Tomatoes are a popular warm-season crop that require full sun and well-drained, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8. They benefit from soil enriched with compost or a balanced fertilizer. Tomatoes are sensitive to frost and should only be planted outdoors after the last frost date when the soil has warmed up.
Start tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Harden off seedlings before transplanting them outdoors.
Transplant seedlings 18-24 inches apart in rows spaced 24-36 inches apart. Provide support with stakes or cages to encourage upward growth and reduce disease exposure. Water consistently, especially as fruits set and develop. Avoid watering the foliage to reduce the risk of disease.
For a comprehensive guide on growing tomatoes, including different varieties (cherry, beefsteak, heirloom, etc.), pruning, and staking techniques, refer to our detailed tomato grow guide.
Diseases, Insects, and Weeds
Common pests include tomato hornworms, aphids, and whiteflies. Diseases like blight, blossom-end rot, and fusarium wilt are also common. Use appropriate organic or chemical controls for pests and practice good garden hygiene to prevent diseases. Mulching helps control weeds and retain soil moisture.
Harvest tomatoes when they are fully colored and firm, yet slightly soft to the touch. Pick them with a bit of the vine attached for longer shelf life. Frequent harvesting encourages more fruit production.
Storage and Preservation
Store tomatoes at room temperature for a few days. For longer storage, tomatoes can be canned, dried, or frozen. Cooking and making sauces, salsas, and pastes are popular ways to preserve tomatoes.