How do you grow Tomatoes Successfully?

Tomatoes are renowned as one of the most popular and versatile vegetables around the world. They can be eaten raw, cooked, canned, juiced, or processed into various products such as ketchup, sauce, paste, salsa, and soup. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that have many health benefits.

But how do you grow tomatoes successfully? What are the best varieties, soil, climate, and practices for tomato cultivation? In this article, we will answer these questions and provide you with a complete guide for growing tomatoes from seed to harvest.

A vibrant tomato plant thrives in a sun-drenched garden, its emerald leaves contrasting with clusters of ripe red fruit.

Choosing the Right Variety

There are thousands of tomato varieties available, but not all of them are suitable for every region, season, and purpose. You need to choose the right variety based on your location, climate, soil, space, and preference.

Some of the factors to consider when choosing a tomato variety are:

  • Growth habit: Tomatoes can be classified into two types based on their growth habit: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain height and stop, producing all their fruits at once. They are usually bushy and compact, and do not need much staking or pruning. They are ideal for small spaces, containers, and early harvest. Indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and producing fruits until frost or disease kills them. They are usually vine-like and sprawling, and need more staking and pruning. They are ideal for large spaces, longer seasons, and continuous harvest.
  • Fruit size, shape, and color: Tomatoes come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, ranging from tiny cherry tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes, from round to oblong to pear-shaped, and from red to yellow to green to purple. You can choose the ones that suit your taste, use, and market demand. Generally, smaller tomatoes are sweeter and more flavorful, while larger tomatoes are meatier and juicier. Round tomatoes are the most common and versatile, while oblong tomatoes are good for canning and processing. Red tomatoes are the most popular and nutritious, while yellow tomatoes are milder and less acidic.
  • Disease resistance: Tomatoes are susceptible to many diseases and pests, such as blight, wilt, mosaic, nematodes, aphids, and hornworms. Certain varieties show better resistance to certain diseases and pests than others. You can look for the disease resistance codes on the seed packets or catalogs, such as V (verticillium wilt), F (fusarium wilt), N (nematodes), T (tobacco mosaic virus), and A (Alternaria stem canker). Choosing disease-resistant varieties can save you a lot of trouble and increase your yield.
  • Yield and quality: The yield and quality of tomatoes depend on many factors, such as variety, climate, soil, water, fertilizer, pest management, and harvesting. Some varieties are more productive and consistent than others, producing more fruits per plant or per area. Some varieties are also more flavorful, juicy, firm, and crack-resistant than others, making them more appealing and marketable.

The tomato plants is thriving in the sun-drenched field

Some of the popular and recommended tomato varieties are:

  • Improved varieties: These are open-pollinated varieties that have been selected and improved for their yield, quality, and disease resistance. Some examples are Arka Saurabh, Arka Vikas, Arka Ahuti, Arka Ashish, Arka Abha, Arka Alok, HS101, HS102, HS110, Hisar Arun, Hisar Lalima, Hisar Lalit, Hisar Anmol, KS.2, Narendra Tomato 2, Narendra Tomato 1, Pusa Early Dwarf, Pusa Red Plum, Co-1, Pusa Ruby, CO 2, CO 3, Punjab Chhuhara, S-12, Paiyur-1, Pusa Ruby, SL 120, PKM 1, Shakthi, SL 120, Solan Gola, Pusa Gaurav, S 12, Pant Bahar, Pant T3 and Arka Meghali.
  • F1 hybrids: These are the result of crossing two different varieties to produce offspring that have the best traits of both parents. They are usually more vigorous, uniform, productive, and disease-resistant than open-pollinated varieties, but they are also more expensive and cannot be saved for the next season. Some examples are Arka Abhijit, Arka Shresta, Arka Vishal, Arka Vardan, Pusa Hybrid 1, Pusa Hybrid 2, COTH 1 Hybrid Tomato, Rashmi, Vaishali, Rupali, Naveen, Avinash 2, MTH 4, Sadabahar, Gulmohar and Sonali.

Preparing the Soil and Seedbed

Tomatoes grow best in well-drained, loamy soils that are rich in organic matter and have a pH range of 6.5-7.5. Improve your soil by incorporating compost, manure, or other organic improvements before you start planting. You can also test your soil pH and adjust it with lime or sulfur if needed.

Tomatoes are usually grown by transplanting seedlings that are started indoors or in a protected nursery. This allows you to control the germination, growth, and hardening of the seedlings, and to avoid the risk of frost, pests, and diseases.

To prepare the seedbed, you need to:

  • Before sowing, spread 10 kg of FYM, 1 kg of neem cake, 50 g of VAM, 100 g of enriched superphosphate, and 10 g of Furadon per square meter.
  • Take a small pot, fill it with seed compost, give it a good watering, and then sow three or four seeds on the surface.
  • Cover the seeds lightly with sand or vermiculite, and place the pot in a warm and bright place, such as a windowsill or a greenhouse.
  • Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and thin out the weaker seedlings when they have two true leaves.
  • Prepare the seeds by applying 4 g of Trichoderma viride or 10 g of Pseudomonas fluorescens or 2 g of Carbendazim per kilogram of seeds 24 hours before planting.
  • Just before sowing, treat the seeds with Azospirillum @ 40 g / 400 g of seeds.
  • Plant the seeds in rows, keeping them 10 cm apart in elevated nursery beds, and then cover them with sand.

Alternatively, you can prepare a protected nursery by:

  • Preparing the nursery area of 3 cents with slanting slope of 2 % for the seedling production to cover 1 ha.
  • Covering the nursery area with 50 % shade net and cover the sides using 40/50 mesh insect proof nylon net.
  • Forming raised beds of 1 m width and convenient length and place HDPV pipes at 2m interval for further protection with polythene sheets during rainy months.
  • Mixing sterilized cocopeat @ 300 kg with 5 kg neem cake along with Azospirillum and Phosphobacteria each @ 1 kg.

The seedlings will be ready for transplanting when they are 15-20 cm tall and have 4-6 true leaves, which usually takes 4-6 weeks.

Planting and Spacing

The best time to plant tomatoes is after the last frost in spring, or in late summer or early autumn for a winter crop. You can also plant tomatoes in different seasons depending on your climate and variety.

Farmer plants a tomato plant in the ground

To plant the seedlings, you need to:

  • Water the seedlings well before transplanting.
  • Dig a hole in the soil that is slightly larger than the root ball of the seedling.
  • Remove the seedling from the pot carefully, without disturbing the roots.
  • Place the seedling in the hole, and fill the hole with soil, firming it gently around the stem.
  • Water the seedling well, and apply a starter fertilizer if needed.
  • Stake or cage the seedling if it is an indeterminate variety, or if it needs support.

The spacing of the plants depends on the variety, growth habit, and pruning method. Generally, you can follow these guidelines:

  • For determinate varieties, space the plants 45-60 cm apart in rows that are 75-90 cm apart.
  • For indeterminate varieties, space the plants 60-90 cm apart in rows that are 90-120 cm apart.
  • For high-density planting, space the plants 30-45 cm apart in rows that are 60-75 cm apart.
  • For paired row planting, space the plants 40-60 cm apart in pairs that are 80 cm apart, and the rows that are 120 cm apart.

Watering and Fertilizing

Tomatoes need regular and consistent watering to grow well and produce high-quality fruits. You should water the plants deeply and evenly, avoiding wetting the foliage and splashing the soil. You can use drip irrigation, furrow irrigation, or sprinkler irrigation, depending on your resources and preference.

The frequency and amount of watering depend on the soil type, weather, and stage of growth. Generally, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Water the plants more frequently during hot and dry weather, and less frequently during cool and wet weather.
  • Water the plants more thoroughly during flowering and fruiting stages, and less thoroughly during vegetative and ripening stages.
  • Avoid overwatering or underwatering the plants, as both can cause problems such as cracking, blossom end rot, wilting, and diseases.

Tomatoes also need adequate and balanced fertilization to grow well and produce high-quality fruits. You should apply organic and inorganic fertilizers based on the soil test results, crop requirement, and stage of growth. You can use compost, manure, vermicompost, biofertilizers, or chemical fertilizers, depending on your resources and preference.

The frequency and amount of fertilization depend on the soil type, variety, and yield potential. Generally, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Apply a basal dose of 10-15 tonnes of FYM or compost per hectare before planting.
  • Apply a starter dose of 75 kg of nitrogen (N), 40 kg of phosphorus (P), and 25 kg of potassium (K) per hectare at the time of planting.
  • Apply a first top dressing of 50 kg of N per hectare after 30 days of planting.
  • Apply a second top dressing of 50 kg of N and 25 kg of K per hectare after 60 days of planting or at the onset of flowering.
  • Apply a third top dressing of 25 kg of N and 25 kg of K per hectare after 90 days of planting or at the onset of fruiting.
  • Apply micronutrients such as boron, zinc, iron, manganese, and copper as foliar sprays or soil applications as per the soil test results or deficiency symptoms.
  • Apply biofertilizers such as Azospirillum, Phosphobacteria, and VAM at the rate of 2 kg each per hectare along with FYM or compost.

Pruning and Staking

Pruning and staking are optional but beneficial practices for tomato cultivation. Pruning involves removing the unwanted or excess shoots, leaves, flowers, or fruits from the plants to improve their growth, yield, and quality. Staking involves supporting the plants with stakes, cages, trellises, or wires to prevent them from falling over or sprawling on the ground.

The tomato is ripe and ready to be picked

The benefits of pruning and staking are:

  • They improve the air circulation and light penetration around the plants, reducing the risk of diseases and pests.
  • They prevent the fruits from touching the soil, avoiding rotting, cracking, and insect damage.
  • They make the plants more manageable and easier to harvest.
  • They increase the size, number, and quality of the fruits.

The drawbacks of pruning and staking are:

  • They require more labor, time, and cost.
  • They may reduce the total yield of the plants, especially if done excessively or improperly.
  • They may expose the plants and fruits to sunscald, wind damage, or frost injury.

The methods and extent of pruning and staking depend on the variety, growth habit, and preference. Generally, you can follow these guidelines:

  • For determinate varieties, prune only the lower leaves and suckers that touch the ground or show signs of disease or pest infestation. Stake the plants with a single stake or a cage that is 60-90 cm tall.
  • For indeterminate varieties, prune the lower leaves and suckers, and also the upper shoots and branches that are weak, crowded, or unproductive. Stake the plants with a single stake or a trellis that is 150-180 cm tall, and tie the plants loosely with twine or clips.
  • For high-density planting, prune the plants to a single stem, and remove all the lateral branches and suckers. Stake the plants with a single stake or a wire that is 120-150 cm tall, and tie the plants loosely with twine or clips.
  • For paired row planting, prune the plants to two stems, and remove all the lateral branches and suckers. Stake the plants with a double stake or a wire that is 120-150 cm tall, and tie the plants loosely with twine or clips.

What other crops can you grow with tomatoes?

There are many crops that can grow well with tomatoes, as they can provide benefits such as attracting pollinators, deterring pests, improving soil quality, or enhancing flavor. Some of the best crops to grow with tomatoes are:

  • Herbs: Herbs such as basil, parsley, marjoram, mint, sage, and thyme can improve the taste and aroma of tomatoes, as well as repel insects and diseases.
  • Lettuce: Lettuce can grow under the shade of tomato plants, and act as a living mulch to conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.
  • Beans: Beans can fix nitrogen in the soil, which can benefit the heavy-feeding tomatoes. They can also climb on the tomato stakes or cages, saving space and providing support.
  • Garlic: Garlic can ward off pests and diseases that affect tomatoes, such as aphids, spider mites, and blight. It can also enhance the flavor of tomatoes.
  • Asparagus: Asparagus and tomatoes have a mutualistic relationship, as they can deter each other's pests. Asparagus can repel the tomato hornworm, while tomatoes can repel the asparagus beetle. 

Pest and Disease Management

Tomatoes are prone to many pests and diseases that can reduce the yield and quality of the crop. You should monitor the plants regularly and take preventive and curative measures to control the pests and diseases. You can use cultural, mechanical, biological, or chemical methods, depending on the severity and type of the problem.

Some of the common pests and diseases of tomatoes are:

  • Aphids: These are small, soft-bodied insects that suck the sap from the leaves, stems, and fruits, causing curling, yellowing, wilting, and stunting of the plants. They also secrete honeydew that attracts ants and fungi, and transmit viral diseases. You can control aphids by spraying the plants with water, soap, neem oil, or insecticidal soap, or by releasing natural enemies such as ladybugs, lacewings, or parasitic wasps.
  • Tomato hornworms: These are large, green caterpillars with a horn-like projection on their tail, that feed on the leaves, stems, and fruits, causing defoliation, fruit damage, and reduced yield. You can control hornworms by handpicking and destroying them, or by spraying the plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a natural bacterium that kills the caterpillars.
  • Fruit flies: These are small, yellowish flies that lay eggs on the ripening fruits, causing the fruits to rot and drop. You can control fruit flies by harvesting the fruits regularly and disposing of the infested ones, or by using traps, baits, or sprays.
  • Nematodes: These are microscopic worms that live in the soil and feed on the roots, causing galls, knots, or swellings on the roots, and reducing the uptake of water and nutrients. You can control nematodes by rotating the crop with non-host plants such as marigold, mustard, or sorghum, or by applying organic amendments such as neem cake, castor cake, or poultry manure.
  • Blight: This is a fungal disease that causes brown spots on the leaves, stems, and fruits, and eventually kills the plant. There are two types of blight: early blight and late blight. Early blight is caused by Alternaria solani, and late blight is caused by Phytophthora infestans. You can control blight by avoiding overhead watering, removing infected plant parts, and applying fungicides such as copper, mancozeb, or chlorothalonil.
  • Wilt: This is a bacterial disease that causes the leaves to wilt, yellow, and drop, and the stems to turn brown and ooze a milky sap. There are two types of wilt: bacterial wilt and fusarium wilt. Bacterial wilt is caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, and fusarium wilt is caused by Fusarium oxysporum. You can control wilt by using disease-free seeds and plants, rotating the crop with non-host plants such as corn, beans, or cabbage, and applying biocontrol agents such as Trichoderma or Pseudomonas.

Harvesting and Storing

Tomatoes are ready for harvesting when they reach the desired size, color, and firmness, depending on the variety and purpose. You can harvest tomatoes at different stages of maturity, such as:

  • Green mature: The fruits are full-sized, but still green and hard. This stage is suitable for long-distance transport, processing, or ripening.
  • Breaker: The fruits have a slight pink or red color at the blossom end, but still firm. This stage is suitable for local markets or home consumption.
  • Pink: The fruits have a pink or red color on more than half of the surface, but still firm. This stage is suitable for local markets or home consumption.
  • Red ripe: The fruits are fully red and soft. This stage is suitable for fresh consumption or processing.

To harvest the tomatoes, you need to:

  • Pick the fruits gently by hand, or use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the stem.
  • Avoid bruising, cracking, or injuring the fruits, as this can reduce the quality and shelf life.
  • Harvest the fruits in the morning or evening, when the temperature is cool and the fruits are less prone to sunscald.
  • Sort the fruits according to their size, color, and quality, and discard the damaged or diseased ones
  • Pack the fruits in clean, ventilated, and cushioned containers, such as crates, baskets, or boxes.
  • Store the fruits in a cool, dry, and dark place, away from direct sunlight and ethylene-producing fruits such as bananas, apples, or pears.
  • Do not refrigerate the fruits, as this can reduce the flavor and texture.

The shelf life of tomatoes depends on the stage of maturity, variety, and storage conditions. Generally, you can expect the fruits to store the fruits for 2-4 weeks at green mature stage, 1-2 weeks at breaker stage, and 3-5 days at pink or red ripe stage.


Tomato cultivation is a rewarding and profitable activity that can provide you with fresh and healthy fruits for your consumption or sale. However, it also requires careful planning, preparation, and management to ensure the success of your crop. You need to choose the right variety, prepare the soil and seedbed, plant and space the seedlings, water and fertilize the plants, prune and stake the plants, control the pests and diseases, and harvest and store the fruits. By following these steps, you can grow tomatoes successfully and enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Reference & Resources

(1) Tomato Cultivation; Farming Techniques – A Complete Guide

(2) 24 Best Tomato Companion Plants & 5 To Avoid Planting Next To Tomatoes

(3) 12 Plants To Intercrop With Tomatoes - Better Harvest and Soil

(4) How to grow Tomatoes | RHS Vegetables

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