Tomatoes are not hard to grow; they’re incredibly productive, versatile in the kitchen, and so delicious off the vine. Our guide covers all the information you need to grow tomatoes successfully—including selecting tomato varieties, starting seeds, transplanting tomatoes outside, using tomato stakes and cages, and tomato plant care.
Tomatoes are long-growing, heat-seeking, sun lovers! These warm-season plants do not tolerate frost. In most regions, the soil is not warm enough to plant tomatoes outdoors until April or May, but it depends on where you live. See your frost dates.
How Long Does It Take to Grow a Tomato?
This is one of our most common questions. The exact “days to harvest” depends on the cultivar and it can range from 60 days to more than 100 days. See your tomato planting dates based on your zip code or postal code.
Due to their relatively long growing season requirements, tomatoes are most commonly transplanted into the garden as young plants rather than started from seeds outdoors (though you can certainly start them indoors). Transplants can be purchased in garden nurseries. Look for short, stocky plants with dark green color and straight, sturdy stems about the size of a pencil or thicker. Avoid plants with yellowing leaves, spots, or stress damage; avoid plants with flowers or fruits already in progress.
Types of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are available in a wide variety of sizes, from tiny grape-sized types to giant beefsteaks. The choice also depends on how you will use this versatile fruit in the kitchen. For example, Roma tomatoes are not very good eaten fresh, but are perfect for sauces and ketchups. Tomato cultivars can be classified according to their growth habit:
- Determinate tomatoes are plants that grow to a pre-determined height. Once they reach this height, they focus all of their energy on producing flowers and fruit. They are good choices for canning and sauce-making. Beefsteak tomato varieties tend to be determinate.
- Indeterminate tomatoes increase in height throughout the growing season because the terminal end of the stem continues to produce foliar growth rather than set flowers. The fruits on these plants are produced continually through the season along the side shoots of the plant. Indeterminate tomatoes are the choice if you want to spread out the harvest over a longer period of time. Cherry tomato varieties tend to be indeterminate.
Tomatoes do need vigilant care, as the crop is susceptible to pests and diseases. To avoid problems, choose disease-resistant cultivars whenever possible. Also note that tomato plants will be more susceptible to soil-borne disease and rot if not kept off the ground with a stake or other support system. We’ll cover all these essentials below.
Check out this video to learn more about how to choose tomoatoes.