QUICK REFERENCE PLANTING GUIDE
1. Light/Sun Exposure - Full to partial sun.
2. USDA Hardiness Zones - Not winter hardy. Will thrive from spring to fall in all zones.
3. Planting Distance - 3 feet apart in ground. One plant per 16 inch or larger container.
4. Mature Height/Spread - 3 feet tall (or taller) and 3 to 4 feet wide when staked. You will have mature fruit-producing plants within 8 to 9 weeks.
5. Bloom Time - Summer to frost.
6. Planting Instructions – Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the plant's root ball. Partially backfill the hole with soil and place the plant into the hole. IMPORTANT: Keep the graft above soil level. Refill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the plant with your fingers. Check to be sure the plant is not planted too deeply. If it is, raise the plant carefully and re-firm the soil. Water thoroughly and water as needed throughout the growing season.
NOTE: In cooler climates, keep your tomatoes in a sunny location indoors until all danger of frost has passed.
Days to maturity are counted from the time tomato plants are set out into the garden until the first appearance of mature fruit. Mother Nature plays a big part in the fruiting process as cool, cloudy weather will slow expected growth. Days to maturity can be used to distinguish varieties as:
Early - 55 to 65 days after transplanting
Mid-season - 65 to 80 days after transplanting
Late - over 80 days after transplanting
Tomatoes need warm temperatures and at least 8 hours of sunlight a day to prevent them from becoming spindly and producing little mature fruit.
Tomatoes prefer fertile, well-drained soil that has a pH of 5.5 - 6.8 and is rich in organic matter. If the soil stays soggy where you want to plant, build a raised bed to allow for better drainage.
Soil that holds water as evenly as possible is important for tomatoes because uneven water uptake can cause problems including: flower drop, fruit splitting and blossom-end rot.
Tomatoes need a lot of water to grow and develop fruit, about 1 to 2 inches of water a week. If this amount is not received as rainfall, supplemental irrigation is necessary. When watering, be sure to soak the soil thoroughly as frequent, light watering will encourage a weak root system. Mulching the plants will help the soil retain moisture. Plants growing in containers may need daily watering.
Determinate vs. Indeterminate
Determinate tomatoes reach a specific size then stop growing, creating a more compact bush form and producing most of their crop at one time. You can harvest all of the fruit in two to five pickings and then pull up the plants.
Indeterminate tomatoes do not stop growing and produce a lot of suckers from the main stem of the plant. They will continue to produce fruit throughout the season until first frost.
For optimal flavor, tomatoes should be allowed to ripen fully on the vine and harvested before they begin to soften. The red color in tomato fruit does not form when temperatures are above 86°F. Fruits allowed to ripen on the vine may be yellowish orange in extreme summer heat. For this reason, it is advisable to pick tomatoes in the pink stage and allow them to ripen indoors for optimum color development. About 70°F is ideal to ripen tomatoes. Light is not necessary to complete this ripening process. Tomato color and flavor are optimal when average daily temperatures are about 75°F. Temperatures greater than 92°F during ripening reduce fruit flavor, texture and color. Therefore, it is important to have good vine growth, which partially shades the fruit from intense sunlight.
A variety of insects may attack tomatoes, but they can be controlled with a regular spray schedule. The following insects are a few that commonly attack tomatoes.
Aphids - Small, pear-shaped insects that congregate on the top growth or undersides of leaves. Aphids damage tomatoes by sucking plant sap and excreting a sticky substance on the foliage and fruit, making the fruit unattractive. Aphids can be controlled by using insecticidal soaps and keeping weeds removed.
Cutworms - Gray, brown or black worms up to 1-1/4 inches long that cut off plants close to the soil surface. They are most destructive early in the season.
Flea beetles - Black or brown jumping bugs 1/16 inch long that attack young transplants and leave the foliage full of small holes.
Hornworms - Large green worms up to 4 inches long that eat foliage and fruit. Handpick the worms if only a few; sprays can be used for large infestations.
Leaf miners - Larvae that make long, slender white tunnels in the leaves.
Spider mite - Tiny mites that are barely visible to the naked eye. Spider mites cause many small yellow specks and fine webs. Forceful water sprays, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oil may be used for control.
Stalk borer - Creamy-white to light purple larvae that eat tunnels in the stem, causing the plant to wither and die. Remove and destroy weeds where the insect may breed. Locate hole in stem where the borer entered, split stem lengthwise above the hole and remove the borer. Bind the split stem and keep the plant well-watered. Spray to prevent further infestations.
Stink bugs - Brown, green or black shield-shaped bugs that give off a foul odor. They suck juices from the plant and cause hard whitish spots just under the skin of the fruit. Sprays are effective.
Tomato fruitworm - Green, brown or pink worm that eats holes in fruit and buds. Several applications of spray during June helps to control this insect.
Many of the following disorders are quite common and should be readily recognized. Little can be done for most of them, but the fruit may be eaten if affected portions are removed. These problems are not caused by insects or disease.
Blossom End Rot - This condition develops due to moisture shortage when the fruit is forming and some of the cells die due to insufficient calcium. 20 to 30 days later, a dry, leathery depression appears on the blossom side of the fruit. Blossom end rot is the result of a calcium deficiency in the young fruit due to fluctuations in available moisture in the plant. It can occur when the soil is too dry or when the soil is excessively wet which reduces the root system’s capacity to absorb sufficient water. Provide uniform watering, use mulch under and around the plants and do not over fertilize with nitrogen. Protect plants from drying winds.
Catfacing - This is when irregular shapes and lines, especially at the top of the tomato, are caused by temperature shifts and incomplete pollination at flowering time. There is nothing you can do about it and the tomato will still taste great.
Cracking - Cracking is usually a problem when soil moisture fluctuates. Sudden summer rains or watering after drought may cause fruit cracking. Pick fruits in the pink stage and allow them to ripen indoors. Mulching and regular watering may reduce the problem of cracking. Rainfall and favorable growing conditions after a hot, dry period can cause fruit cracking even on plants that have been thoroughly watered.
Flower drop - The problem occurs when night temperatures are lower than about 60°F or above about 70°F or when the day temperature is consistently above about 92°F. Hot drying winds may intensify the problem. When these conditions occur, flowers will drop or fruit will be misshapen. Hormone-type “blossom-set” sprays may reduce spring bloom drop when the weather is cool although “blossom-set” sprays have very little effect during high temperature conditions. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization. The problem usually disappears and fruits set normally after the weather improves.
Leaf roll - Curling or rolling of the leaves occurs in hot weather or after cultivation or severe pruning. Older and lower leaves of some tomato varieties may roll and become stiff and leathery. It is not a disease and does not affect fruiting. Keep plants well-watered and do not hoe deeply around plants.
Sunscald, poor color - High temperatures hinder the development of good color. Fruits exposed to high temperatures will scald and develop uneven color. Good foliage cover helps prevent sunscald.
Chemical injury - Drift from 2,4-D herbicide and similar chemicals commonly used on lawns and in fields may cause distorted leaves, twisted stems, dropping of flowers and fruit abnormalities. The drift may originate half a mile or more away. Sprayers that have been used for herbicide and then used for disease and insect control on tomatoes may also be a source of contamination.
Walnut toxicity - Plants growing near black walnut trees may wilt and die. Avoid growing tomatoes within 50 feet of these trees or where they may come into contact with walnut roots.
‘Berkley Tie-Dye’: Green fruit with yellow and red stripes. High acid content. Indeterminate. Late.
‘Homestead 24’: Red meat fruits. Good for canning. Determinate. Late.
‘Beefsteak’: Large red fruits with very sweet flavor. Great for canning. Indeterminate. Late season.
‘Sun Sugar’: Sweet yellow cherry tomato. Indeterminate. Mid-season.
'Big Beef' - Juicy red tomato weighing 9 oz to one pound. Maturity is 73 days, indeterminate.
' Pineapple' - 90 days to maturity. Huge 1 pound red and yellow streaked tomatoes.
Although these plants will perform well in average garden soils of all types, we recommend having your soil tested periodically by the local County Extension Office. These tests can determine if the soil needs any amendments to enhance your plants' growth and performance. See below for our recommended practice to improve your soil without any additional testing:
1. Spade or till the soil to a depth of 12-18 inches.
2. To provide nutrients and improve drainage, add organic matter to your soil by mixing in a 2 to 4-inch layer of dehydrated manure, garden compost, shredded leaves, and/or peat moss.
3. After active growth begins, periodically feed with water-soluble fertilizer. For the best performance of your tomato plant, a formula of 8-8-8 fertilizer is recommended for use one week, and the following week, use a water-soluble fertilizer like our Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster for Fruits and Vegetables.
Plants in containers need more frequent watering and feeding, especially when in active growth and bloom.
Water - Your plants require 1-2" of rainfall (or equivalent watering) each week when planted in the ground. Do not allow plants in containers to dry out. In a container that is exposed to full sun, water it well at least once every other day, and possibly every day, during periods of intense summer heat.
Mulching - Apply a 2-4” layer of shredded bark, compost or other organic mulch around your plants to promote moisture retention, maintain even soil temperatures and discourage weed growth.
Weeding - Keep the area around your plants free of weeds. Weeds compete with other plants for food, water and light. Walk around the garden periodically and pull weeds, including the roots, as soon as you see them.
Grooming - Keep suckers to a minimum by pinching them off to maintain a compact plant, allowing energy to go to the fruit instead of to the plant.
Feeding - Feed your plants once a week during the growing season. For the best performance of your tomato plant, a formula of 8-8-8 fertilizer is recommended for use one week, and a few days later, following up with water-soluble fertilizer like our Carefree Bud-N-Flower Booster for Fruits and Vegetables. This should be done weekly.
Winterizing - Tomatoes are not hardy and no winterizing is required. These plants are annuals and will not survive freezing temperatures. They should be discarded at the end of the season.
CAUTION: Not all plant material is edible. Though most plants are harmless, some contain toxic substances which can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, or other discomforts. As a general rule, only known food products should be eaten. In case of ingestion, please contact your local poison control center at once and advise them of the plant ingested. Keep out of reach of children.