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Customer Discussions > Gardening forum

Have You Had Tomato Success?

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Showing 1-25 of 75 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 29, 2010 7:59:28 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 29, 2010 8:00:39 PM PDT
GW says:
I am sick & tired of pampering tomato plants all season long just to produce tomatoes that are small, thick skinned, & rather tastless.

I have been buying the little started plants at the nursery section of the hardware store. I usually get one of each kind but haven't been impressed with my results.

Am I doing something wrong OR do I need a different variety?

BTW, I am in the LA area of So Cal.

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 4:32:37 PM PDT
Pottersgrove says:
I have for a long time had similar results. So about 7 years ago I bought some very ripe tomatoes of the kind I'd wanted to grow and included them in my compost. Since then I have had more plants than I can use. As for sweetness and visual perfection of the fruit!!!
The ground is enriched with manure and blood and bone, of course! I do not need to spray at all.
Nothing comes from nothing and you will get back fruit according to the effort put in

Posted on Aug 31, 2010 10:08:24 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 31, 2010 10:23:59 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 31, 2010 9:51:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 31, 2010 9:52:06 PM PDT
Jen says:
I'd recommend getting your soil tested. We do this at our local Cooperative Extension at the University of Maine. They give back a detailed report including how much of what kind of ammendment to put in. Our soil was not acid enough and it needed more nitrogen. Compost plus soy meal plus sulpher. Also added fresh grass clippings as mulch. We've had a hot and sunny summer (for Maine) and have had the best tomatoes of the past 12 years. Our favorite one is Sun Gold which is an orange cherry tomato, sweet and with a great flavor. Good luck. I almost gave up after last year when it was so wet and we got a very small yield. Keep trying. It is very rewarding when all the planets allign (nutrients plus weather).

Posted on Sep 2, 2010 7:28:14 PM PDT
Stephen says:
The easy answer is that there is not an easy answer, as more information would be needed. Do you container grow or are you planting in the ground? what type of soil and fertilizer are you using? what part of the year are you starting them? I know a lot of So Cal tomato growers are just now planting their tomatoes. How often do you fertilize?

Reason the questions I asked are important is because without that information its hard to really advise you. An example would be that a lot of people baby their tomatoes and they over fertilize them. Most fertilizer has high nitrogen the first # ex. 10-10-10 which is good when you first plant them, but if you apply it regularly the plants will be healthy and have a lot of foliage , but will have small and fewer fruits. It also depends on your soil, but if you have good soil you really only need to fertilize when you plant them and again once fruit is starting to form on the plant. There are lots of other tricks too but that was just an example. Best thing I would suggest is find a really good tomato forum like or idig and read and ask some questions and I think you will have a lot more success.

Posted on Sep 4, 2010 5:26:10 PM PDT
KNT says:
I'm in the Midwest and never had any problem with getting a lot of large fruits from my tomato plants. If you don't have a soil problem, just make sure your fertilizer has a larger middle number, i.e. 5-10-5, 10-15-10, etc. If you use something like a 10-10-10, your plants will not bear fruit or will lessen them drastically. If you have a lot of clay in your soil, that is also a problem. One cannot overwater tomato plants. They love water. I have also added eggshells to the soil. Thunderstorms also favor gardens, the lightning breaks up the nitrogen in the air and makes it available to the plants. Good luck!

Posted on Sep 9, 2010 8:17:23 PM PDT
FBMama says:
Use an Earthbox. After initial setup all you have to do is water through a tube and pinch off suckers. I have two under our eaves facing south against a garage wall. We put up 2 8' plastic trellis from Home Depot against the wall which have been great to tie the stems to. I have had great success for 4 years now. You can purchase through Amazon. Earthbox website:

Posted on Sep 10, 2010 2:59:24 PM PDT
E. Burke says:
starting with good quality heirloom tomato plants is a must. then adding lots of nice aged manure to your soil is the key. they love it! plus full sun. use mulch too, as much a you can--6-8 inches is great. and don't over-water (makes them tasteless). if you see the plants wilting in the mid-afternoon sun, look the other way.

Posted on Sep 14, 2010 9:52:48 PM PDT
C. Alexander says:
It sounds like your soil is not very rich. I would dig it up to aerate it, and then mix in compost. I make my own compost from kitchen scraps, but if that's not your thing, they sell bags of it very cheap at Whole Foods Grocery(about 2 dollars a bag, usually only in the spring tho). I grew up in the LA area and had a vegetable garden as a kid - the weather is perfect for tomatoes, so I blame your soil. Stephen can't be right about So Cal growers just planting tomatoes (in September???? are you crazy???It's not the Southern Hemisphere!) I live in Northern California now, and if I can grow tomatoes, so can you!!!

Posted on Sep 17, 2010 9:47:53 PM PDT
Snoogums says:
I'm in zone 6 - PA and had successful tomato years (even during wide-spread Blight last year). Start indoor seedling Big Boy tomato in May, plant in late April and May with composted soil and crushed egg shells on top. Drip-irrigation is good idea for tomatoes to prevent skin cracking during hot summer. Hope next year with compost will do well for your tomatoes.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2010 10:02:36 AM PDT
K. C. Ellis says:
This was the coldest summer on record. my tomatoes sucked. Ventura County CA.

Posted on Sep 20, 2010 7:19:07 PM PDT
Othercat says:
We plant 20 tomato plants every summer and they always thrive. This year they grew to be 6 feet tall and produced so many that we had to give some away. What we do is this;
1. For each plant, we dig a hole 2 feet wide and at least 1 1/2 foot deep.
2. Put 3/4 of the dirt back in.
3. Mix some aged chicken poop and 10-10-10 fertilizer into the soil you just put back in the hole.
4. Put your plant in and cover with dirt. We go about halfway up the stem.
5. Give each plant 1 gallon of water right after planting.

Besides a little weeding and watering every few days, we don't really have to do anything else. This year we even had a groundhog top off 12 of the plants and they still grew just as tall as the rest.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2010 10:02:31 PM PDT
Boy do I agree with you! NW Oregon, too, had a record cool and cloudy summer and a good deal of rain. I ended up with ONE cherry tomato, TWO green good-sized tomatoes (green is the color they're supposed to be when they're ripe), and TWO California peppers. I had NINE tomato plants. Obviously, you wouldn't call this a bumper crop.

QUESTION: Do tomatoes grow well in Colorado around Denver, Evergreen, Wheat Ridge, Conifer. Denver is in the flat land. The others are higher in altitude.

Posted on Oct 6, 2010 7:16:56 AM PDT
Tomatoes can be very hard to grow. I'd recommend starting with a type called "Celebrity" or Big Boy since you're in LA. Heirloom tomatoes taste wonderful, but the yield is small.

As others have said, you need decent soil or you have to fertilize. Celebrity is a pretty easy-going tomato. Whether you're planting in ground or in a pot, buy some good soil or plant the directly in turkey/chicken compost. I know, I know, the rumor is that plants can "burn" if they are in too much manure, but you're more likely to have the plants run out of nutrients than burn. Most compost bought in the stores is very high in pine shavings and less so in actual manure. Water them daily unless it rains a lot. Tomatoes need a steady supply of water and aren't drought tolerant.

And I feel your pain. The last two years in Texas we had days over 100 for too long. Tomatoes won't set above about 92. That means...I got tomatoes early and then nothing. Not a thing. And I babied them all through the summer hoping. Now it's cool enough but the plants have died back so much there isn't going to be a fall crop. It's very disheartening.

One of the easiest plants to grow (it's a very tall vine) is the Juliet. It's a large grape tomato with very good flavor. It's easier than most tomatoes. The Celebrity I recommended above is a regular, fairly large (medium to large) tomato with excellent taste. It tolerates most growing environments much better (the big boy and better boys supply less tomatoes but are bigger and are pickier. They are harder to grow than the Celebrities.)

If you are doing tomatoes in pots, I'd still recommend Juliet or Celebrity--just put something around the Juliet because it will climb. Or do the Juliet in one of those upsidedown hanging pots.

Good luck! Don't give up!


In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2010 11:38:44 AM PDT
F. Porter says:
Most of us apply too much of the concentrated fertilizers available at nurseries and big box stores (you know which ones I'm referring to). Dilute, dilute, dilute in order to limit the amount of salt you apply. You're burning the roots.
Also, using a fertilizer whose phosphorous content is higher, e.g. 6-12-6, will encourage more flowers.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 11, 2010 9:31:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 31, 2010 8:57:24 AM PST
Successful tomato harvesting starts in Jan. by preparing your soil. If hard clay, add potting soil/compost and sand to break up clots then apply mulch. Keep moving the soil around to maintain a loose, airy consistancy. Apply chicken fertilizer and work into the soil. After danger of frost plant starters and maintain moister in the soil. Once established let the soil dry somewhat before watering again. Don't be too fussy!

Posted on Oct 11, 2010 8:49:46 PM PDT
Amazonian says:
I am growing tomatoes for the first time this year. The fruit is just starting to come out, little guys. I counted them today, 17 of them, all varying sizes and pale green. I am in Zone 1, Tampa, FL. The growing season is just really starting, things will be blooming over the next few months. I am planting spinach and cucumbers this week. I am originally from Ohio, and growing in the FL sun is GREAT!!! It is really intense during the day, even now in October. I have a great deal of tobacco hornworms though, picked off 9-10 this week. I live right on the gulf. I mixed in really quality rich potting soil to the old abandoned garden/flower bed and WOW. I don't know what I am really doing, so the plants are way too close together I see now (6 inches) and it is a battle to keep them separate and up and lit. They outgrew my stakes, now what, LOL. Goodluck, Happy Gardening.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2010 3:01:14 AM PST
Firefly says:
I'm in MA and second the Sun Gold. It's so good I'm going to plant it almost exclusively next year! Very prolific and seems to be quite hardy and tolerant as well. I was very surprised to find a nursery variety that was so wonderful, but possibly it's geared toward New England climate.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2010 3:05:01 AM PST
JillieBean says:
I live in Monument, which is another 2 thousand feet up from Denver. I'm at about 7500 ft. Neither we, nor the neighbors have ever gotten tomatoes to grow here, and produce good fruit. Snow is always a threat until at least June, and it doesn't get into the 80s until July. One neighbor tried the topsy turvy container outside, and did get fruit, but they were tasteless, and he only got about 10 fruit.

The summer is just too short, and they don't seem to produce fruit like you would expect. On the other hand, if you go to the Rocky Ford, or Palisades area of CO, they have wonderful peaches, cherries, tomatoes, cantaloupe, corn etc. Its all about heat and altitude, and the lack of sufficient growing time on this side of the front range.

Longmont does seem to have good luck with organic farming including tomatoes, and you can even buy bushels or half-bushels of the currently producing fruit, veg, or herbs, and have them either delivered, or even pick your own at the farm if you want.

There are also a good many farmers' markets across Co Springs where the farmers will truck in their local produce and we can buy it without going to the grocery store. This is what I use to acquire the freshest just picked flavors.

I've always threatened to try tomatoes indoors, but never have. However, I think that would be the only way to get flavorful fruit. BIG grow-lights would seem the way to go.

Posted on Jan 18, 2011 1:02:40 PM PST
Ldsfrost says:
Tomatoes hard to grow? I live in Oceanside, CA, have a raised bed garden and grow Beefmaster Tomatoes which I get at our local DIY store. Over the years I have leaned more toward buying the largest and healthiest tomato plants I can find, ones with blossoms already on the plant. Since I have mulch, compost, shredded newspaper and angleworms growing in the soil, I have absolutely NO problems with growing tomatoes except for heirloom tomatoes. They don't seem to like San Diego Co. weather. Last summer I picked tomatoes which weighed nearly 2-1/2 lbs. each and the taste was out of this world!!! I planted these tomato plants in mid-February and finally had to pull the plants out in late November after the last killing frost that we unexpectedly had. I have never had a problem growing tomatoes not even when I lived in Illinois.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2011 6:30:28 AM PST
Lucy Summers says:
Hi GWFruit and Vegetables (Greenfingers Guides)

Occasionally as I go about the business of writing gardening books, I take a quick squizz at gardening forums etc just to see what gardeners find difficult as it helps me write a better book. So without further ado, here's my top tip for growing tomatoes though I see you are in CA and we are in grey dingy Old England, so if I can grow great tomatoes you undoubtedly have a head start in the sunshine stakes.

My best advice if you are a novice is to start with the small cherry 'bush' varieties (not vine types) as they are quick to grow, ripen quickly and you will see results quicker. Thus your confidence will improve and then by using the same approach, you'll be soon growing the bigger 'beefies' with ease.

If you don't want to grow from seed, buy small plantlets to give you a head start.

Sun and water are the key elements to success and never grow them in the same place two years in a row. Here in the UK we use 'Gro-bags" that you plant straight into, the soil is already enriched and off you go and then once the plants are over, you can sling the soil in the compost heap and start afresh next year.
However, if you are growing in the ground and your soil is poor enrich it by digging in well-rotted farmyard manure prior to planting your plantlets. You need to plant them in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Once you have a dozen or more flower trusses, nip out the some of the sideshoots to encourage more fruit production. This way you will end up with lesser amounts of fruit but better quality. (This also applies to both larger vine and bus tomatoes, once you feel brave enough to try them.) Otherwise the plant starts having to concentrate on keeping all that leafy growth going instead of its energy going into getting the fruits to grow.

With me so far?

Once you first see the fruit trusses, (ie the flowers, that will fade to form the fruits) you need to keep up the watering and start feeding the little blighters regularly. Feed with either liquid tomato feed or comfrey at two weekly intervals from the first sight of small fruits. NEVER let the soil dry out or worse become water-logged; watering little and often is best and in my experience produces the best flavour. Pick off yellowing leaves or leaves that shade the developing fruits as they grow. This ensures they get plenty of sunshine and keeps the air circulation good.

Remember every pesky critter is looking forward to eating your crops as much as you are, so keep an eye out for aphids, red spider mite, wilt etc. (My book tells you all about this stuff and how to prevent it or treat it rapidly.)

When your tomatoes, ripen to red or deep gold, depending on variety, give them a light squeeze and if they smell really tomatoey ( is there such a word?!) and are firm, but give just a touch you can harvest away. I wish you every success. Let me know how you get on.

Warm wishes,

Lucy Summers

Posted on Jan 20, 2011 11:13:07 AM PST
E. Epstein says:
The best luck with tomoatoes is using this Waterboxx ( outside. It self-waters the tomatoe, blocks weeds close to the plant, helps support a stake and is reusable year to year. It was actually intended to start trees or grape vines, but tomatoes or other seasonal veggies do really well.

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 5:02:25 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 25, 2011 6:03:02 AM PST
Firefly says:
OP, with your climate you may want to try dry farming. I have tasted tomatoes grown that way and they are outstanding, with a deep intense flavor. The article says clay soil works best, but they were grown in Boony Doon CA (a hot dry area near Santa Cruz), which generally has sandy soil.

JillieBean, you may have success with grow tunnels, cloches, Wall-o-Water, etc.

Posted on Feb 8, 2011 6:54:52 PM PST
Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series) follow his recipe and you won't fail

Posted on Feb 9, 2011 12:49:51 PM PST
Dee Rohe says:
I bought a pot with three big tomato plants in it already. As soon as I brought it home, it got sick with yellowed leaves, black spots, etc. So I picked off all the bad leaves, sprayed an organic fungicide... it's doing better now, but not totally well, although it has lots of tomatoes. In the meantime, I had an overripe tomato that I had bought out in the Redland area near Homestead, FL, about 9 miles from me.. when I cut it to eat, I noticed several seeds starting to sprout.. so I started them in little peat pots and then transplanted three of them to a big pot. They are doing fantastic!! .. fast growing, no diseases, and already have four little blossoms on them. This is the way I'll go from now on! For my regular gardening, I use this method: Dee
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