The time is upon us to start planting tomatoes (a.k.a “love apples”).  I, like my Mother, have a love-hate relationship with the versatile, tasty fruit (yes, it’s a fruit).  Some years we seem to fail, while other years the harvest is so abundant we can’t seem to give them away.  When neighbors see us approaching with over-flowing baskets and bags, they stop coming to the door.  Alas, it just wouldn’t be summer without them, so here are some helpful tips on getting the most out of your tomato plants:


Tomatoes are a warm season fruit and do best in consistent soil temperatures.  Late May to early June seems the most ideal time to plant when the threat of frost has passed. Most gardeners prefer to use plants purchased from a reliable garden center versus direct seeding.  To enjoy tomatoes throughout the growing season, be sure to plant both early and main crop varieties.


Tomatoes can be grown either on the ground or staked; however, plants grown on the ground require less work and produce more per plant.  Staked plants offer cleaner fruits and are sometimes easier to pick.  If growing on the ground, be sure to mulch as it will help reduce rot, keep the fruits clean while conserving moisture and controlling weeds (remember this from last week’s blog?).


Tie a string tightly around the stake and loosely around the plant.  Tie a knot just below a branch, so the plant cannot slide down.


Water the plants thoroughly and on a regular basis during prolonged dry periods.  Container plants may need daily or more frequent watering.  Water in the morning and try to keep the leaves dry by watering at the base of the plant.


Harvest the fruits when they are pink, except during periods when the temperatures exceed 70 degrees on a consistent basis.  At such warm temperatures, pick the tomatoes just as they are turning color and keep them at 68 degrees for further coloring.  When you do this, fruits will be firmer and have better flavor than if left on the vine to ripen. 

Above all else, remember to have fun and enjoy the “fruits” of your labor.  Share them with friends, families and neighbors, until, of course, you have been blacklisted and shunned 🙂

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”

– Lewis Grizzard

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney