This “article” on growing high yield tomato plants originated as a short post with a video. We decided to update and expand the post but to keep the original information “as is.” Enjoy the update!
Many people who grow tomatoes ask “How Many Tomatoes Per Plant can I get?” Most produce on average about 10 pounds of tomatoes per plant.
However, according to LDSprepper by following a few tips which include getting the right tomatoes for your area you can harvest 50 to 80 pounds per plant.
Watch the video for some smart tips:
Even if you have never gardened before or have always had bad luck as a gardener, you can grow a great high yield tomato crop and increase the tomato yield per plant by following a few simple tips.
In this article, we will provide an overview of successful tomato farming, along with a 12 step checklist to will help you grow the best and most fresh tomatoes possible. Read on to learn more on how to increase tomato yield.
- Start or Choose Your Seedlings
- Best High Yield Tomato Plant Varieties
- Select and Prepare Your Garden Plot
- Plant Your Seedlings
- Mulch Your Garden Heavily
- Provide Daily Care
- Trimming & Suckering Tomato Plants
- Growing New Plants From Suckers
- Keep Your Garden Soil Fresh
- What About Tomato Pests?
- Tomato Quick Reference Checklist
- Customize Your Process To Your Setting
- How Much Will One Acre of Tomato Plants Yield?
- Per Acre Yields
- Production Costs
- Income Projections
- Growing Beefsteak Tomato Plants In The Garden
- Beefsteak Tomato Varieties
- Planting Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Beefsteak Tomato Plant Care
- Good To Know
- What is the proper spacing when planting tomatoes in the garden?
- Tips and Tricks
- Best Soil for Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Proper Care of Beefsteak Tomatoes
- When to Harvest Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Beefsteak Tomato Pests and Diseases
- How to Prepare Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Tips for Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes
- Want to learn more about growing Beefsteak tomatoes?
Start or Choose Your Seedlings
It’s always best to start your tomato plants from seed. You will save money by doing it but also gain a wealth of knowledge.
Even if you purchase the more costly USDA Certified Heirloom Tomato Seeds Assortment like these, you’ll save money. Consider the fact that a package of these high-quality seeds costs $3-$4 for about 25 seeds.
Seedlings cost about that much for a flat of 6 non-organic, hybrid plants. If you purchase organically grown, heirloom seedlings, you can expect to pay that much or more per plant.
Also, consider the fact, organic tomatoes cost $3-$6 a pound. If you grow a half dozen plants you started from top quality heirloom tomato seed, and each one produces 50+ pounds of fruits, it’s easy to see how you will save some bucks.
Select Tomato Seedlings Carefully
If you do purchase seedlings, make they carry the certified organic label and avoid big lush seedlings in small pots.
Even though a plant with lots of green leaves may seem like the obvious choice, remember the plant’s root system plays a far larger role than the leaves when it comes to tomato production.
If seedlings put lots of energy into leaves, they suffer a setback when transplanting them and will take time to recover before beginning to produce fruit.
Aside from your savings, growing certified, organic, heirloom variety plants from “scratch” comes with many side benefits.
One of the most compelling benefits – you will avoid the fact that many seedlings at your local home and garden center have been raised using pesticides containing neonicotinoids.
These chemicals devastate bee populations. Without bees, we would not have life on earth. Seriously. Protect your local bees and other pollinators by only planting tomatoes and other plants safe for local fauna and you and your family.
In addition to having potential chemical contamination, hybrid tomato seeds and seedlings may carry more genetic modification than simple hybridization.
The introduction of non-tomato genes into your plants could produce unexpected and unintended effects on bees and other beneficial insects and perhaps on you, too.
Best High Yield Tomato Plant Varieties
fresh tomatoes and several heirloom tomato varieties
You will find many excellent types of tomato plants to choose from. First, you must decide if you want determinate tomato plants or indeterminate plant varieties. What is the difference?
- Determinate varieties grow to a specific height and stop
- Indeterminate varieties grow as long and high as you allow them to
Another important thing to consider. Consult with a local gardening club before choosing your seeds or seedlings. Get advice from experienced gardeners in your area regarding the types of plants like heirloom varieties that thrive in your setting. You should also know about disease resistant cultivars if there are any. Some common choices include:
Cherry Tomato: This delightful selection produces abundant, tiny cherry-like red, deep red, yellow, orange or dark purple fruit ideal for snacking and for salads. Cherry tomatoes grow well in containers and hanging baskets.
Grape Tomato: These small, oblong tomatoes also make perfect snacks and for additions to salads. They generally produce abundant quantities of fruit and not many leaves.
They are not quite as sweet and juicy as cherry tomatoes. These fresh tomatoes come in both red and yellow varieties. One advantage of the yellow type grape tomato – the birds, do not find it quite as attractive as the bright red fruit. So you can keep more of your harvest for yourself.
Beefsteak Tomato: As the name seems to imply, these are big, juicy, satisfying tomatoes. This variety of tomato is considered indeterminate; however, vines typically grow to a length of 6-8’.
Beefsteaks make the perfect selection for slicing to use on sandwiches and burgers. Try cutting them up into salads or eating out of hand. The large size fruits of the Beefsteak require plants to get lots of support.
growing tomatoes comes in a large variety of shapes and sizes, heirloom tomato with smaller
Roma Tomato: This popular Italian style determinate tomato grows to a maximum height of 6’ and bears pear-shaped fruit. Roma makes the ideal choice for adding good flavor to sauces and stews. For salads and eating out of the hand other varieties beat out Roma, but a well-grown Roma tomato is quite tasty on its own.
Aunt Ruby‘s German Green Tomato: This indeterminate heirloom tomatoes mature in 80 days. Many describe the large, green fruits as sweet and spicy. They may sometimes exhibit a light red blush. The growing season is lengthy, extending from early summer and into the autumn. Like yellow tomatoes, birds find the green tomatoes less attractive. So Aunt Ruby makes a good choice if you need to discourage bird predation.
San Marzano – San Marzano tomatoes are very sweet with a very subtle amount of acidity. This combination creates a perfectly balanced tomato as the base for a tomato sauce. Details here!
Across the US there are many heirloom varieties you can grow and 100’s of varieties available in sizes, shapes, colors and plant types. Veggie Gardener offers some tips on picking the right tomato.
The University of Illinois Extension has put together a page with a list of the best-recommended tomato varieties for you to evaluate for needs, your use and method of culture. Check it out here.
Select and Prepare Your Garden Plot
Another benefit from starting your plants indoors from seed, before spring arrives – it gives you time to prepare your garden bed.
Be sure to select an area with a well-drained soil and ample sun (at least 10 hours a day). Also, try to select an area sheltered from strong winds.
When preparing your garden soil for the first time, be sure to till in some good organic matter (compost) and introduce some Mycorrhizal inoculants like this (beneficial fungi) to help boost friendly bacteria levels in the soil. This will support your plants’ ability to absorb nutrients.
A well prepared, balanced soil rich in nutrients helps boost your plants’ disease resistance.
A garden bed with good drainage, light, airy soil and plenty of sunshine will likely harbor less of the typical tomato maladies, such as battling Fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt.
The cause of this condition comes from a fungal pathogen in the soil that invades plants, sucks out their nutrients and causes them to collapse and wilt literally overnight.
A well, drained, airy, balanced soil does not provide the conditions where this fungus can thrive.
Proper exposure to fresh air, light breezes, and the sun can go far toward keeping tomato plant leaves dry and healthy. In turn, this helps fight off a vast assortment of common diseases and pests.
Plant Your Seedlings
When the days and nights turn reliably warm, and all danger of frost passes, you can plant your seedlings.
However, you will need a little preparation. Begin by trimming away the lower leaves and laying the seedlings on their sides for a few days.
Tomato Seedling Care Tip: Laying tomato seedlings on their side will cause the top of the plant to bend upward. Once this happens, your plants are ready for actual planting.
Dig a trench in your prepared bed and set the seedlings into it, lying on their sides.
Cover the roots and stems with soil, worm castings and compost. Water well and top off with wood chip mulch. Leave the top part of the plant exposed to air and the sun.
The small hairs on the stems of the plants will transform into roots, so each of your little seedlings will develop healthy, vigorous root systems.
A good root system is what makes healthy, hardy, heavily producing tomato plants.
We call the larvae of the Noctuidae moth – cutworms. They live underground and lay waste to crops by chewing through the stems.
To prevent them from cutting down all your tomato plants, insert a small, hard, toothpick-sized stick in the ground right next to the stem.
This “fake stem” will trick them into thinking the stem is too hard to chew through, and they will go their merry way.
Support And Stake Your Plants
If you grow indeterminate tomatoes that continue to gain height, make sure to give them a good, tall stake (6’ feet or more) strong twine or a trellis for support. For determinate tomatoes growing to a pre-specified height, provide a tomato cage of the right height.
Video: Pruning and Staking Tomatoes – Perfect Techniques
Protect and Guard Against The Wind
If your plants do not grow in a sheltered area, cover your plants’ cages with a floating row cover when you expect high winds. This cover will protect them against broken stems and torn leaves. Breakage in stems and leaves provide a foothold for pathogens.
Repeat The Planting Process
Don’t plant all of your tomato plant seedlings at once. Wait about three weeks after starting your first set of seedlings, start a second set.
Having two batches of tomatoes growing on a slightly staggered schedule helps provide continuous fruiting throughout the growing season.
You can extend your growing season by rooting suckers from your existing tomato plants. We’ll explain that in more detail later in this article.
What About Greenhouse Tomatoes?
If you have space and the money, a high tunnel greenhouse setting can produce a bumper tomato crop using indeterminate tomato variety plants. With a properly heated and ventilated greenhouse, you can extend the growing season and enjoy fresh, ripe tomatoes year round.
To use this method of tomato growing, you will need to set up a high tunnel greenhouse with a heavy duty trellis system that will allow your plants to attain their maximum length of 20 or 30 feet.
Don’t worry, the greenhouse does not need to be that tall, but your trellis system should extend all the way to the ceiling and across so that your plants can climb and spread in a controlled manner.
This type of tomato production involves a great deal of focused attention, careful pruning and very measured fertilizing, watering and general care. If you enjoy this sort of thing, or if you want to grow lots of tomatoes to sell, this kind of setup can be very rewarding.
Video: How to Prune Tomatoes And Trellis Tomatoes
Video: Stringing Super High Yield Tomato Plant Crop
Mulch Your Garden Heavily
The first year of your garden may require you to do some plowing and tilling, but once you prepare the soil if you keep it heavily mulched you will never need to do the plowing and tilling again.
A solid mulching program using several (3-6) inches of composted wood chips will prevent the growth of weeds and hold moisture into the ground.
Good mulching saves time, energy and water. Mulch helps to stabilize the temperature of the soil and reduces stress on plants. Mulching also prevents backsplash of soil pathogens onto tomato plant leaves when it rains.
TIP: Check with local tree trimmers to see if you can get wood chips cheap or free! Make sure you allow them to compost before using.
After planting your tomatoes, be sure to mulch thoroughly. When the growing season ends, remove and compost your spent plants and cover the soil with mulch. When spring rolls around, simply scrape away the mulch in the areas you want to plant, turn the soil and freshen it up for the new growing season.
The underside of the decaying mulch will provide nutrition for your soil. However, don’t ever till the mulch into the soil as this disrupts its natural decaying process. Just keep it as a good, solid layer of protection on the soil surface for the best and easiest results.
Provide Daily Care
Once planted check your tomato crop daily for environmental and insect damage. Water tomato plants deeply about once a week. Slowly apply a couple of inches of water directly to the surface of the mulch on a weekly basis. Soaker hoses work well for slow watering.
More in our article: How To Use A Drip Or Soaker Hose
It’s best to water in the morning and avoid getting water on the leaves as wet or damp leaves can lead to fungal infection.
The exception is the application of foliar fertilizer once a month or so. Use a hose-end applicator and choose a dry, slightly breezy day when the sun does is not punishingly hot.
Apply foliar fertilizer early in the morning, so your plants will have all day to dry before night falls.
After your first harvest, give your plants with a side dressing of a couple of teaspoons full of ammonium sulfate. Apply this fertilizer just before a regularly scheduled watering.
Related Reading: Find Out How To Naturally Fertilize Your Tomatoes Here
According to the University of Missouri, the best fertilizer supplement for tomatoes is one with a low nitrogen content, a moderate amount of potassium and lots of phosphorus.
Tomato plants also need a healthy amount of micronutrients. However, rich organic matter in the form of compost and the decomposition of the underside of your mulch bed will supply most of the micronutrients.
Check Out Urban Farm Fertilizers Texas Tomato Food
Trimming & Suckering Tomato Plants
You may have heard the suggestion to pinch off or trim “suckers” from tomato plants. Suckers are branches growing between the branch and the stem of the plant. Gardeners who swear by this process say that eliminating suckers gives the plant more energy for tomato production.
This is true if trying to grow big tomatoes is the goal. If you want more tomatoes, leave the suckers!
Personally, I opt for pinching suckers and pruning tomato plants.
Some insist on leaving suckers as the best option. Why? Because every time you cut or break the plant, it opens up the opportunity for pathogens to enter and weaken or kill your plant.
While trimming can introduce pathogens to the plant, by trimming tops carefully with sterilized clippers, you can encourage more bushy and sturdy growth. If your plant becomes floppy and leggy, pruning is a good fix.
Prune early in the morning, so the “injuries” can use the daylight hours to heal and dry before nightfall.
Growing New Plants From Suckers
Suckers can also be beneficial because, you can cut off the suckers, root them and grow a whole new crop. If you do this in the middle of the summer, you will have an excellent fall crop of tomatoes. Here’s how:
Gather a few large, hardy suckers on a dry, sunny day. Clip them with sterilized shears or knife blade early in the morning so the plants can “heal” during the daytime hours.
Carry a container of clean, warm water with you as you clip the suckers. Remove the lower leaves and plunge the bare stems directly into the water as you work.
Once you collect all the suckers you want, place the container of water in a warm, still area with indirect sunlight.
The leaves will wilt for the first few days. When they recover, move the container to a sunny location but still protected from strong winds.
A sunny kitchen windowsill makes an ideal location for the “sucker container” because you will need to change the rooting water every couple of days to prevent fungal growth. Having the jar right by your sink will make it easy to remember.
Within a week to ten days, roots should begin forming. When the roots reach about an inch in length, transplant the suckers into containers or directly into your garden.
When transplanting, follow the instructions given above for planting seedlings. Protect them from harsh sunlight and strong winds until they become established.
Keep Your Garden Soil Fresh
Don’t plant tomatoes in the same spot year after year. Rotate your crops to refresh the garden soil. Planting peanuts or clover in the area tomatoes grew last year will help naturally boost the soil’s nitrogen levels.
You can also use clover as a “green mulch” crop around your tomatoes. Clover makes a very nice ground cover the bees, and other pollinators will benefit from. Till the clover under at the end of the growing season to further benefit the soil.
Other good companion plants for tomatoes include basil, garlic, and chives. These aromatic plants help keep pests away, and also make the perfect culinary companions for tomatoes. A large planter filled with cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, and chives is a handy thing to have beside your kitchen door.
How to Grow Tomatoes In Containers – Complete Growing Guide
What About Tomato Pests?
Strong, healthy plants accompanied by well-chosen companion plants will mean few pests. However, insect pests become a problem especially the voracious tomato hornworm moth, use chemical poisons as a last resort. Remember if you plan to eat those tomatoes, and any poisons you spray around will negatively impact beneficial insects as well as the ones you don’t want.
The one exception to this is Bt (bacillus thuringiensis), a natural pathogenic bacteria that only affects caterpillars. Using this product early on, as soon as you see caterpillars appear on your plants, can be extremely beneficial. Just remember it is equally deadly to damaging moth caterpillars and beneficial butterfly caterpillars. Apply it carefully and only as needed.
Tomato Hornworm Treatment & Results Using Organic BT Pesticide
Other ways of dealing with caterpillars and various pests naturally include:
- Pick them off by hand.
- Spray with an organic mixture of garlic powder and water.
- Plant a “decoy” garden of plants to attract pests away from your tomatoes. Caterpillars find dill especially attractive and make a nice addition to a butterfly garden.
More on Tomato diseases and health here
Protect Your Tomatoes From Birds
When you grow a beautiful tomato crop, you will attract some birds – especially if you plant red tomatoes. You can minimize bird damage to your tomato crop by choosing yellow, orange and green varieties. You can also foil birds by harvesting your fruit early or by protecting your plants with bird netting.
Harvesting Tomatoes Early
If you harvest early, wait until the green tomatoes show a few streaks of pink. Cut off clusters to keep the tomatoes on the vine and simply set them in a basket on your kitchen counter to continue ripening.
Don’t place them in the sun on the windowsill, and don’t put them in the refrigerator. Instead, place them in a colander or basket on a cloth pad in indirect light.
Turn your ripening tomatoes daily to prevent developing soft spots. Rotating will allow air to circulate and promotes the ripening process.
Another useful method for ripening tomatoes and other types of fruit involves placing the unripe fruit in a paper bag with an apple or banana.
Roll the top shut and set the bag on your kitchen counter out of the direct sun where you see it every day.
Once a day, open the bag and turn all the fruit to prevent it from developing soft spots.
The ethylene gasses given off by the apple or banana will speed the ripening of tomatoes, peaches, pears and other types of semi-soft fruit. Remember to toss the banana or apple into your compost heap at the end of your project.
If you would prefer your tomatoes ripen on the vine in the garden (which is much better) protect them with bird netting. You might also plant a few rogue plants near your compost pile and leave them open for birds and other wildlife to enjoy.
Tomato Quick Reference Checklist
- Get the right plants. It’s best to start your tomatoes from seed, but if you are not able to do that, be sure you are getting the right types of plants for your area.
- Choose your tomato plants with care. Look for plants with strong root systems, not necessarily lovely leaves.
- Choose the right location. Make certain your tomato garden has good drainage and gets at least ten hours a day of bright sunlight throughout the grow season for top production.
- Lay your plants sideways in a trench with plenty of natural, organic matter and/or worm castings to promote a strong root system.
- Remember to use the “stick-trick” to keep cutworms away from your plants.
- Mulch deeply and thoroughly.
- Provide appropriate support.
- Provide protection from wind.
- Establish a regular schedule of watering and fertilizing.
- Trim and “sucker” your plants cautiously (or not at all) to avoid introducing disease.
- Rotate crops and/or plant nitrogen boosting cover crops to keep your soil fresh and vibrant.
- Plant appropriate companion plants with your tomatoes to help deter pests.
Customize Your Process To Your Setting
You will find many ways to grow tomatoes successfully. When you choose the right type of plant for your location and provide it with consistent, competent basic care, you should find yourself enjoying delicious home-grown tomatoes throughout the growing season.
If you are skilled at canning, you can continue to benefit from the fruits of your labors all year round. Follow the advice presented above and adapt it as needed to enjoy a bumper crop of tomatoes this summer.
At Old World Garden they talk about how they use their tomatoes 365 days a year why tomatoes so important.
“With just a few easy steps – you can grow amazing tomatoes this year!
In fact, we use our home-grown tomatoes and tomato based products nearly 365 days a year. In the summertime – we eat them right off the vine, in salads, hamburgers, sauces and more. In the fall and winter months, we enjoy the tomato juice, vegetable soup, chili, salsa, pasta sauce, paste tomatoes, pizza sauce, and ketchup that we have canned or frozen from the summer’s bounty.“
Check out their hints, tips and tricks learned over the years to grow bumper crops of tomatoes Via oldworldgardenfarms.com
Growing the ideal tomato and producing a bumper crop of high yield tomatoes can be quite a challenge, as even the best gardeners know.
The plant requires just the right balance of ingredients for soil health, managing its pH level and knowing when to add compost and mulch are key.
The plant needs a regular amount of water and plenty of sunshine, but too much of either leads to damage to vine and fruit.
Supporting the plant physically with a tomato cage for example while tomatoes grow weighty keeps them safe and secure.
Repelling hungry pests will make sure you get the most from your tomato plant.
Over at the Safer® Brand blog a resource for organic gardeners and growers, shares their insight with more details or growing the perfect tomato.
What are your top tips for growing tomatoes?
How Much Will One Acre of Tomato Plants Yield?
Tay Jnr/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Tomatoes are the No. 1 processing vegetable crop in the United States, with more than 400,000 acres in cultivation supplying more than 14 million tons of the juicy red fruit. More than 12 million tons of the tomato harvest goes into prepared food products such as soup, catsup and salsa. Almost 2 million more tons of fresh tomatoes are grown for sale to consumers.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
California and Florida are the largest tomato-producing states. Tomatoes are an annual vegetable that takes around 75 days from transplanting to first harvest. They produce best when daytime temperatures are between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperatures are above 60 or 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The cost of production per acre can be high and can present complex problems to the grower, who must be knowledgeable about soils, fertilizers, pest control, harvesting, marketing and other record keeping required for an agricultural business.
Because many different varieties of tomatoes are grown in large commercial farms, the yield per acre can vary depending on the type of tomato being grown. Other factors enter into the per acre yield as well. For example, the number of plants each acre contains is an important determinant: Acres with fewer plants will naturally produce fewer tomatoes than acres where plants are more crowded.
Per Acre Yields
Tomato harvests are counted by the number of 25-pound cartons. On average, one acre of tomatoes will produce slightly more than 1,500 25-pound cartons, or 37,500 pounds of red, ripe fruit. About 5,000 tomato plants are required to meet this number.
The cost of growing tomatoes varies greatly, depending on the types of tomatoes being grown, methods of staking, fertilizing and cost of labor. For a growing season, you can expect that 200 to 400 hours of labor will be needed for each acre, which can cost $2,000. To break even, you must successfully produce 15 tons of tomatoes. As you gain experience, costs can go down.
Would-be tomato farmers are advised to start small, perhaps by planting half an acre, to hone their skills and learn how to efficiently grow tomatoes on a large-scale basis.
Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has calculated average income from one acre of tomatoes. Half the time, a grower will net about $950 per acre. One year out of six, the grower can expect to earn more than $1,400 per acre. But the bad news is that one year out of six, growers can lose more than $3,400 per acre if weather conditions are not suitable or serious insect or disease damage occurs.
Growing Beefsteak Tomato Plants In The Garden
Beefsteak tomatoes, aptly named large, thickly fleshed fruits, are one of the favorite tomato varieties for the home garden. Growing beefsteak tomatoes requires a heavy cage or stakes to support the often 1-pound fruits. Beefsteak tomato varieties are late maturing and should be started indoors to extend the growing period. The beefsteak tomato plant produces classic slicing tomatoes that your family will love.
Beefsteak Tomato Varieties
Beefsteak tomatoes have meaty flesh and numerous seeds. There are many varieties available with different sized fruit, harvest times and growing ranges.
- Some of the varieties are more suited to humid climates such as Mortgage Lifter and Grosse Lisse.
- The huge nearly 2 pound Tidwell German and Pink Ponderosa are both old time favorites.
- For super productive plants, chose Marizol Red, Olena Ukranian and Royal Hillbilly.
- There are many heirloom varieties of beefsteak. Tappy’s Finest, Richardson, Soldaki and Stump of the World are just a few of the saved seeds of once common tomatoes.
- If you are growing beefsteak tomatoes to amaze friends and family, choose Mr. Underwood’s Pink German Giant or Neves Azorean Red. These plants frequently produce 3 pound fruits of excellent flavor and juiciness.
Planting Beefsteak Tomatoes
Most of the beefsteak tomato varieties require a growing season of at least 85 days to harvest. This is not possible in most of the United States, which means starts or your own transplants are the best way to begin. If you are a stickler for consistency, you’ll want to start your own seed. March is an ideal time for planting beefsteak tomatoes indoors. Sow seed in flats and nurture them until they are at least 8 inches tall and exterior soil temperatures are at least 60 F. (16 C.). The beefsteak tomato plant needs to be hardened off before planting outdoors, usually around May.
Choose a sunny, well drained garden bed in which to plant your tomato starts. A raised bed warms early in the season and is a good method for how to grow beefsteak tomatoes in cooler climates. Work in compost or other organic amendments to the soil before you plant and incorporate a starter fertilizer to get the little plants off to a good start.
Allow spacing of at least 5 feet for good air circulation and install sturdy cages or other support structures. Beefsteak tomato varieties will need tying in, as they are trained up a support. Beefsteak tomatoes are primarily indeterminate, which means you may remove the auxiliary shoots to promote better branching.
Beefsteak Tomato Plant Care
Keep weeds removed from the bed and mulch between the rows to minimize weeds and conserve moisture. A black plastic mulch also warms the soil and radiates heat.
Fertilize every three weeks with 1 pound per 100 square feet. The optimum ratio for tomatoes is 8-32-16 or 6-24-24.
The beefsteak tomato plant will need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
All beefsteak tomato varieties are prone to disease and pests. Keep a close watch and nip problems in the bud as soon as you see them.
It may be hard to believe, but Americans once shunned this now classic fruit because it was thought to be poisonous.
The tomato is native to South America where they have been around since prehistoric times. Spanish explorers brought the plant from Mexico to southern Europe in the mid 1500s and from there it spread north and east.
Early Americans first grew the tomato as a curiosity, but thought that eating the fruit would be deadly because of its resemblance to nightshade. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that it became widely known that they were safe to eat, and since then it has become a one of our most popular fruits in the United States.
There are two broad categories of tomatoes, determinate and indeterminate. Now determinate just means the size of the plant grows to a determined height depending on the variety, say in the 2 to 4 foot range. Because of their compact habit they are perfect for growing in containers. Once they grow to a certain height, they flower and set all their fruit within a short period of time.
On the other hand indeterminate types of tomatoes don’t grow to just a limited size, they keep growing and growing, often 8 feet or more. As you can imagine these require more room to grow and they need to be staked. The plus side of growing indeterminate type tomatoes is that they produce fruit throughout the entire season. You can also find dwarf indeterminate varieties that produce the same amount of fruit, but as the name implies, are smaller in stature.
The best time to plant tomatoes seedlings is a few weeks after the last frost date in your area, when the soil has had a chance to warm up and night temperatures stay above 50 degrees F. In my zone 7 garden, located in the upper South, I plant tomatoes in May.
If you are going to grow your tomatoes from seed, start them indoors 5 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost.
When you purchase tomato plants from a nursery select those that are about 10 to 12 inches tall with a deep green color. You should avoid any that have blooms, holey leaves or crowded root systems.
Tomatoes need full sun to really thrive. Site them in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. To steer clear of problems with disease choose a new location in your garden each year.
The soil should be medium-rich, loose and well drained with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
How far apart you space the plants depends on the type of tomato you’ve selected. Dwarf varieties should be spaced about 12 inches apart in a row. If you plan on staking your plants, space them about 24 inches apart. Set sprawling, indeterminate tomatoes about 36 to 48 inches apart.
Plant your seedlings about 1 inch deeper than they are sitting in the nursery container. This will help strengthen the root system and a better root system means healthier plants. Just be sure to remove any leaves below the soil line.
To discourage cutworms from taking out your young transplants, you should wrap the base of each seedling with a piece of aluminum foil. You can also protect them with a cardboard collar placed over the seedling and pushed 1 inch into the ground. A paper towel roll cut into sections works pretty well.
Twine and Twig Teepee
Secure the Top
Around the Legs
It is important to support your tomatoes as they grow. A simple wooden stake or bamboo pole will work. Use twine or some other soft material to tie the vine to the support. Tomato cages are also useful, especially for determinate and dwarf varieties. For the larger indeterminate types I find that commercial cages are a bit on the flimsy side, so I make my own out of concrete reinforcing wire. A 5 foot wide piece will usually do the trick. Simply bend it into a circle and hook the tines together where the ends meet. You want it to be about 16 inches in diameter. As a final measure I clip nylon netting to the cages to keep pests at bay.
Once you have planted your tomatoes keep them well watered until the roots are established. After that, deep soak them every 4 to 7 days. If it is hot and dry you may need to water every day, especially if they are in containers.
When you water, take care to not splash soil onto the leaves and stem as this promotes disease. And don’t skimp on the mulch. A good layer of mulch, 2 to 3 inches, will help keep the soil consistently moist, cutting down on blossom end rot, as well as prevent weeds from taking over. Just keep the mulch away from the crown of the plant.
Feed your tomatoes once a month with a blend that is high in phosphorous and low in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will result in lots of leaves, but not much fruit. A ratio of 5-10-5 is good. Start fertilizing when the fruits first start to develop and stop as they reach maturity.
By following these simple guidelines you can make this the best tomato season ever.
Good To Know
Tomatoes will drop their blossoms when night time temperatures drop below 55 degrees F or exceed 75 degrees F.
If you live in an area with a short growing season choose an early maturing variety that will produce fruit in 50 to 65 days. Early Girl, Jetsetter, and Vita Gold are just a few varieties to try.
To avoid sunscald, do not remove leaves that are shading fruits.
Blossom end rot appears as a pale, brown spot that turns black and flattens the bottom of the fruit. It can be caused by lack of calcium or inconsistent moisture.
To learn more about growing tomatoes, check out the video below!
What is the proper spacing when planting tomatoes in the garden?
Tomato varieties are classified as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes are small, compact plants. They grow to a certain height, stop, then flower and set all their fruit within a short period of time. The harvest period for determinate tomatoes is generally short, making them good choices for canning. Indeterminate tomatoes continue to grow, flower, and set fruit until killed by the first frost in the fall. Accordingly, the harvest from indeterminate varieties often extends over a 2 or 3 month period.
Spacing of tomato plants depends on the growth habit of the variety and training system employed. Indeterminate varieties that are staked can be planted 1½ to 2 feet apart in the row. Indeterminate plants grown in wire cages should be spaced 2½ to 3 feet apart, while a 3- to 4-foot-spacing would be appropriate for indeterminate tomatoes allowed to sprawl over the ground. Determinate tomatoes can be planted 2 to 2½ feet apart. Rows should be spaced about 4 feet apart.
Alas, beefsteak tomato season.
Go off to your farmers’ market and there they will be. You can rarely get a beefsteak tomato in a supermarket. The beefsteak is what grocery and produce retailers would call a destination item, IF they could get them to market and keep them safe before sale. But, they can’t; the beefsteak is too big and too much trouble keeping in one piece for tomato picking machines, supermarket truckers, and grocery handlers. So it’s off to the farmers’ market for the beefsteak tomato.
The beefsteak is more than variety of tomato; it is many varieties (dozens) and a class of tomato. Beefsteaks are one of the largest varieties of tomatoes growing. You might find one beefsteak–that’s one tomato–plumping in at more than 2 pounds (1 kilogram). I just brought in three small to medium-sized beefsteaks and they weighed in at just a bit less than 3 pounds.
But the beefsteak is not about poundage, it’s about eating. Beefsteak tomatoes are meaty and tasty in an old-fashioned tomato flavorful way. The beefsteak is the tomato for your tomato sandwich, BLT, or picnic-sized hamburger. The beefsteak is perfect for your stand-alone tomato side dish: slice, lightly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle to taste with sea salt and shredded basil, and serve.
The beefsteak tomato comes in a rainbow of colors: red, pink, yellow, orange, green, and purple-black for starters. Beefsteaks aren’t round; they’re fat and saucer-shaped in a squatty sort of way, or weigh. Obolate might be one descriptor for the beefsteak.
Slice a beefsteak and you will find a tomato filled (filled!) with lush seed cavities (many). There’s no core like you might find in smaller slicing tomatoes. The beefsteaks’ seedy interior maze is Byzantine but an architecture of amazing strength. The beefsteak is made for slicing and eating raw and staying together.
Varieties. What beefsteak to buy? Well, taste around until you find the one or ones for you. ‘Big Beef’ is a great beefsteak, flavorful and consistent. The heirloom beefsteak ‘Brandywine’, pink or yellow or purple-black tops many tomato flavor lists. ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Black Krim’ are purple beefsteaks of the tomato pantheon. ‘Basinga’ and ‘Hazel Mae’ are yellow and mild flavored.
‘Beefmaster’, ‘Big Bite’, ‘Heavy Weight’, ‘Goliath’, and ‘Watermelon’ are descriptive names of beefsteak varieties. ‘Celebrity’ is a popular beefsteak. Of course, the best beefsteak for storytelling is ‘Mortgage Lifter.’ The story: During the Big Depression, a West Virginia farmer by the name of Mr. Byles was about to lose the farm. Farmer Byles crossed several fat beefsteaks until he came up with a new beefsteak variety so big and so flavorful that his tomato sales paid off the mortgage, the ‘Mortgage Lifter.’ Now, that’s a tomato!
Choose. Look for beefsteaks that are firm but give to gentle pressure and are smooth-skinned. Avoid any tomato that is too soft, wrinkled, has a broken skin or is blotchy colored. The beefsteak does not need to be refrigerated. If it’s a tad green, it will ripen on the counter at room temperature.
Size is not the end all with beefsteaks. A flavorful beefsteak that is easily managed is palm-full and will weigh 8 to 12 ounces.
Eat the beefsteak raw and sliced on sandwiches and hamburgers. Dice the beefsteak for salads or salsas or to top chili. The beefsteak can be broiled or grilled or stuffed or used in stews or casseroles or gumbos and jambalayas.
How to grow. As for growing: the beefsteak requires upwards of 90 days to maturity; yes, that’s a quarter of a year, so the beefsteak is not a short-season crop. Tomatoes demand warm to very warm weather with the optimum temperature between 65ºF and 85ºF. Get a jump on the season, by starting beefsteaks indoors 10 to 12 weeks before planting out. The soil must be fertile and well drained; work in plenty of well-rotted manure and compost to the planting bed in the fall. Keep the soil moist during the growing season; don’t over water or water from over head. When your beefsteaks are ready, use a garden scissor to harvest them, give them a light rinse, and serve.
When choosing which tomato to grow, variables to consider include: growth habit, time to maturity, disease resistance, texture, and flavor. Specifically, make sure the tomato variety chosen will meet your expectations in the kitchen. If you want a tomato for paste, don’t plant a salad variety. Also factor in how much space you have and whether you want to use a cage (for indeterminate vining varieties) or not.
Tip: If you have limited growing space or will be growing in a container, consider a more compact determinate variety. Look for names that include the words mini, patio, or dwarf. Determinate varieties are also a smart choice for colder climates, where you need to harvest an entire crop within a few weeks. On the other hand, if you are fortunate to have space, or prefer to harvest over a long period and are geared up to provide sturdy, supportive cages or stakes, then an indeterminate variety is what you should be looking for.
I suggest growing both hybrids and heirlooms because by mixing tomato types you are spreading the wealth of a harvest over the longest season. Plant determinate or early indeterminate tomato varieties for early summer tomatoes, and salad or beefsteak tomatoes for mid- and late-summer harvest.
Above: Cherry tomatoes grow in a garden in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photograph by Ancapron via Flickr.
Tips and Tricks
- For healthy growth, tomato plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day to produce fruit, and eight hours of sun for a bigger harvest.
- Always mulch beneath your plants because if water splashes soil onto plants, soil pathogens to transfer to the leaves.
- Best mulch? Wheat straw, because it is easy to find and is inexpensive. Avoid hay because it has seeds that will germinate.
- Choose a tomato support that will accommodate a fully grown plant. A flimsy, thin gauge support will topple under the weight of a mammoth Sungold variety.
- Start pruning tomato plants when they are one to two feet tall. When suckers appear, the simplest is to pinch it off entirely while still small.
- Determinate tomatoes need little pruning other than removing suckers below the first flower cluster.
See more growing tips at Tomatoes: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Read our curated guide to Edible Plants 101 for companion plants that get along well with tomatoes, including Basil, Carrots, Nasturtiums, and Calendula.
It’s not too late to plant a summer edible garden. Read more:
- Everything You Need to Know About Edible Gardens
- 10 Secrets for Growing an Urban Balcony Garden
- Landscaping 101: Biodynamics for the Edible Garden
CC flickr photo courtesy of nociveglia
Beefsteak tomatoes are by far the most popular type of home garden tomato grown in North America. These tomatoes grow fairly quickly, produce huge (up to 2 pounds!) fruits, and are relatively easy to grow. They are not often available in the grocery store as they are not well-suited to mechanized growing on a large scale. There are many varieties of Beefsteaks, including Big Beef, Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine.
Best Soil for Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes
The primary destroyers of Beefsteak plants are diseases that proliferate in situations where plants are not rotated. So proper crop rotation in the garden is a must. A slightly acidic soil is best (about 6.5 pH) for Beefsteaks and good nutrition is paramount.
Most in-ground growers will turn their soil and include a mulch such as straw or winter cover crops. This keeps the soil loose and allows the tomato’s roots to breathe, alleviating other problems common to Beefsteaks.
Proper soil should be loose, rich, and not have had tomatoes in it for at least three years.
Proper Care of Beefsteak Tomatoes
A common mistake made by those new to Beefsteak tomatoes is to underestimate the amount of space the plants require. They can grow as much as 8 feet in height and spread two to three feet wide, so minimum spacing of 36 inches is a must.
As with most tomatoes, pinching early shoots will encourage upward growth and production. They should be tied to a trellis, staked or caged. Beefsteaks often get end-rot and other problems when not held upright.
Watering correctly is vitally important to Beefsteak varieties. Watering on the ground and increasing frequency when tomatoes begin forming will discourage blossom end rot and larger fruits.
When to Harvest Beefsteak Tomatoes
Harvest when the tomatoes are at their peak color. This is usually at 65 to 90 days, depending on the climate and specific strain. Beefsteaks are a medium-red color when ripe and will be easily plucked from the vine.
Beefsteak Tomato Pests and Diseases
Most pests and disease can be avoided if the above Proper Care (above) is given. Crop rotation and loose soil stop most rotting issues. Tomato fruitworms and beet army worms can be a problem in some areas as can tobacco hornworms. These pests will be evidenced towards the late stages of the plant’s development and are often controlled using sprays or complementary planting. Planting onions or beets nearby often keeps these pests at bay or gives them something else to attack.
How to Prepare Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteaks are best known for their crisp outer shell and moist insides. They are perfect sliced on sandwiches and are popular for stuffed tomato recipes and deep frying. They are also often diced and added to salsas fresh (uncooked) to add a little crunch to the mix. They are also excellent candidates for canning in halves or quarters for stew and chili.
Tips for Growing Beefsteak Tomatoes
Excellent soil is the most important element. Side-fertilizing with an even mix (10-10-10) just as the first flowers form is also recommended. Compost or compost tea can also be used if growing organically. Proper support cannot be emphasized enough and lots of water once tomatoes begin to form is vital.
Want to learn more about growing Beefsteak tomatoes?
Check out these helpful websites:
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Growing Tomatoes
Purdue University – Growing Information for Tomatoes