Ok, tomato fun facts aside, you may have some additional tomato growing questions. Here are a few of the most common questions, with links to more detailed answers.
Before we go on to the growing questions, though, here’s a question that has plagued people for years: are tomatoes fruits or vegetables?
Botanically, tomatoes are fruits; however, as far as use, tomatoes are classed as vegetables. How come? At one point, the US government was levying a tax on imported vegetables, and tomatoes became an issue — fruit or vegetable? The final decree was “If it’s most often eaten as a part of a meal (salad or mail course), it’s a vegetable. If it’s most often eaten as a dessert, its a fruit.”
Tomato Growing Questions
Are tomatoes easy to grow? For the most part, yes! Most tomato varieties will grow and produce delicious fruits for you. If you have a short growing season or lots of cloudy days, however, you should stick with the early and possibly mid season fruits (stay away from the huge beefsteaks — they won’t have time to ripen). If you have a longer growing season with plenty of sunshine, you can grow almost any variety. Caveat; most tomatoes don’t like really hot and humid weather (although some varieties do OK in the heat & humidity).
So how do I grow tomatoes? Here’s some tomato growing requirements on how to grow those great-tasting tomatoes!
Should I get plants from a garden center or start from seeds? This one will depend on your circumstances. If you are late for starting seeds, or you just don’t want to go the seed route, buying a plant from a gardening center is great. Just keep in mind that there usually isn’t a huge variety, although mostly they are varieties that will grow fine in your area. When it comes to seeds, the sky is the limit! You can grow all kinds, and experimenting can be fun. It’s also less expensive overall than buying plants. (I’ve had tomato seeds 5 and even 10 years old and still germinate.)
What kind of fertilizer should I use? You can use organic, chemical or a mixture of both. Check out the tomato fertilizer page for information about the different kinds.
Can I grow tomatoes is a greenhouse? Sure! The key to deciding the varieties that would be best are 1) the size of your greenhouse and 2) the warmth and sunlight your greenhouse receives. Your best bets may be determinate tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and heart-shaped tomatoes (but any kinds are possible, depending on how big your greenhouse is).
When should I plant tomatoes? It really depends on your climate! For example, in South Florida, early Fall, late Winter and Spring are our prime tomato-growing times. For most of the country, Summer is the prime growing season. Here’s a general rule of thumb; start your seeds indoors at 4 to 6 weeks before your last expected frost — then transplant to the garden 1 week after the last expected frost (you can go a little earlier with protection).
It’s Fall, frost is coming, and my plants still have unripe tomatoes! Can I ripen these tomatoes indoors? You’ll probably be able to ripen some to even most of your tomatoes that are still on the vine; here are some tips. If you have the space, you can pull up the entire tomato plant(s) and hang them upside-down in a cool dark place. As the tomatoes ripen, pull them off the vine and enjoy! If you don’t have that kind of space, pluck the tomatoes that are farthest along, and wrap them loosely in some newspaper. Store the tomatoes in a cool dark place, in a single layer. Check the tomatoes periodically, and use those that are ripe.
Got more questions? Check out the tomato growing terms page!