This “article” on growing high-yield tomato plants originated as a short post with a video. We decided to update and expand the post but to keep the original information “as is.” Enjoy the update!
Many people who grow tomatoes ask “How Many Tomatoes Per Plant can I get?” Most produce on average about 10 pounds of tomatoes per plant.
However, according to LDSprepper by following a few tips which include getting the right tomatoes for your area you can harvest 50 to 80 pounds per plant.
- Start or Choose Your Seedlings
- Best High Yield Tomato Plant Varieties
- Select and Prepare Your Garden Plot
- Plant Your Seedlings
- Mulch Your Garden Heavily
- Provide Daily Care
- Trimming & Suckering Tomato Plants
- Growing New Plants From Suckers
- Keep Your Garden Soil Fresh
- What About Tomato Pests?
- Tomato Quick Reference Checklist
- Customize Your Process To Your Setting
Even if you have never gardened before or have always had bad luck as a gardener, you can grow a great high-yield tomato crop and increase the tomato yield per plant by following a few simple tips.
Watch this video for some smart tips.
In this article, we will provide an overview of successful tomato farming, along with a 12 step checklist to will help you grow the best and most fresh tomatoes possible. Read on to learn more on how to increase tomato yield.
Start or Choose Your Seedlings
It’s always best to start your tomato plants from seed. You will save money by doing it but also gain a wealth of knowledge.
Even if you purchase the more costly USDA Certified Heirloom Tomato Seeds Assortment like these, you’ll save money. Consider the fact that a package of these high-quality seeds costs $3-$4 for about 25 seeds.
Seedlings cost about that much for a flat of 6 non-organic, hybrid plants. If you purchase organically grown, heirloom seedlings, you can expect to pay that much or more per plant.
Also, consider the fact, organic tomatoes cost $3-$6 a pound. If you grow a half dozen plants you started from top-quality heirloom tomato seed, and each one produces 50+ pounds of fruits, it’s easy to see how you will save some bucks.
Select Tomato Seedlings Carefully
If you do purchase seedlings, make them carry the certified organic label and avoid big lush seedlings in small pots.
Even though a plant with lots of green leaves may seem like the obvious choice, remember the plant’s root system plays a far larger role than the leaves when it comes to tomato production.
If seedlings put lots of energy into leaves, they suffer a setback when transplanting them and will take time to recover before beginning to produce fruit.
Aside from your savings, growing certified, organic, heirloom variety plants from “scratch” comes with many side benefits.
One of the most compelling benefits – you will avoid the fact that many seedlings at your local home and garden center have been raised using pesticides containing neonicotinoids.
These chemicals devastate bee populations. Without bees, we would not have life on earth. Seriously. Protect your local bees and other pollinators by only planting tomatoes and other plants safe for local fauna and you and your family.
In addition to having potential chemical contamination, hybrid tomato seeds and seedlings may carry more genetic modification than simple hybridization.
The introduction of non-tomato genes into your plants could produce unexpected and unintended effects on bees and other beneficial insects and perhaps on you, too.
Best High Yield Tomato Plant Varieties
You will find many excellent types of tomato plants to choose from. First, you must decide if you want determinate tomato plants or indeterminate plant varieties. What is the difference?
- Determinate varieties grow to a specific height and stop
- Indeterminate varieties grow as long and high as you allow them to
Another important thing to consider. Consult with a local gardening club before choosing your seeds or seedlings. Get advice from experienced gardeners in your area regarding the types of plants like heirloom varieties that thrive in your setting. You should also know about disease-resistant cultivars if there are any. Some common choices include:
Cherry Tomato: This delightful selection produces abundant, tiny cherry-like red, deep red, yellow, orange or dark purple fruit ideal for snacking and for salads. Cherry tomatoes grow well in containers and hanging baskets.
Grape Tomato: These small, oblong tomatoes also make perfect snacks and for additions to salads. They generally produce abundant quantities of fruit and not many leaves.
They are not quite as sweet and juicy as cherry tomatoes. These fresh tomatoes come in both red and yellow varieties. One advantage of the yellow-type grape tomato – the birds, do not find it quite as attractive as the bright red fruit. So you can keep more of your harvest for yourself.
Beefsteak Tomato: As the name seems to imply, these are big, juicy, satisfying tomatoes. This variety of tomato is considered indeterminate; however, vines typically grow to a length of 6-8’.
Beefsteaks make the perfect selection for slicing to use on sandwiches and burgers. Try cutting them up into salads or eating out of hand. The large size fruits of the Beefsteak require plants to get lots of support.
Roma Tomato: This popular Italian-style determinate tomato grows to a maximum height of 6’ and bears pear-shaped fruit. Roma makes the ideal choice for adding good flavor to sauces and stews. For salads and eating out of the hand other varieties beat out Roma, but a well-grown Roma tomato is quite tasty on its own.
Aunt Ruby‘s German Green Tomato: This indeterminate heirloom tomatoes mature in 80 days. Many describe the large, green fruits as sweet and spicy. They may sometimes exhibit a light red blush. The growing season is lengthy, extending from early summer and into the autumn. Like yellow tomatoes, birds find the green tomatoes less attractive. So Aunt Ruby makes a good choice if you need to discourage bird predation.
San Marzano – San Marzano tomatoes are very sweet with a very subtle amount of acidity. This combination creates a perfectly balanced tomato as the base for a tomato sauce. Click for details on growing San Marzano tomatoes!
Across the US there are many heirloom varieties you can grow and 100’s varieties available in sizes, shapes, colors, and plant types. Veggie Gardener offers some tips on picking the right tomato.
The University of Illinois Extension has put together a page with a list of the best-recommended tomato varieties for you to evaluate for needs, your use, and your method of culture. Check it out here.
Select and Prepare Your Garden Plot
Another benefit from starting your plants indoors from seed, before spring arrives – it gives you time to prepare your garden bed.
Be sure to select an area with well-drained soil and ample sun (at least 10 hours a day). Also, try to select an area sheltered from strong winds.
When preparing your garden soil for the first time, be sure to till in some good organic matter (compost) and introduce some Mycorrhizal inoculants like this (beneficial fungi) to help boost friendly bacteria levels in the soil. This will support your plants’ ability to absorb nutrients.
A well-prepared, balanced soil rich in nutrients helps boost your plants’ disease resistance.
A garden bed with good drainage, light, airy soil, and plenty of sunshine will likely harbor less of the typical tomato maladies, such as battling Fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt.
The cause of this condition comes from a fungal pathogen in the soil that invades plants, sucks out their nutrients, and causes them to collapse and wilt literally overnight.
A well, drained, airy, balanced soil does not provide the conditions where this fungus can thrive.
Proper exposure to fresh air, light breezes, and the sun can go far toward keeping tomato plant leaves dry and healthy. In turn, this helps fight off a vast assortment of common diseases and pests.
Plant Your Seedlings
When the days and nights turn reliably warm, and all danger of frost passes, you can plant your seedlings.
However, you will need a little preparation. Begin by trimming away the lower leaves and laying the seedlings on their sides for a few days.
Tomato Seedling Care Tip: Laying tomato seedlings on their side will cause the top of the plant to bend upward. Once this happens, your plants are ready for the actual planting.
Dig a trench in your prepared bed and set the seedlings into it, lying on their sides.
Cover the roots and stems with soil, worm castings, and compost. Water well and top off with wood chip mulch. Leave the top part of the plant exposed to air and the sun.
The small hairs on the stems of the plants will transform into roots, so each of your little seedlings will develop healthy, vigorous root systems.
A good root system is what makes healthy, hardy, heavily producing tomato plants.
We call the larvae of the Noctuidae moth – cutworms. They live underground and lay waste to crops by chewing through the stems.
To prevent them from cutting down all your tomato plants, insert a small, hard, toothpick-sized stick in the ground right next to the stem.
This “fake stem” will trick them into thinking the stem is too hard to chew through, and they will go their merry way.
Support And Stake Your Plants
If you grow indeterminate tomatoes that continue to gain height, make sure to give them a good, tall stake (6’ feet or more) strong twine or a trellis for support. For determinate tomatoes growing to a pre-specified height, provide a tomato cage of the right height.
Protect and Guard Against The Wind
If your plants do not grow in a sheltered area, cover your plants’ cages with a floating row cover when you expect high winds. This cover will protect them against broken stems and torn leaves. Breakage in stems and leaves provide a foothold for pathogens.
Repeat The Planting Process
Don’t plant all of your tomato plant seedlings at once. Wait about three weeks after starting your first set of seedlings, start a second set.
Having two batches of tomatoes growing on a slightly staggered schedule helps provide continuous fruiting throughout the growing season.
You can extend your growing season by rooting suckers from your existing tomato plants. We’ll explain that in more detail later in this article.
What About Greenhouse Tomatoes?
If you have space and the money, a high tunnel greenhouse setting can produce a bumper tomato crop using indeterminate tomato variety plants. With a properly heated and ventilated greenhouse, you can extend the growing season and enjoy fresh, ripe tomatoes year-round.
To use this method of tomato growing, you will need to set up a high tunnel greenhouse with a heavy-duty trellis system that will allow your plants to attain their maximum length of 20 or 30 feet.
Don’t worry, the greenhouse does not need to be that tall, but your trellis system should extend all the way to the ceiling and across so that your plants can climb and spread in a controlled manner.
This type of tomato production involves a great deal of focused attention, careful pruning, and very measured fertilizing, watering, and general care. If you enjoy this sort of thing, or if you want to grow lots of tomatoes to sell, this kind of setup can be very rewarding.
Mulch Your Garden Heavily
The first year of your garden may require you to do some plowing and tilling, but once you prepare the soil if you keep it heavily mulched you will never need to do the plowing and tilling again.
A solid mulching program using several (3-6) inches of composted wood chips will prevent the growth of weeds and hold moisture into the ground.
Good mulching saves time, energy, and water. Mulch helps to stabilize the temperature of the soil and reduces stress on plants. Mulching also prevents the backsplash of soil pathogens onto tomato plant leaves when it rains.
TIP: Check with local tree trimmers to see if you can get wood chips cheap or free! Make sure you allow them to compost before using.
After planting your tomatoes, be sure to mulch thoroughly. When the growing season ends, remove and compost your spent plants and cover the soil with mulch. When spring rolls around, simply scrape away the mulch in the areas you want to plant, turn the soil and freshen it up for the new growing season.
The underside of the decaying mulch will provide nutrition for your soil. However, don’t ever till the mulch into the soil as this disrupts its natural decaying process. Just keep it as a good, solid layer of protection on the soil surface for the best and easiest results.
Provide Daily Care
Once planted check your tomato crop daily for environmental and insect damage. Water tomato plants deeply about once a week. Slowly apply a couple of inches of water directly to the surface of the mulch on a weekly basis. Soaker hoses work well for slow watering.
More in our article: How To Use A Drip Or Soaker Hose
It’s best to water in the morning and avoid getting water on the leaves as wet or damp leaves can lead to fungal infection.
The exception is the application of foliar fertilizer once a month or so. Use a hose-end applicator and choose a dry, slightly breezy day when the sun does is not punishingly hot.
Apply foliar fertilizer early in the morning, so your plants will have all day to dry before night falls.
After your first harvest, give your plants a side dressing of a couple of teaspoons full of ammonium sulfate. Apply this fertilizer just before a regularly scheduled watering.
According to the University of Missouri, the best fertilizer supplement for tomatoes is one with a low nitrogen content, a moderate amount of potassium, and lots of phosphorus.
Tomato plants also need a healthy amount of micronutrients. However, rich organic matter in the form of compost and the decomposition of the underside of your mulch bed will supply most of the micronutrients.
Trimming & Suckering Tomato Plants
You may have heard the suggestion to pinch off or trim “suckers” from tomato plants. Suckers are branches growing between the branch and the stem of the plant. Gardeners who swear by this process say that eliminating suckers gives the plant more energy for tomato production.
This is true if trying to grow big tomatoes is the goal. If you want more tomatoes, leave the suckers!
Personally, I opt for pinching suckers and pruning tomato plants.
Some insist on leaving suckers as the best option. Why? Because every time you cut or break the plant, it opens up the opportunity for pathogens to enter and weaken or kill your plant.
While trimming can introduce pathogens to the plant, by trimming tops carefully with sterilized clippers, you can encourage more bushy and sturdy growth. If your plant becomes floppy and leggy, pruning is a good fix.
Prune early in the morning, so the “injuries” can use the daylight hours to heal and dry before nightfall.
Growing New Plants From Suckers
Suckers can also be beneficial because, you can cut off the suckers, root them and grow a whole new crop. If you do this in the middle of the summer, you will have an excellent fall crop of tomatoes. Here’s how:
Gather a few large, hardy suckers on a dry, sunny day. Clip them with sterilized shears or knife blades early in the morning so the plants can “heal” during the daytime hours.
Carry a container of clean, warm water with you as you clip the suckers. Remove the lower leaves and plunge the bare stems directly into the water as you work.
Once you collect all the suckers you want, place the container of water in a warm, still area with indirect sunlight.
The leaves will wilt for the first few days. When they recover, move the container to a sunny location but still protected from strong winds.
A sunny kitchen windowsill makes an ideal location for the “sucker container” because you will need to change the rooting water every couple of days to prevent fungal growth. Having the jar right by your sink will make it easy to remember.
Within a week to ten days, roots should begin forming. When the roots reach about an inch in length, transplant the suckers into containers or directly into your garden.
When transplanting, follow the instructions given above for planting seedlings. Protect them from harsh sunlight and strong winds until they become established.
Keep Your Garden Soil Fresh
Don’t plant tomatoes in the same spot year after year. Rotate your crops to refresh the garden soil. Planting peanuts or clover in the area tomatoes grew last year will help naturally boost the soil’s nitrogen levels.
You can also use clover as a “green mulch” crop around your tomatoes. Clover makes a very nice ground cover the bees, and other pollinators will benefit from. Till the clover under at the end of the growing season to further benefit the soil.
Other good companion plants for tomatoes include basil, garlic, and chives. These aromatic plants help keep pests away, and also make the perfect culinary companions for tomatoes. A large planter filled with cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, and chives is a handy thing to have beside your kitchen door.
What About Tomato Pests?
Strong, healthy plants accompanied by well-chosen companion plants will mean few pests. However, insect pests become a problem, especially the voracious tomato hornworm moth, uses chemical poisons as a last resort. Remember if you plan to eat those tomatoes, any poisons you spray around will negatively impact beneficial insects as well as the ones you don’t want.
The one exception to this is Bt (bacillus thuringiensis), a natural pathogenic bacteria that only affects caterpillars. Using this product early on, as soon as you see caterpillars appear on your plants, can be extremely beneficial. Just remember it is equally deadly to damaging moth caterpillars and beneficial butterfly caterpillars. Apply it carefully and only as needed.
Other ways of dealing with caterpillars and various pests naturally include:
- Pick them off by hand.
- Spray with an organic mixture of garlic powder and water.
- Plant a “decoy” garden of plants to attract pests away from your tomatoes. Caterpillars find dill especially attractive and make a nice addition to a butterfly garden.
More on Tomato diseases and health here
Protect Your Tomatoes From Birds
When you grow a beautiful tomato crop, you will attract some birds – especially if you plant red tomatoes. You can minimize bird damage to your tomato crop by choosing yellow, orange, and green varieties. You can also foil birds by harvesting your fruit early or by protecting your plants with bird netting.
Harvesting Tomatoes Early
If you harvest early, wait until the green tomatoes show a few streaks of pink. Cut off clusters to keep the tomatoes on the vine and simply set them in a basket on your kitchen counter to continue ripening.
Don’t place them in the sun on the windowsill, and don’t put them in the refrigerator. Instead, place them in a colander or basket on a cloth pad in indirect light.
Turn your ripening tomatoes daily to prevent developing soft spots. Rotating will allow air to circulate and promotes the ripening process.
Another useful method for ripening tomatoes and other types of fruit involves placing the unripe fruit in a paper bag with an apple or banana.
Roll the top shut and set the bag on your kitchen counter out of the direct sun where you see it every day.
Once a day, open the bag and turn all the fruit to prevent it from developing soft spots.
The ethylene gasses given off by the apple or banana will speed the ripening of tomatoes, peaches, pears, and other types of semi-soft fruit. Remember to toss the banana or apple into your compost heap at the end of your project.
If you would prefer your tomatoes ripen on the vine in the garden (which is much better) protect them with bird netting. You might also plant a few rogue plants near your compost pile and leave them open for birds and other wildlife to enjoy.
Tomato Quick Reference Checklist
- Get the right plants. It’s best to start your tomatoes from seed, but if you are not able to do that, be sure you are getting the right types of plants for your area.
- Choose your tomato plants with care. Look for plants with strong root systems, not necessarily lovely leaves.
- Choose the right location. Make certain your tomato garden has good drainage and gets at least ten hours a day of bright sunlight throughout the grow season for top production.
- Lay your plants sideways in a trench with plenty of natural, organic matter and/or worm castings to promote a strong root system.
- Remember to use the “stick-trick” to keep cutworms away from your plants.
- Mulch deeply and thoroughly.
- Provide appropriate support.
- Provide protection from wind.
- Establish a regular schedule of watering and fertilizing.
- Trim and “sucker” your plants cautiously (or not at all) to avoid introducing disease.
- Rotate crops and/or plant nitrogen boosting cover crops to keep your soil fresh and vibrant.
- Plant appropriate companion plants with your tomatoes to help deter pests.
Customize Your Process To Your Setting
You will find many ways to grow tomatoes successfully. When you choose the right type of plant for your location and provide it with consistent, competent basic care, you should find yourself enjoying delicious home-grown tomatoes throughout the growing season.
If you are skilled at canning, you can continue to benefit from the fruits of your labors all year round. Follow the advice presented above and adapt it as needed to enjoy a bumper crop of tomatoes this summer.
At Old World Garden they talk about how they use their tomatoes 365 days a year why tomatoes are so important.
“With just a few easy steps – you can grow amazing tomatoes this year!
In fact, we use our home-grown tomatoes and tomato-based products nearly 365 days a year. In the summertime – we eat them right off the vine, in salads, hamburgers, sauces, and more. In the fall and winter months, we enjoy the tomato juice, vegetable soup, chili, salsa, pasta sauce, paste tomatoes, pizza sauce, and ketchup that we have canned or frozen from the summer’s bounty.“
Check out their hints, tips, and tricks learned over the years to grow bumper crops of tomatoes Via oldworldgardenfarms.com
Growing the ideal tomato and producing a bumper crop of high-yield tomatoes can be quite a challenge, as even the best gardeners know.
The plant requires just the right balance of ingredients for soil health, managing its pH level and knowing when to add compost and mulch are key.
The plant needs a regular amount of water and plenty of sunshine, but too much of either leads to damage to vine and fruit.
Supporting the plant physically with a tomato cage for example while tomatoes grow weighty keeps them safe and secure.
Repelling hungry pests will make sure you get the most from your tomato plant.
Over at the Safer® Brand blog a resource for organic gardeners and growers, shares their insight with more details on growing the perfect tomato.
What are your top tips for growing tomatoes?