to grow tomatoes when pests and diseases attack, how to prevent them and how to control them.

Tomato Plant Pests and Their Control

Aphids

How to Grow Tomatoes - Green Aphids
How to Grow Tomatoes – Green Aphids

Aphids are small sap-sucking insects. These insects feed by inserting sharply pointed mouthpieces into the tomato plant stem or leaf. They can vary in color, but the most common are green, black, and pink. [2]

Damage

These insects secrete a sweet sticky fluid called honeydew during the feed on plant sap. Consequently, black sooty mold grows, causing the yellowing of tomato leaves and stunt shoots.

Control

  • You can dislodge Aphids from the plant by spraying a stream of water into them.
  • If the above fails, use organic methods such as neem oil or garlic extract spray.

Pro Tip: Do not destroy mummified aphids (cream in color, bloated, no movement). This is a sign of Aphidius Wasp larva that will hatch and further control the Aphid population.

Read more about aphids in “Aphids – Identification and Control

Whiteflies

How to Grow Tomatoes - Whiteflies
How to Grow Tomatoes – Whiteflies

Whiteflies are triangular-shaped, small, winged insects with a 1mm to 2mm body length. They are easily identified due to their white color. Whiteflies have sucking mouthparts and feed on plant sap.

Damage

During the feed, Whiteflies introduce toxic saliva into the plant leaves. They also secrete honeydew that encourages sooty mold growth. Their feeding will make the leaves yellow and weaken the plants.

Control

  • Avoid the use of pesticides! In most cases, the cause of Whiteflies outbreaks is caused by killing beneficial insects with pesticides.
  • Whiteflies have a lot of predators, so attract beneficial insects such as Ladybugs, Lacewings, Damsel Bugs, Parasitic Wasps, and Spiders into your garden.
  • Regularly remove any infested growths.
  • Use a water jet to blast off whiteflies from the undersides of leaves.
  • If the above fails, use organic methods such as neem oil or garlic extract spray.

Read more about whiteflies in “Whiteflies – Identification and Control

Tomato Hornworm

How to Grow Tomatoes - Tomato Hornworm
How to Grow Tomatoes – Tomato Hornworm

Tomato Hornworms are green camouflaged caterpillars with a horn-like projection on the back of their body. These caterpillars are larvae of hawk moths. The caterpillars reach a length of up to 4 inches (~10cm). Some say they look “cool,” but due to their size, these caterpillars can defoliate the tomato plants very quickly.

Damage

The damage usually starts at the youngest part of the tomato plant, which is at the top. After that, they will work their way down. Most of the leaves will be decimated, with only the stem and ribs of leaves remaining.

Control

  • Attract beneficial insects like Parasitic Wasps or Assassin Bugs.
  • Handpick. Look for droppings on the bottom leaves. The Hornworm will be on the underside of the leaf above. Due to their size, you can easily pick them up and throw them into soapy water.
  • Remove. If you are not brave enough to pick Tomato Hornworms (they look scary), cut the part of the stem that Hornworm is attached to and throw it away.

Pro Tip: Do not destroy Hornworms if they have small white eggs attached to them. These eggs belong to Parasitic Wasps that will hatch, feed, and further control the Hornworms population.

Read more about tomato hornworms in “Tomato Hornworm – Identification and Control

Tomato Plant Diseases and Their Control

Tomato viruses, diseases, and pathogens. The sound of these words for a gardener means there is a lot of work coming up. Some are spread by insects, some using dirty tools, and some come directly from the soil itself. Below are the most common diseases that affect tomato plants.

Fusarium Wilt is a fungal disease that can wipe out an entire field of tomato plants. Plants with Fusarium Wilt generally will start with yellowing and wilting the lower part of the plant, root, or stem decay. The wilt and decay will progress higher until the whole plant collapses. [3]

Control

When Fusarium Wilt strikes the tomato plants, there is not much you can do to control it. The best you can do is prevent this pathogen for future growing years.

  • Remove the diseased plants and burn them or throw them into the bin. Do not place the diseased plants into compost!
  • Use varieties of tomato plants that are resistant to Fusarium Wilt.
  • Rotate crops every year.

Late Blight (or water mold) is caused by an organism similar to a fungus. This disease mainly affects tomatoes and potatoes. The leaves of the affected plant become dark brown and dry. Large dark brown, mushy spots appear on fruits. [4]

Control

  • Remove the infected plants and burn them or throw them into the bin. Do not place the diseased plants into compost!
  • Use tomato varieties that are resistant to late blight.
  • Rotate the crops every year.
  • Specific fungicides are available to manage this water mold.

Leaf curl in tomato plants can be caused by several reasons. The two most common symptoms are:

  • Herbicides. Tomato plants are very sensitive to herbicides. Therefore, some herbicides can damage the plant making the leaves curled and the yields reduced. Reduce herbicides, not tomatoes!
  • Environmental Conditions. The sudden change in the environmental conditions can result in the leaf curl. This condition can appear at any time, but the initial appearance is during the season change. The most common reasons are sudden increase or decrease in temperatures and/or excessive or insufficient water.  This type of leaf curl looks alarming but has a minimal effect on the fruit yield.

Tomato Companion and Enemy Plants

Most plants have companion plants and enemy plants. Companion plants help each other in different ways when they are planted in the same proximity. The benefits of companion plants include pest control, habitat for beneficial insects, increased crop productivity, pollination, and many more.

Not all plants like each other, some plants compete for the same resources, which reduce growth and productivity.

Below is the list of plants that could be planted as companions and a list of plants you should avoid near tomatoes.

Tomato Companion Plants:

  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Celeriac
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Courgette
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Marigold
  • Melon
  • Nasturtium
  • Parsley
  • Peppers
  • Oregano
  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Thyme
  • Watermelon

Tomato Enemy Plants:

Final Tips

Here are some crucial points you should consider before planting tomatoes:

  • Provide enough room for seedlings to grow: Planting multiple seeds into one cell or container is a good practice. However, each tomato seedling should be planted in cells or containers separately after the second set of true leaves appears. Crowded conditions will stress the plant and eventually result in leggy and weak seedlings.
  • Temperature requirement for growing tomatoes: The ideal temperature for tomatoes is higher than 15oC (59oF). The pollen can’t develop during flowering if the daytime temperature falls below 15oC (59oF) for more than a week. It may result in reduced crop as the damaged flower won’t give fruit.
  • Best time to plant tomatoes: Generally, tomato plants require hot summer months to mature. That’s why you should start growing indoors a month before the last frost in your area to give them a boost.

Add charm to your veggie garden by growing different varieties of tomatoes. Follow the mentioned steps and properly care for your plants. Stay healthy by growing and eating healthy organic food.

Check out our other Growing Guides. Read and learn more easy step-by-step tutorials.

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