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Growing Tomatoes

Consult the monthly archives in Garden Tips for generic information on growing.   Planter 's Garden Links contains the online resources we used to grow our garden as organically as possible.

Post New Year

January and February are spent planning the garden.  March focuses on Seed orders.

April and May

Seeding and hardening begins.  Timing is now based on getting mature sets in the ground around June 10th.


Plant sets should be spaced about 3 feet apart to avoid fungus and bacterial disease during extended wet periods.

Tomatoes need to be staked or caged before root systems get too mature or the plant gets too tall.

Tomatillos and okra blend in nicely with ornamental annuals.  The flowers and fruits of both these vegetables are very ornamental.  Asparagus beetles love them, so be sure to have the Bt spray on hand. 


Begin watching for tomato hornworm .     It is appropriately named for the horn on its tail.  (click to enlarge)

hornworm_macro.jpg (43412 bytes)

By the end of the month in 2003, they had not yet appeared.  Click on image below to get a closeup of this awesome larvae.

At the end of the month, begin clipping the ends of flower clusters of tomato and tomatillo vines to allow fruit to fully mature before the first frost. 


Same as July.  In taking stock, we decide not to grow paste tomatoes next year to free up space for more peppers and greens.   Under normal growing conditions, 4 slicing tomato plants and 4 cherry pepper plants are enough for our table.  In 2003, however, tomatoes stopped growing and they lost their leaves to blight, a fungus caused by excessive rainfall and humidity.  (The last two years we had severe droughts.)  Extreme weather is here to stay!  Varieties are reassessed:  Big Boy produced more fruit than First Lady, an early tomato, but the fruit was more heavily impacted by blight.  


Tomatoes need an average daily temperature of 65F or more for ripening. If daytime temperatures consistently are below this, pick the fruits that have begun to change color and bring them inside to ripen.  Layer them in a box, not touching, and separate with newspapers. 

Green tomatoes are a must for Piccalilli.    Harvest them in a firm, green condition before frost. Remove the stems to prevent puncturing other fruits. Wash dirt off rather than wiping it off, which can cause skin scratches leaving the fruit susceptible to decay.  

If necessary, tomatoes can be stored for up to four weeks at about 60 degrees F with a moderately moist atmosphere.


Harvest remaining slicing tomatoes for storage.  They're good for a few weeks if stored properly.  If the storage location is quite dry, you can place tomatoes in plastic-film bags or film-lined boxes to increase the humidity. Sort the fruit every week to remove those that ripen or start to decay.  (Va Tech Extension)