Growing tomato plants can be very rewarding. What could be better than being able to enjoy your sweet harvest after weeks of pruning, watering, and fertilizing?
However, tomato plants can be tricky. They are vulnerable to many health conditions and pests, and they require a lot of attention.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy for things to go wrong. And, when things do go wrong, it is very likely that your yield will suffer.
To ensure that you have the best harvest possible, take a look at our favorite 12 tomato growth hacks for a high yield harvest below.
Harden Your Seedlings
To give your tomato plants the best possible chance, we recommend putting them through a process called hardening.
This process can be a little bit tedious, however, it really can make a huge difference in terms of the overall resilience and health of your tomato plants.
To do this, plant your seedlings or cuttings in a tray that you can easily move. Keep them indoors, until around 10 days before you plan on planting them outdoors.
At this time, you should begin to acclimate your seedlings to the environment outside.
To do so, take your seedlings outside, and extend the time they remain outside each day. For example, on the first day, you can leave them outside for an hour or two. On the second day, it may be three hours, etc.
In turn, this will help your tomato plants to adjust to the environment in which they will live.
Specifically, they can get used to the strength of the sun and the wind, which will ensure that they are as resilient to the local climate as possible.
Prepare The Soil
This is a particularly important step. The quality and appropriateness of the soil in which you plant your tomatoes have a large effect on the size of your yield. Tomatoes thrive in soil that is rich, well-draining, and deep.
To ensure that you’re giving your tomatoes the best chance, we recommend completing a soil test before you plant your tomatoes.
These tests will let you know what nutrients are in your soil, what nutrients are lacking, and the pH of the soil.
It is important to know what nutrients are in your soil so that you can make adjustments using fertilizers if necessary.
Tomatoes will need more of some nutrients than others, but we will discuss this more in-depth further down the list.
Once you have tested the soil and made any necessary adjustments, you need to make sure that your garden bed is deep enough for your tomato plants.
If possible, we recommend ensuring that the soil is somewhere between 12 and 24 inches deep.
Then, you should add compost to the soil. The layer of compost should be around 6 inches deep. This will provide your tomatoes with nearly all of the vital nutrients that they need to thrive, as long as it is a good-quality compost.
Calcium is an important nutrient for tomatoes. In fact, a deficiency in calcium is one of the main causes of Blossom End Rot, a disease that can ruin your tomato crops.
As such, it is a good idea to ensure that your tomato plants are getting enough calcium.
There are many different ways of doing this, but most gardeners add eggshells to the soil. Simply grind your leftover eggshells into a fine powder, and sprinkle this into the planting holes before adding your tomatoes.
Plant The Healthiest Seedlings
As a rule of thumb, you should plant your healthiest and strongest seedlings first. This will ensure that you’re giving the healthiest tomato plants the best chance, which, in turn, will ensure a good yield when the time comes.
However, this isn’t to say that you have to discard your sad-looking seedlings. You just need to spend some time reviving them before planting them into the soil.
To do so, they’ll need to be protected from harsh environments and watered well.
Space The Plants
It is important to remember that tomato plants grow to be quite large. As such, you will need to give each plant adequate room to grow when you plant them.
The necessary distance between each plant will vary depending on the variety, so do your research before planting!
However, generally speaking, plants require around two feet of space. This will give them enough room to grow to a good size, which will help to encourage a good yield. Some varieties will need 3 feet of space.
It is important that you water your tomato plants appropriately because they are quite picky.
If tomato plants don’t receive enough water, or they don’t receive it consistently enough, it is likely that the overall health of the plant will suffer, which will negatively affect the yield.
You should water your tomato plants consistently and deeply. This will help to ensure that your tomato plants grow a resilient and robust system of roots, which means that they’ll have access to plenty of nutrients below the ground.
The right watering schedule for your plants will depend on the variety of the plants and the climate in which you live.
The soil of your tomato plants should never dry out completely, so usually watering them every three days or so will be appropriate.
When watering, it is important that you don’t water from above. This will increase the risk of your plants developing a health problem.
Instead, water the plants at the base. You should also do this fairly slowly.
Mulching is the process of adding mulch around your tomato plants. Many people believe that it is done simply for aesthetic purposes, however, it boasts many benefits for your tomato plants.
In fact, this method is arguably the most convenient way of increasing your yield.
Adding mulch around the plants will help the soil retain moisture for longer, which means that you’ll have to water them less frequently (a welcome fact for any busy gardeners out there!).
Additionally, mulch works to suppress weeds, regulate the temperature of the soil, reduce the risk of soil erosion, and prevents water from splashing onto leaves (which increases the risk of infections spreading).
We recommend mulching your tomato plants after you have planted them and watered them for the first time.
The mulch you use needs to be a few inches thick in order to achieve the benefits listed above.
Use Support Immediately
Tomato plants are heavy and they can grow to be pretty tall. Without the right support, they will fall over and potentially break, which would significantly reduce your yield.
If it doesn’t break, it may still pick up bacteria or diseases from the ground.
As such, it is very important that you provide your tomato plants with support. We recommend doing this pretty much straight away, to prevent any accidents from occurring.
Also, if you wait too long, installing support may disrupt the root system.
You can use a stake, a cage, or a trellis, depending on your preferences and the variety you are growing.
Shorter varieties will benefit from stakes or cages, whereas taller types will need a much stronger structure.
Many people believe that pruning isn’t really necessary for smaller plants. However, this is a huge misconception.
Tomato plants especially benefit from heavy pruning. In fact, pruning tends to result in particularly high yields.
To prune your tomato plants properly, first begin with the lower branches. Cut these off using a sterilized and sharp pair of garden scissors.
Keep removing the lower branches of your plant as it continues to grow, as these are unlikely to produce fruit.
You should also remove the suckers from your plant. These grow from the axils of the leaves. This will ensure that the plant is able to direct its energy into growing healthily and producing a great yield.
Finally, you should remove some leaves from your plants. But, the number of leaves you should remove is determined by the variety of plants you are growing.
Determinate plants will need much less pruning, so you should just prune to avoid overcrowding and to remove leaves close to the soil.
On the other hand, indeterminate plants tend to grow vines that spread wildly. With these plants, it is necessary to prune frequently to ensure that they are kept to an appropriate size.
It is also important to train them up a fence or poles.
Regardless of the variety, you will also need to remove any leaves that may be damaged or diseased.
The ultimate goal when it comes to pruning is to ensure that your plants are open, airy, and free of any potential pests or infections.
Tomato plants are thirsty and hungry plants. In addition to benefiting from lots of water, they also benefit from a lot of food.
As such, to get the best out of your tomato plants, using fertilizer regularly is a good idea.
After they have been planted in the soil, tomato plants benefit from a lot of different nutrients, including a high dose of nitrogen.
At this time, we recommend using a good quality compost in conjunction with a balanced fertilizer, such as one with a 10-10-10 NPK ratio.
When you notice that your plants are beginning to flower and grow fruit, your tomato plants will need a boost of potassium.
As such, we recommend purchasing a fertilizer that is high in potassium and low in nitrogen at this time.
If you continue to use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, your plants will be encouraged to continue to produce leaves, rather than fruit. A fertilizer that is high in potassium will encourage larger yields.
Use Companion Plants
Companion planting is a very popular method amongst experienced gardeners. It is the process of planting crops together that provide each other with certain benefits.
For instance, certain plants may protect vulnerable crops from certain pest infestations.
By using the best companion plants for tomatoes, you will be protecting your crop (and eventual yield) from pests and disease. In fact, some companion plants have been known to make your tomatoes grow healthier and taste better!
Best Tomato Companion Plants
Check out the best companion plants for tomatoes below.
Thanks to its strong scent, basil works to repel insects that may harm your tomato crops. In fact, it even repels mosquitos, flies, and fruit flies.
It is also thought that basil can enhance the flavor of tomatoes when it is planted next to tomato plants.
If you want an easy-going companion plant, basil is an excellent choice. It has very similar growing requirements to tomatoes, which makes maintaining them very easy. They also taste amazing when paired together!
Onions grow particularly well with tomatoes. In fact, if you’re struggling to protect your tomato crops from pest infestations, you can use any member of the onion family as a companion plant. Chives and garlic, in particular, work to deter most pests.
Carrots grow wonderfully with tomatoes. You can plant them when the tomatoes are small, and the two sets of crops will grow well in conjunction.
In fact, it’s likely that they’ll be ready to harvest just as the tomato plants require a little bit more space.
Due to the way that they grow, carrots work to loosen the soil around them.
This will help the roots of the tomato plants grow deeper and establish themselves, resulting in better health and yield. Just don’t plant them too close together otherwise your carrots may be small.
If you like asparagus, you should definitely consider planting them next to your tomatoes. In this instance, both plants receive benefits!
Asparagus fends off nematodes, which is of great benefit to tomatoes. Tomatoes repel asparagus beetles, which cause havoc on asparagus.
Earlier in the article, we discussed the benefits of using mulch. Well, if you plant lettuce near your tomatoes, you get two benefits for the price of one!
This companion plant can act as a kind of living mulch for tomato plants by keeping the soil below moist and cool.
Tomatoes also provide some benefits to lettuce, particularly in taller varieties. Lettuce enjoys some shade, and can’t handle direct sunlight when it is too warm.
Tall tomato plants work to keep the lettuce plants in their shadows cool and safe.
Worst Tomato Companion Plants
To get the greatest yield possible, you will need to avoid planting certain plants next to tomatoes, because they could cause problems for your fruits. Check out the plants that you should avoid pairing with tomatoes below.
Anything within the cabbage, or Brassica, family shouldn’t be planted close to tomatoes. This is because the plants within this family are known to prevent the growth of tomato plants, which will significantly affect your yield.
Corn attracts some common pests that have been known to cause havoc for tomato plants. For instance, the pest known as the corn earworm is actually the same pest as the tomato fruitworm. Growing them next to each other puts both plants at greater risk of infestation.
Plants belonging to the nightshade family, such as eggplant, peppers, and potatoes, should not be planted close to tomatoes.
This is because tomatoes, and these other nightshade plants, are very susceptible to early and late blight, two infections that can cause havoc.
Both of these infections can slowly build up in the soil and become more infectious and deadly every year. As such, it is important that your nightshade plants are well spaced out in your garden. These plants also attract the same pests.
You might be surprised to learn that walnut trees can be particularly dangerous for tomatoes. Walnut trees produce juglone, a chemical that is very dangerous for tomato plants because it inhibits their growth.
Additionally, tomatoes are vulnerable to some diseases that typically take hold of walnut trees. Specifically, walnut wilt can severely affect tomato plants. As such, make sure that your tomatoes, and all other nightshades, aren’t planted near a walnut tree.
Finally, to ensure that you get the greatest yield possible, you will need to harvest your tomato plants regularly. Picking the nearly ripe tomatoes will encourage more tomatoes to grow in their place.
Leaving tomatoes on the plant for too long means that the plant is directing energy toward already ripened fruits, rather than creating more. Make sure to check your plant every day and pick any mature tomatoes that you see growing.
If they aren’t quite ripe – don’t worry! It is super easy to ripen tomatoes indoors. In fact, it reduces the risk of pests and disease taking hold of your fruits before you can pick them. However, don’t leave unripe tomatoes on a windowsill to ripen – this is a myth!
Instead, to ripen your unripe tomatoes, you just need to put them in a paper bag. Then, store the bag along with your other tomatoes and a ripe apple. This should work to give you delicious ripened tomatoes in no time!
A Note On Fertilizers
We know that many people find fertilizers confusing. As such, before we wrap things up, we wanted to just take you through the basics of fertilizers, so that you can choose the most appropriate one for your tomato plants and garden.
The most important thing to understand when it comes to fertilizer is the N-P-K ratio. This describes how much nitrogen, (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) is in the specific fertilizer.
When we discussed fertilizers above, we recommended a fertilizer that had an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10.
This means that the formula for the fertilizer consists of 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. As such, it contained equal amounts of each substance.
Importance Of N-P-K Ratio
This ratio is very important to understand because it details what nutrients are in the fertilizer.
The nutrients that your plants require will depend on the variety of tomatoes you are growing, and their growth stage. Check out the details of each nutrient below to learn more.
Nitrogen is necessary for the growth of foliage on the plant. As such, this is a very important nutrient at the beginning of your tomato growing season, as the development of leaves is necessary.
Phosphorus is another important nutrient when it comes to tomato plants. It is responsible for robust root growth and the development of flowers and fruits.
As such, once your tomato plants have begun to establish themselves, they need a phosphorus-heavy fertilizer.
Potassium is a great all-around nutrient. It works to ensure that all of the functions of the plant are in working order, and as such, it encourages overall health. This is a great nutrient for tomatoes at any time in their growth cycle.
Best Fertilizers For High Tomato Yield
If you’re struggling to pick a fertilizer for your tomatoes, check out our favorites below.
Espoma Organic Tomato-Tone 3-4-6
This fertilizer can be used on most varieties of tomatoes. It is an ideal fertilizer to use when your plants begin to flower.
Thanks to its nutrient-rich composition, it works to protect the tomatoes from diseases such as blossom end rot and to produce juicy and plentiful fruits.
As a bonus, this product has been approved for organic gardening!
JR Peters 51324 Jack’s CLassic 12-15-30 Tomato Feed
[amazon fields=”B01C9WRH0M” value=”thumb” image_size=”large” image_align=”center” ]
This fertilizer can be used at pretty much any time during your tomato’s growth cycle. It has a high potassium content that ensures a good crop.
Thanks to its nitrogen content, it also helps to produce vibrant green leaves and particularly strong vines. It comes with a free, easy-to-use measuring spoon that makes the application super simple.
Urban Farm Fertilizers Texas Tomato Food
[amazon fields=”B00LPQFLQG” value=”thumb” image_size=”large” image_align=”center” ]
Finally, if you want a high-nitrogen formula to give your young plants the best chance at healthy growth, then the Urban Farm Fertilizers Texas Tomato Food is an excellent option.
It has an NPK ratio of 4 – 2.9 – 6.7, which means that it has a good amount of potassium and nitrogen to encourage robust growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Tomatoes Like Coffee Grounds?
If you’re new to the wonderful world of gardening, you may have heard through the grapevine that some plants like coffee grounds. This might sound odd, but we can confirm that it is true!
Generally speaking, coffee is used to alter the pH in the soil and provide nutrients that are good for the overall health of the plants. However, this isn’t necessarily the case for tomato plants.
Coffee grounds tend to have a pH of around 6.5. This is just below neutral. Tomatoes tend to thrive in soil that is slightly on the acidic side of the scale.
As such, adding coffee grounds to soil is likely to have very little effect on their growth.
Do Tomatoes Like Baking Soda?
There is some conflicting evidence regarding the use of baking soda when growing tomato plants.
Baking soda works to reduce acidity levels in the soil, so some may expect that it wouldn’t have a good effect on tomato plants, because they thrive in acidic environments.
However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that sprinkling baking soda around the tomato plants as they flower could work to remove any tartness and make the yield taste far sweeter.
We think that it is definitely worth a try, but don’t apply too much!
Do Tomatoes Like Aspirin?
Believe it or not, they do! Tomatoes are quite vulnerable to health conditions and pests.
However, spraying your plants with a mix of water and aspirin may work to prevent health conditions, repel dangerous insects, and even encourage growth!
Growing tomato plants can be a very rewarding experience. We hope that this article has given you all of the tools and information you need to receive your most impressive yield yet!