Roma tomatoes are a particularly popular variety of tomatoes – and it’s not hard to see why! Thanks to their sweet, juicy, and dense flesh, they make the most delicious homemade tomato sauces, dips, and pastes.
However, they can be a bit tricky to grow. As with most tomato varieties, Roma tomatoes require specific care throughout the growing season, and they are vulnerable to a number of health conditions and pests.
But, don’t let that put you off! We are here to help. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to ensure that you provide the right care for your Roma tomatoes from planting to harvest! Check it out – you’ll have the best growing season yet!
Roma Tomatoes Overview
Roma tomatoes, or plum tomatoes, are a certain variety of tomatoes. They are very popular to cook with, particularly in Italian cuisine. Their low water content, thick wall, and dense flesh set them apart from other types of tomatoes.
In fact, it is for these reasons that Roma tomatoes are generally used to make tomato sauces and pastes.
They are also often used for freezing and canning. As such, if you are a fan of making delicious pasta dishes, growing Roma tomatoes is a great idea!
How To Grow Roma Tomatoes
Now that you can identify the different types of Roma tomatoes, let’s get into the good stuff! Growing tomatoes is a very rewarding experience, but they can be quite temperamental and vulnerable plants!
That’s why we’ve created a step-by-step guide to ensure that you give your plants the best care during every stage of their growth cycle. From growing your seedlings to harvesting, we cover everything you need to know to get a great yield this growing season. Check it out!
Step One: Plant Your Seeds
If you are opting to grow your tomato plants from the seed, you should plant your seeds around 8 weeks before the final frost of the year is predicted to take hold. Planting your seeds is an easy process, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
First of all, you will need to keep your seeds somewhere warm. If you don’t have a good working greenhouse, we recommend starting your Roma tomato seeds off by growing them in a tray indoors (on a warm windowsill or covered by a clear plastic bag).
Second, you will need to use good-quality compost that has been formulated for seeds especially. On top of the compost, we recommend sprinkling some vermiculite. This will give your seedlings the best possible chance.
If you have chosen to cover your seedlings, you will need to remove the cover as soon as your seedlings begin to grow. This usually takes around two weeks, but it can differ according to variety. Then, ensure that they are receiving as much sunlight as possible.
Different Types Of Roma Tomatoes
There are different types of Roma tomatoes. Whilst they all grow fairly similarly, there may be some differences in their care requirements, so it’s important that you can identify your specific variety. We’ve listed the most common below – check them out!
You’re likely familiar with the famous San Marzano variety of Roma tomato. When ripe, they have a notably rich red hue. They are also shaped much like plums and boast particularly dense and meaty flesh.
Supposedly, the Heinz tomato is the variety that inspired the world-renowned ketchup brand. Whilst we can’t confirm if this is true or not, it does make some sense. This variety is much larger than other Roma varieties and makes great sauces and salsa dips.
If you’re looking for a variety that will give you a sweet and large yield, you should consider growing Viva Italia tomatoes. Unlike those above, these tomatoes are very delicious when eaten raw!
If you have limited room to grow your tomatoes, the La Roma variety could work very well for you and your garden. They are very well suited for container growing and are super resistant to dangerous diseases.
Don’t be put off by the name of this variety. The name is a reference to the tomatoes’ long shape and yellow tone when ripe. This variety is also ideal for container growing – and you can expect a very high yield every growing season!
This variety is a hybrid type of Roma tomato. They can be easily identified thanks to their bright orange color and round shape. They are often used in cooking because their rich flavor develops when heated. This variety is also resistant to certain diseases!
Step Two: Harden Your Seedlings
Before you replant your seedlings outdoors, you should put them through the ‘hardening’ process. This process helps to acclimatize your seedlings to the conditions they will experience outdoors.
The hardening process entails gradually giving your seedlings more time outside around 10 days before you want to plant them. On the first day, leave them outside for an hour. On the second day, leave them outside for two hours, etc.
If the weather is particularly harsh in your region, you may need to keep your tomatoes inside for longer. However, this process is important because it allows your seedlings to adjust to the wind and general environment.
Step Three: Prepare Soil And Cages
Next, you will need to decide where your tomatoes will be planted. Roma tomatoes require at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day to grow properly. As such, it is important that you pick a spot that gets a significant amount of light.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that this variety of tomato plants prefers soil that is loamy in nature. It also needs to be very well-draining, slightly acidic and filled with organic matter that will provide the plants with the appropriate nutrients.
Depending on the variety of Roma tomatoes that you’re growing, you may also need to provide cages for support. Varieties that have heavy fruits will especially need support, as these can often snap branches or topple over.
If you think that your variety of tomato plants will need support, you should place a cage in the soil before actually planting them. If you do it after you’ve planted them, the cage could disrupt the soil and roots, which may hinder healthy growth.
Step Four: Transplant Your Tomatoes
Finally, you can transplant your tomatoes! To do so, we recommend waiting for a sufficiently warm week to ensure that your seedlings get the best possible start. Generally speaking, you should wait until nighttime temperatures are over 50 degrees Fahrenheit consistently.
To plant your seedling, dig each one a small hole. It should be around 5 inches deep, but this depends on how large your seedlings have grown to be. Each little hole should also be around 15 inches apart to ensure each seedling has ample room to grow.
Before planting your seedlings, you should also place a good handful of high-quality compost in the hole to ensure that they have access to enough nutrients. Then, you can bury your seedlings in the soil.
Make sure that the stem is underground. Once planted, you should just be able to see the leaves sticking out of the ground. If you need to, you can make the hole deeper. Then, cover the hole with the soil, and give your seedlings a thorough and deep watering.
Step Five: Maintenance
It is important to give your seedlings plenty of water as they establish themselves. Once that has happened, you can move on to providing more general care. Take a look at our care and maintenance advice for the mid-season growth stage below.
Roma tomatoes appreciate a consistent watering schedule. Usually, it is appropriate for them to receive a deep and thorough watering between two and three times a week. However, if your climate is hotter or colder, they may require more or less, respectively.
It is very important that your Roma tomatoes get enough water. It is especially important for these plants to have access to water deep down into the soil because their roots tend to grow significantly.
In addition to being thirsty plants, Roma tomatoes are also very hungry plants. They are heavy feeders that need a lot of nutrients to ensure that they grow properly and provide you with a great yield.
As such, we recommend using fertilizer around once a month throughout the growing season. You should opt for a fertilizer that is well-balanced in the three essential nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Mulching is the process of putting organic matter on top of the soil to ensure that the moisture of the soil is maintained. It also helps to prevent diseases from taking hold of your tomato plants, or spreading between them, and stops the growth of weeds.
We recommend that you use wood chips, cardboard, dry leaves, or straw to mulch your tomatoes. If you don’t want to mulch your plants, you can instead weed the area that surrounds your tomatoes regularly to ensure that your tomato plants are protected.
Finally, it is very important that you check your Roma tomato plants frequently for common pests or signs of disease. Specifically, you need to watch out for unusual spots on the leaves, fungal spores, discolored leaves, larvae, and eggs.
Tomato plants tend to be vulnerable to a number of different health conditions. However, if caught early enough, most of them can be cured. As such, it is important that you remain as vigilant as possible.
One particularly common issue with Roma tomato plants is the yellowing of the leaves. This can be a consequence of many different factors, including improper watering practices, fungal infections, viruses, and nutrient deficiencies.
Step Six: Harvest
This is the exciting part! The harvest is the time when all of your efforts are rewarded. However, to ensure that you make the most out of this period, make sure that you follow our guidance below.
First, it is important that you are able to determine whether the fruits on your plant are ripe. Roma tomato plants are determinate, which means that all of the fruits on your plant will likely ripen at a similar time.
Depending on the variety, your Roma tomatoes may be any color ranging from yellow to red. When ripe, you will notice that the skin is shiny and the color is very uniform. They will also feel very firm.
It is worth noting that, due to their determinate nature, you will likely be harvesting all of your plants’ fruits in the space of just a few weeks. As such, you will need to check the plants daily to ensure that you are picking the fruits when they are perfectly ripe.
Check The Weather
When you suspect that your plants may nearly be ready to harvest, you should make sure that you will not be experiencing any weather events. If temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, your tomatoes will suffer.
As such, if you are expecting the weather to turn, we recommend harvesting your plants earlier than normal. In these cases, you will need to wait for your tomatoes to ripen properly indoors. Simply wrap them in a paper bag and place them with your ripened tomatoes.
Twist And Tug
When removing tomatoes from your plants, you will need to twist and tug them. With this variety of tomato, you will likely need to put a bit more force than normal into the tug to get the tomato off the vine. This is because Roma tomatoes are more dense and firm.
Once you have successfully removed a tomato, you should place it in an appropriate container. Don’t harvest your tomatoes by placing them into a bag, as they may crush each other. Instead, we recommend using a wide tray.
Top The Plants
Towards the end of the season, we recommend that you top your tomato plants. Whilst they don’t need pruning throughout the season, this last-minute cut will help your plants continue thriving right until the end of the season.
When doing so, it is very important that you practice good garden hygiene. We recommend using newly sterilized garden scissors or shears to snip off any excess foliage and the growing tips.
By doing this, you are enabling your tomato plants to direct all of their energy onto growing and ripening the fruits. As such, it will help to increase your yield, and ensure that your tomatoes taste divine!
Tips And Tricks
To ensure that you achieve what you want to with your tomato plants, take a look at our tips and tricks below. Growing tomatoes can be tricky, but with our insight, you’ll have the growing season of your dreams!
Pick The Right Variety
We mentioned earlier that there are a number of different types of Roma tomato plants. It is important that you choose the right variety for your garden and your needs. By spending time choosing the right cultivar, you are giving yourself the best chance of having a thriving crop!
Before choosing a variety, it is important that you know how much space you have to give to your tomatoes. If you have little space available, make sure that you grow a cultivar that can be grown in containers.
In addition to being able to provide the right care for your chosen cultivar, it is also important to be sure that you can get what you want out of your crop. For example, some varieties will be more appropriate for canning or making sauces than others.
Use A Good Fertilizer
Fertilizers can be tricky to understand. But, they play a huge part in ensuring that your plants have access to all of the nutrients that they need. As such, it is important that you understand fertilizers so that you can choose the most appropriate one for your plants.
Fertilizers are generally defined by their N-P-K value. This ratio describes how much of the three main nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), are present in a certain formula.
When it comes to fertilizing tomato plants in the middle of the season, we recommend opting for a fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K value. You should avoid those with higher nitrogen content because this will result in a bushy plant and a low yield.
An example of a fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K value is the Down To Earth Organic Vegetable Garden Fertilizer. This organic fertilizer has an N-P-K value of 4-4-4, meaning that there is an equal amount of each essential nutrient.
You can also opt for a formula such as the one provided by Jobe’s Organics Vegetable And Tomato Fertilizer. This fertilizer has an N-P-K value of 2-5-3. The higher phosphorus and potassium content makes this fertilizer a great option for later in the growing season.
Freeze Your Yield
If you get through tomatoes quickly, or you decide to share them with your friends and family, then you probably won’t need to take much notice of this tip. However, if you find yourself with more tomatoes than you can use, we recommend freezing or canning your fruits.
Tomatoes are one of few fruits that actually retain much of their nutritional value and flavor when they are frozen or canned. In order to maintain the freshness of the fruit, make sure that you freeze or can them as soon as you have harvested them.
Then, you can use your tomatoes in sauces, pastes, or salsa dips for months after you’ve harvested them! This is a great way to ensure the longevity of your crop and minimize any waste.
Growing Roma tomatoes is a very rewarding experience. We hope that this article has helped you to get the most out of this growing season!