Fresh tomatoes are better than store bought and surprisingly not hard to grow with these beginner tips to caring for tomato plants. -

While my parents both carry the title of Master Gardener from the local agriculture exchange, I cannot claim such wisdom. Having grown up on 10 acres with parents who planted a garden every year, I did learn a thing or two through osmosis. But honestly, I never realized it until this year.

Late last summer, we had new neighbors move into the home behind us. It happened to be around the tail end of tomato harvest and I was more than happy sharing the bounty with my new friends. As do all the other neighbors I share with, she raved about how wonderful the fresh tomatoes were and how much she (and her family) enjoyed them.

Fast forward to a couple months ago and she began asking me questions about what she would need to do to plant tomatoes on her own. She was starting from seed and was hoping they would be successful. Needless to say, a couple weeks ago she was ready to start planting her young tomato plants, all the questions started coming… and I was confident in being able to answer them! Thought I might share some of the gardening tips I gave to her.

5 Beginner Tips to Caring for Tomato Plants

Where to Plant

If you haven’t planted already this year, make sure you select a variety that has a shorter time to maturity. You’ll find this information on the name card that is in each plant when you purchase it at the store. Tomato plants like the sun and it’s important to plant them in a part of your yard that is going to provide that. You will likely want to plant them near the fence line of your yard to minimize the disruption to the rest of the yard being able to be used. Be mindful of the shading provided by the fence when deciding on a location. If you’re trying to decide between planting directly in the ground or in a raised bed, it all depends on how many you want to plant and outside influences such as pets. When we first started our garden, we had dogs so we opted for raised beds to discourage the dogs from watering the plants for us.

Fresh tomatoes are better than store bought and surprisingly not hard to grow with these beginner tips to caring for tomato plants. -

Cages vs Stakes

Both cages and stakes are viable options, but given a choice, I would say cages do the best job with the least amount of breakage late in the season. There are two main reasons to cage your tomato plants: weight and rot. Have you ever seen tomatoes on the vine at the grocery store? Imagine all those together still attached to the plant. It’s heavy and puts a lot of strain on the vine. By caging the tomatoes, you provide them with a place to lean when all that weight becomes too much to bear. Aside from that, being elevated has the additional benefit of providing them a cleaner place to ripen. While stakes do an okay job, it puts an awful lot of strain on the vines when the tomatoes start to become plentiful. As I explained to the neighbor, some plants such as melons, cucumbers and squash are fine growing along the ground, but tomatoes tend to rot quicker as well as invite bugs when they are ripening directly on the dirt.

Fresh tomatoes are better than store bought and surprisingly not hard to grow with these beginner tips to caring for tomato plants. -

Cage Control

While a cage isn’t needed at first, the sooner you can surround the plant with it the better. As soon as the tomato plants start to grow, you’ll want to make sure you feed the plants into the center of the cage. Daily I head to the garden to raise any leaves over the top of the next tier of the cage. The more mature the plant gets, the more difficult it becomes to bend them back into the center. Being diligent about this in the early days is key to maximizing the effectiveness of the cage.


In addition to having healthy soil to start with, adding a little extra vitamins isn’t going to hurt. I sprinkle Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food pellets on around the plants as soon as I plant them then about midway through the season to revitalize the soil. One container of Miracle Grow can last several seasons if you only have a small garden. It’s important to read the instructions on how, when and where to apply to make sure you are helping the plants and not harming them.

Fresh tomatoes are better than store bought and surprisingly not hard to grow with these beginner tips to caring for tomato plants. -


Just like us, being in the sun can make us thirsty. The difference, however, is that while we like to run through a sprinkler as the sun beats down on us, tomato plants do not. Make sure you water the ground around the plant and not the leaves. Wet leaves that are getting blasted by a strong sun can burn. I prefer to water in the early morning or later in the afternoon or evening. I’ll usually saturate the ground immediately surrounding the plant, but also extend beyond that as well to help provide an additional moisture barrier

These were some of the key tips I offered the neighbor and as I peeked over the wall the other day to talk to them, I was happy to see the neighbor’s plants are doing well and should provide her with a nice harvest as the summer progresses.

Have you ever planted tomatoes?

30 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Tomato Plant Care

  1. My husband loves to grow veggies and he started a garden last year. We have been eating tomatoes the last few months. So great!

  2. How I miss my garden! Once you’ve grown tomatoes, you just can’t even buy them in the store. There is no comparison. I gardened organically, and am blessed to have organic gardeners as friends, who bring me such bounty. And ahhh–I made fried green tomatoes last weekend–heaven!

    1. I grew up with fresh tomatoes and always struggle to find the “right” taste at grocery stores. In all these years, I’ve never tried making fried green tomatoes. What’s the secret to making them and what do they taste like?

      1. Oh, Nicole, they are just heaven! They have a tart taste, which is softened with cooking. The flavor is just so unique! And green tomatoes also have extra anti-oxidant qualities. Which I take as a balance to the frying. Lol.
        I dip mine in egg and then a flour/cornmeal combo, which I’ve seasoned well. The batter sticks to them well. Fry in canola oil, about half as deep as the tomatoes. Turn once.

        1. It sounds just like making a chicken-fried steak! I’ll have to give it a go at the end of the season. At the beginning of the season I’m too anxious for them to turn red to pull them off the vine green. LOL Making a mental note that despite the frying, they have extra anti-oxidants. 🙂

  3. Love your tips! Good to know to water the soil and not the leaves. My 2nd grader loves tomatoes and it make sense that he likes planting them too. It’s been a fruitful year. Love watching him reap what he sow.

  4. I planted tomatos last year1 The grew so fast and the fruits were so good! But after a month the plant died… I should have read an article like your before 😉

  5. I cannot wait to plant in my own garden. Living on a military base makes it kind of restricted. We cannot even have gardens! :O

  6. Tomatoes are awesome and they’re easy to maintain when you know how to. I think this is a lovely guide for people who would like to grow their own tomatoes! So nice!

  7. Hey Nicole, I love every word that you’ve written. Because it’s all very true and helpful. I have a garden of tomatoes myself and can relate to whole of the article. Plus, I use dripping irrigation method where the plants are watered drop by drop for the whole time. It helps as well.

  8. Oh this makes me wish I had a bigger back yard to plant vegetables in. I would love to have some cherry tomato plants. Those little things are so delicious. Thanks for the tips. I will share this with friends or family who are wanting to start a vegetable garden.

  9. I grew up with fresh tomatoes from my grandfather’s large and abundant garden. So much more flavorful than ones from the store. I have successfully grown the small cherry ones but have a harder time with the bigger ones.

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