Does anything say “home garden” like the humble tomato? We offer a number of heirloom tomato varieties, including cherry tomatoes you can pop right in your mouth, and meaty Brandywine tomatoes perfect for slicing.

Check out all our tomatoes varieties: Sweetie Cherry Seed, Brandywine Seed, Ace 55 Seed, Roma Seed

Tomato Growing Secrets

Tomato Growing Secrets As summer approaches, gardeners dream about growing the perfect tomatoes: deep-colored, flavorful, “meaty” fruit that can almost serve as a meal unto itself. (Add a little fresh mozzarella and fresh basil and you’re there.) Unfortunately, reality sometimes doesn’t deliver due to weather, pests and other unpredictable factors leading many people to conclude that tomatoes are difficult to grow. But if you focus on the critical elements to growing strong and vigorous tomato plants, your chances of success will be greatly enhanced. These elements include: enriched, well drained, warm soil; full day sun; plenty of air circulation and space between plants; taking care not to disturb sensitive roots; deep watering every 3-4 days without splashing soil onto the leaves; no exposure to cold temperatures; incorporating a good support system at planting time, and judicious pinching/pruning for optimal growth.

Interesting Facts About Tomato Plants

Fact 1
Tomatoes—Solanum lycopersicum—are an annual fruit and member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Other members of this family include peppers, potatoes and eggplant, to name a few. They are considered fruit, rather than a vegetable, since they contain and protect their seeds, similar to other fruit-generally-considered vegetables such as cucumber, squash and corn, to name a few—but who cares?
Fact 2
Warmth- and sun-loving tomatoes are native to the tropics—where they are perennials—which explains why they are so sensitive to cold temperatures. Their origins trace back to early Aztec civilization in what is now known as Peru, in around 700 A.D. Today, there are around 10,000 varieties of tomatoes worldwide.

Tomatoes Gardening Tips

Difficulty
Difficulty

Moderate

Sun
Sun

Tomato plants demand full sun

Water
Water

Keep tomato seeds and plants consistently moist but not soaking wet. Similar to most plants, early morning watering is best to avoid pests and fungi. Using a soaker hose avoids the possibility of soil splashing up on the plants.

Soil
Soil

A special seed-growing, soilless, potting mix is best for starting seeds. For transplanting outdoors, prepare the garden bed with fertile, well-drained, soil amended with plenty of composted manure. Soil pH should be 6-6.8. Soil temperatures should be at least 60° F or 68° – 75°, ideally.

Air
Air

70°F to 80°F. Good air circulation is one of the keys to successfully growing tomatoes.

Timing
Timing

Start tomatoes from seed indoors about six weeks before your last anticipated spring frost.

Planting
Planting

Plant seeds ¼ inches deep, tamp down soil and gently sprinkle with water. Thin and space according to seed packet instructions as each variety has different requirements.

Germination
Germination

5-12 days depending on variety and air/soil temperature (warmer will be faster).

Time to Harvest
Time to Harvest

Each variety is different, ranging from 65-70 days from transplant for the vigorous, high-yielding Sweetie Cherries to 90-100 days for the Brandywine variety.

Feeding
Feeding

Tomatoes need a lot of energy to grow and, as a result, are heavy feeders. Add organic fertilizer when you transplant seedlings into the garden. Fertilize them again when the set fruit and continue fertilizing them every two weeks throughout the growing season. Some gardeners swear by additional supplements such as eggshells, coffee grounds and epsom salts. Do your research first.

Mulch
Mulch

Add mulch as the seedlings develop to retain moisture and discourage weeds.

Pests & Diseases
Pests & Diseases

In general, tomatoes are susceptible to a variety of garden pests and disease, though our chosen varieties are relatively disease resistant. Watch out for tomato wilt and the dreaded hornworm. And as we’ve pointed out above, take special care, when watering your tomato plants, not to let the soil (and any organisms lurking therein) splash up on the plants. Water in the morning, ideally with a soaker hose.

Special Considerations
Special Considerations

Weed regularly to eliminate any competition for water or nutrients.

Companion Plants
Companion Plants

Carrots, peppers, basil, chives, marigolds and nasturtium.

Container-Friendly
Container-Friendly

Yes. Make sure your containers are big and sturdy enough to support the plant(s) and their supports.

Harvesting Tomatoes

Harvesting Though it seems like it should be pretty easy to tell when your tomatoes are ripe, many people make the mistake of picking them too soon. Though prematurely-picked tomatoes will continue to ripen off the vine, they won’t be as good as those picked in their prime. You want to leave them on the vine as long as possible, making sure they don’t over ripen. Each variety is different. Err on the earlier side for Brandywine and Cherry tomatoes. In general, look for even coloring and a tiny bit of softness when you gently squeeze the fruit.

Growing Tomatoes—Highlights

  • If you like tomatoes, nothing can compare to homegrown specimens: sweet-tart, juicy and full-bodied, bearing no resemblance to the tasteless supermarket variety available year round.
  • Hedge your bets and grow a mix of tomato varieties for different purposes: general purpose—Ace 55; slicing—Brandywine; snacking—Sweetie Cherry; and freezing/canning—Roma.
  • soil temperatures to germinate (between 60° – 80° F) that probably won’t be possible outside until mid-summer—at which point it may be too late in the growing season to harvest before the first frost.
  • One trick to successfully growing tomatoes is to include supports (stakes/trellis/cage) when you transplant them into the ground outside. The plants will need them and adding them later may be more difficult and potentially damaging to their roots.
  • Not only are tomatoes refreshing and delicious, they pack a lot of important nutrients such as lycopene, an antioxidant which may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a significant source of vitamins C and K, as well as folate and potassium.

Here at Bentley Seeds, we want to set you up for success. Our growing guides are designed to give you all the information you'll need to start growing from seed, in an easy-to-digest format.

We also encourage you to print out a copy as a handy reference in your garden.