Planting Archives

Tomato Fertilizer Tips – Part 2

Tomato fertilizer always comes in bags with three numbers to show the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, but what do those elements do exactly? How should fertilizer be added to the soil? What are the recommended fertilizers?

Get Part 1 with a membership in Ernie’s Homegrown Tomatoes

tomato-plantQ&A call with Ernie Shivers

Tomato fertilizer used in proper amounts does result in nice sized and better tasting tomatoes, but fertilizing too much can cause problems as we’ll see in this Q&A session.

Q: I quit trying to grow tomatoes a few years ago because, I can grow lovely, tall, healthy looking plants but, no tomatoes? Is there something I can do to grow great tasting tomatoes? I always planted them where they would have full sun all day. Can they grow and produce in shady areas?

A: I haven’t experienced that but I suspect he is using too much fertilizer. He’s getting a nice healthy plant but no tomatoes, this can happen when too much fertilizer is added.

Q: What am I doing wrong? Last year I had one grow so high that I attached it to my porch and it went as tall as the roof, but I could not get any tomatoes. This year I thought I would be slick and try several different varieties of plants… They all grew, but NO tomatoes. What am I doing wrong?

A: Again, it sounds like he should cut back on the fertilizer.

Q: Every Friday, I go outside and fill my 1 1/2 gallon container with 1 scoop of miracle-gro for tomatoes and 1 1/2 gallon of water and sprinkle it on my 4 tomato plants. They are so big, they vining on to each other. I think its probably ok to stop fertilizing now. Whats your opinoin. Will this make huge tomatoes?

A: Yes, I think she’s right. Good idea about using Miracle-Gro and watering, but cut back on the fertilizer. Miracle-Gro can help with getting bigger tomatoes in proper amounts.

Q: I’m going to try to grow a tomato plant in a pot on my back deck. My pot is about 12 ” deep, and 14″ around. Will this be big enough? I filled it with potting soil, now do I need to add a fertilizer before or when I plant the actual plant? I live in Iowa, so I figure I’ll plant this thing about Mothers day.

A: Fertilizer can be added at the time of planting or afterward, both with great results. The size of the pot is adequate.

Q: What can I use to grow my tomato plants stronger and faster?

A: Most tomato plants begin bearing fruit between 75 and 90 days. Get plenty of sun light and make sure the soil is moist.

Q: We have had rain for two days, especially heavy late yesterday. Purple and Black Prince all have a lot of cracking and some of it seems to be healing. I’ve never had this problem before as I usually pick them after blushing. I was hoping to ripen some of them on the vine. Can this fruit be eaten if it heals? How will I know if it is OK?

A: When the tomato grows fast, the skin will split. When that happens pick those off the vine and let them ripen inside. Sometimes flies will lay eggs in the crack, if this happens you should discard the tomato.

More tips and jokes in the podcast. Listen to the Q&A session:

Free Compost For Your Garden

Some city and county parks and recreation departments in the US make compost and provide it free of charge for their citizens, you just need to go pick it up.

Some counties and companies also provide raised beds for people who don’t have the space. They rent the space and provide everything you need to start a raised bed vegetable garden.

An interview with Karen Cancilla of Gro-O

Excerpt from the interview…

“Organic means a lot to me personally because of my health issues… I have a sensitivity to pesticides and different types of chemicals. When I was buying organic food, I was never sure how organic it was and it spoiled quickly and never all that fresh, so I decided to grow my own food at home.”

“I grow everything that I love… all of my own vegetables and fruit here in the LA area. I grow everything in raised planters. I’ve found a way to do it that’s not time consuming.”

“Last year I grew about 650 pounds of food, but I don’t count the pumpkins.”

“There are fruits and vegetables we will never buy again.”

“There are different inexpensive ways to grow even when there’s frost and you can get a few extra months even where there’s snow.”

“The Gro-O garden planner is software that you can design your raised planters or garden in the software. If you enter your zip code, it will tell you when to plant and what to plant and when to harvest along with reminder emails.”

Listen to the interview:

How To Plant Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens

In this video Ernie shows how to plant vegetables in your raised bed gardens:

  • Soil for the raised bed
  • Mixing up the soil so it’s ready for planting
  • Marking your rows before planting
  • Strategy for capturing the most sunlight
  • Demonstrations

This video is members only access, apply for a free membership

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How To Build Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens

In this video Ernie shows how to get started with raised bed gardening:

  • Choosing a spot for your raised bed vegetable garden
  • Materials to use to build the raised bed
  • Size and spacing between raised beds
  • Soil for your raised bed
  • Vegetables to grow in a raised bed (and what to avoid growing)
  • Advantages of raised bed gardens
  • Watering options
  • Soil depth depending on what you will plant
  • Examples of vegetable plants for different soil depths

Planting Tomatoes in Pots – Part 2 (Video)

In this part 2 video Ernies shows you step by step how to plant tomatoes in pots:

  • How deep to plant your tomatoes
  • Watering and watering schedule tips
  • Indeterminate vs. determinate tomato plants and caring for each
  • Stakes, cages or neither depending on your plant
  • Tips, comments and jokes along the way

Get Part 1 with a membership in Ernie’s Homegrown Tomatoes

Planting Tomatoes in Pots – Part 1 (Video)

In this video Ernie demonstrates step by step his method of preparing and planting tomatoes in pots or containers:

  • Advantages of planting tomatoes in pots
  • What you need to get started
  • Preparing your soil – Ernie’s recipe for success
  • Random tips, comments and jokes along the way

This video is members only access, apply for a free membership

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In this podcast Ernie outlines how to get started growing tomatoes and explains the important initial decisions you need to make before you plant:

  • Benefits of growing tomatoes
  • The best time to plant
  • Tips on watering plants
  • Mulching tips
  • Detering pests
  • Controlling weeds
  • Extending the growing season
  • Fertilizing the growing plants
  • Decisions to make before planting
  • Q&A with Ernie

This video is members only access, apply for a free membership

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tomato-plantQ&A call with Ernie Shivers

What is the best way for growing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers?

“Plants that you shouldn’t grow near tomatoes include cucumbers, cantalope, some types of squash and other vegetables that grow along the ground. These plants will get into your tomato plants and grow up the vines and perhaps hinder the tomato growth, so it would be better to grow those in another location.”

Is it possible to grow tomatoes from the seeds of a tomato that you buy from a supermarket?

“Maybe, but if it’s a hybrid tomato it will produce a plant but no tomatoes. However, if it’s an heirloom tomato, then you would get the plant and the fruit.”

I had a problem with the chip monk, I was told to go to my nearest monastery and talk to the frier about it.

“The best way to handle chipmunks is to get a mesh screen and put it around the base of the plant. They primarily go after the green or ripe tomatoes.”

I’d be interested on any tips you may have on controlling pests!

Checkout our membership area and get access to the free videos that cover a number of pests that attach tomato plants.

I’m trying to grow tomato plants indoors with homemade upside down hanging planters… how much water should I use when watering and is their a special soil to use?

“Have plenty of sun shine, good soil, water frequently, fertilize from time to time. Treat the same way you would a tomato plant in the ground.”

From California: I am having a problem with white flys this year, more then last year on some of my tropical plants and I want to keep them away from my tomato plants. I have learned that worm castings work well so I am going to give them a shot and  see what happens there.

“I’ve used soap suds on my tomato plants to keep white flies away. You could also use a mild insecticide.”

I am growing tomatoes in pots. Is there any way to keep the bugs off of them without having to use chemicals? Is there a right way to grow tomatoes in pots?

“It depends on the bug, whether it flies or stays on the plant.”

“We have a video that covers how to grow tomatoes in pots.”

My husband is growing tomatoes in our backyard in tubs. For the last 2 years the bottoms start to turn a tannish brown when the tomato is ripening? What are we doing wrong?

“That sounds like blossom end rot. Handle that by putting a little lime in the soil with the plant; the lime will control that blossom end rot.”

I live in north florida and i want to grow tomatoes. what varieties should i try? It gets very hot here in the summer.

“Shade the plant during the hot weeks of the summer using an open mesh cloth to shadow your tomatoes. Of course watering your plant every day can help with that as well.” “Some people get this problem when planting next to a brick wall or something that reflects the sun’s heat on to the plant.”

Get off to a great start this season by getting free access to some of our videos and podcasts that answer all of the basic questions about growing tomatoes today.

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Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetable for the home gardener to grow, and most often people choose to grow tomatoes by buying some start plants at their local nursery. While there is nothing wrong with this, growing tomatoes from seed can be just as easy, and give you a wider range of choices of types of tomatoes you can grow.

Starting Your Tomatoes

The first step to growing tomatoes from seed is to get the necessary materials; I highly recommend starting your tomatoes indoors before the last frost to ensure your tomatoes have enough time to produce heavily during the growing season. You will need a seedling tray, some good well-draining (sterile) soil, and the seeds of the tomatoes you want to grow. Bear in mind if you want to keep seeds from your crop for the next years planting pick an open pollinated or heirloom variety. Seeds from hybrid plants don’t grow the same as their parents and their seeds can’t effectively be saved.


You should try to allow your tomato plants at least 2 weeks of growth after they germinate (allow 1 week to germinate most tomato species) and be sure to “harden” your young tomato plants before transplanting. You can harden your new tomato plants by placing them outside a week before you intend to plant them, this will allow them to adjust to the temperature outdoors before they have to undergo the trauma they sustain during transplantation. Pick a site with deep soil, the more substantial your tomatoes root system can be the better their production will be. Tomatoes are ideally suited for being planted in a raised bed, and benefit greatly from an increased soil temperature which allows them to expend more energy producing extensive root systems.

After you have transplanted your tomatoes be sure to water them deeply, and keep an extra close on them until they have established themselves in their new environment. You will want to apply a fertilizer to them after 4 weeks of growing outside and then on an as needed basis.

Lucas Barnes writes for Plantdex about a range of gardening topics; learn more about growing vegetables, including more tips for growing tomatoes.

Tips to Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes are temperamental and spoiled. When I say this I mean you have to be very careful with how you grow your tomatoes, otherwise you will end up will all sorts of problems like: flower drop, fruit end splitting and blossom end rot.

Tomatoes like it where it is warm, they thrive on sunlight you will want to plant them in a spot that receives around eight hours of sunlight each day. Temperatures should be in the warmer area.

You will first need to prepare your garden by heavily tilling the earth; tomatoes require loose soil with lots of organic matter. So you will also need to invest in some fertilizer.

The soil should have a PH of five point five to around six point five. The PH will affect the flavor of the finished produce so it is important to be sure that you understand exactly how you want to affect your soil and where you need it to be.

If your soil is too acidic you can use limestone to make it more alkaline. Be careful limestone will affect different soils in different ways, so check your soil and determine the proper amount needed to attain the correct PH.

After you have the organic matter added and the PH balanced you will want to make nice even raised beds. You want to have the roots reaching into the water not totally submerged.

This will prevent fruit deformation, or discoloration, and also make the plant grow better as well. If you are getting too much water in your plant it may result in flower drops, fruit splitting or blossom end rot.

Blossom end rot appears when the fruit starts to mature. You may begin to see a small water soaked spot near the blossoms end as suggested by the name of the disease.

Flower drop is where the fruit is congested with water and gets too heavy and for the plant to hold it; it then falls to the ground where it becomes compost. Fruit splitting is similarly cause by over intake of water, but it is where the fruit splits and when the innards of the fruit are revealed to open air it begins to rot while still on the stem.

So to control these from happening you have to regulate the water supply, this is best done by keeping the rivets even so that the water is evenly absorbed by the plant. Do not over water your tomato plants; if they are soaked up to the base of the plant you have too much water on them. One way to make sure you don’t over-water is to have an automatic irrigation installed with Orbit sprinklers .

So remember these tips and you will be a professional tomato gardener in no time. Tomatoes make a lovely addition to any garden; you may become the envy of your sister neighbors.

When Is The Best Time to Plant Tomatoes?

In this video we provide guidance to help you pinpoint the optimal time for you to plant tomatoes in your region:

  • Planting from seed indoors
  • Planting outdoors
  • USDA Hardiness Zone Map
  • Answers to common questions
  • The primary factor to determine when to plant in your area

Here are related videos if you missed them:

8 Steps to Juicy Homegrown Tomatoes

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Here’s the previous video if you missed it: Growing Highly Productive Tomato Plants

The Black Tomato Variety

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