Did you ever wish you had a cheat sheet of the ultimate tomato plant care tips to ensure success in the garden? I sure have. I’d love kitchen counters full of tomatoes just waiting to turn into homemade spaghetti sauce!
So, what is a tomato, actually – a fruit or a vegetable? As science would have it, a tomato is actually a berry.
This is so because tomatoes have one ovary, one flower, and many seeds. Simple and fleshy, tomatoes may technically be fruits, but they’re treated like vegetables in the kitchen.
What is the Scientific Name for Tomato?
The scientific name for tomato plants is Solanum lycopersicum. Tomato plants are nightshades, and they are in the same family as potatoes and eggplants, among roughly 2,500 other plants.
Tomato, in English, derives from the Spanish word tomate. This Spanish word came from the Nahuatl word tomatl (the language of the Aztecs), which means “the swelling fruit.”
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Phylum: Magnoliophyta – Flowering Plants
- Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
- Subclass: Asteridae
- Order: Solanales
- Family: Solanaceae – Potato family
- Genus: Solanum L. – Nightshade
- Species: Solanum lycopersicum
Tomato Questions and Answers with a Master Gardener
I had the pleasure of interviewing the Invisible Gardener, Andy Lopez of InvisibleGardener.com. You’ll see my questions in bold and his helpful answers in plain text below each question.
Thanks Andy, for taking the time to explain these tomato plant care tips so thoroughly!
From the heart of a gardener, what does heirloom tomato mean?
Heirloom means to me that it has been ground for over 10 years organically without chemicals. That the genetics of the plant is dependent on an organic environment and that they will be healthy and strong. Also, the fruit will be dense. That is to say rich in minerals.
Generally, what is the tomato seed to harvest time?
Generally takes about 60 days to establish fruit. Then the plant should produce year long until it gets too cold.
How big should a tomato pot be?
Best to grow in-ground as they have deep roots. However, if you must grow in a container, 15 gallons size is the right size.
What is the best time to water tomato plants?
Never water at night. When you water really depends on where you live and the conditions of weather. If wet conditions then water in early am. If dry conditions the water in early pm around sunset.
How do you avoid tomato plant overwatering?
Only water when it has been allowed to dry for a day or two. Never keep the plant continuously wet or it will develop diseases and pests.
What is involved with topping tomato plants and is it effective?
Topping is just that, when you cut the tops of the plant. Some folks think it’s good for the plant, others (like me) don’t think it’s a good idea.
People think that by topping it will make the plant fuller and have more fruit. Not true.
The shape of the plant is genetics and cant be changed. To have a full-plant, always best to never use chemicals that make for rapid growth. Organics is slow and steady growth.
You can pinch the tips to increase size growth.
Also the proper amount of light is important. They will need a min of 8 hours of direct sunlight.
How tall do indeterminate tomatoes grow?
The Height depends on the variety. Usually can grow as high as 10 feet under proper conditions. They usually are vines.
How tall do determinate tomatoes grow?
They would be shorter, more like 6 feet. Again the variety, light, soil conditions determine growth.
What are the best tips on how to get bigger tomatoes?
- Make sure you have properly amended the soil with organic matter like compost.
- Add a small amount of rock dust for minerals. Best is a blend of different sources of rock dust for a complete mineral blend. Plants need 90 trace minerals for healthy pest and disease-free growth.
- Avoid overwatering. Water should be twice maxed twice per week depending on weather, soil, etc. conditions. If in a container, water from the tray to make the plant suck in the water from below.
- Provide a constant source of nutrients by foliar spraying once weekly and applying a small amount of an organic fertilizer weekly.
- For best plants, never buy from a local nursery. Plants are not healthy or organically grown. Always get heirloom seeds from heirloom seed sources like Seeds of Change or Peacefully Valley Farm and Garden. Just Google Heirloom seeds for more choice. Best to get seeds that are from your area. Also, save seeds to grow again next year. These will do much better.
Do you have any tips on how to get more tomatoes per plant?
Best to have fewer tomatoes but larger than a lot of tomatoes but smaller. I always pick a few off that are too close together to allow the ones on to get bigger.
The variety also determines how much a plant produces so pick a few varieties and see which does best for your area.
Stick to organic and your plants will be stronger and will produce more.
What time of day is best to pick tomatoes?
Early in the morning is best before the sun comes up. If you cant then try after sun goes down Plant is not stressed then if picked properly. Use a scissor to remove.
What makes tomatoes ripen? What ripens tomatoes the fastest?
The temperature will need to be above 70 degrees F at night.
Anything you would like to add?
To avoid diseases and pests, it is always better to avoid overwatering. Too much water destroys the microbials in the soil. The soil and plants need these to ensure healthy plants.
Learn to use a Refractometer to read Brix levels of the plant. The higher the Brix the healthier the plant.
READ MORE at Bunny’s Garden: 15 Tomato Companion Plants in the Garden.
About Andy Lopez, The Invisible Gardener
I am known as the Invisible Gardener. In business since 1970. All Organic. I heal the soil and the soil heals the plants.
I have several radio shows starting with Don’t Panic Its Organic since 1970 also.
My latest book is called “Dont Panic Its Organic.” I have written 21 books all total.
Please visit my website InvisibleGardener.com for more info.
Andy, thank you so much for taking the time to share your favorite tomato plant care tips for home growing with us. We look forward to sharing in your gardening adventures!