One of the great benefits of having your own garden is having fresh, homegrown fruits and vegetables to enjoy whenever you want. Growing techniques will differ depending on what food you’re growing as well as where you live. We’ve put together a few general tips on how to grow tomatoes, harvest tomatoes and even how to can tomatoes.
A Beginners Guide to Growing, Harvesting & Canning Tomatoes
How to Grow Tomatoes
- Decide on seeds or transplants. Seeds are the most cost-effective way to grow tomatoes, however, they are also the most time-consuming. If you decide to start your tomato garden from seeds, start them indoors about 10 weeks before the last frost. Although transplants may cost a little more, they will produce tomatoes much quicker than growing from seeds. So if you’ve procrastinated on setting up your garden, you might need to purchase a vine and transplant it into your garden.
- Find a good location and time it right. Your tomato plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day to grow. If you’re going to plant them in a garden on the ground, you’ll want to find a location where the soil drains well and your plants will get the proper amount of sunlight. You’ll want to check with your local grower to see what time of year is the best time to plant your tomatoes. Usually, it will be around the end of spring when the soil is typically warmer.
- Transplant your tomato plants. Once you’re ready to transplant your tomato plants into your outdoor garden, you’ll need to dig a hole for each plant that’s big enough to house about 2/3 of the plant. Next, mix fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Then place the tomato plant into the hole and fill in the rest with soil. Give it plenty of water.
- Baby your tomatoes. Keep an eye on your tomato plants and make sure to water them every day. If it is going to be cold, put a container over each plant at night.
How to Harvest Tomatoes
- Most tomatoes should be picked when they have an even, glossy color. Note that some tomatoes will be ripe before they turn to their full color, but you should still pick them as long as they feel smooth and waxy. Look for tomatoes that are firm, but not too hard.
- If you pick tomatoes that are not quite ripe, no problem! Arrange them in a single layer in a cool, dark room or drawer. Check them periodically each day for any signs of damage. Get rid of any tomatoes that are damaged so that they will not rot the healthy fruit.
How To Can Tomatoes
Canning tomatoes is a great way to store tomatoes that you aren’t going to use for awhile. If you have a pressure canner kit, simply follow the directions that came with the kit. Otherwise, follow the steps below to learn how to can tomatoes.
- Sanitize your quart jars and lids, either by hand or in the dishwasher.
- Fill a canner (or another large pot) halfway with water, put the lid on, and turn on the heat (you will return to this pot during step 9).
- On another burner, fill a pot with one quart of water and bring to a boil (you will pour this water into the tomato jars in step 7).
- On another burner, boil a shallow pot of water and add the lids. You want to boil the lids for several minutes and then remove them from the pot.
- Remove the skins and bruises from the tomatoes.
- Fill your jars with the tomatoes, within ¼” of the top of the jar. You can either leave them whole, or cut them into halves, quarters, or even smaller chunks.
- Add two tablespoons of lemon juice to each jar. Pour water into the jar (from step 3) to within ½” of the rim. Give the jar a tap on the counter to release any air bubbles.
- Wipe around the rim of the jars to be sure they are clean, then put the lids and rings snugly onto the jars.
- Place the jars in the pot (from step 2), making sure they do not touch each other or the pot. Make sure there is at least 1″ of water above the jars and continue to boil the water for 45 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the pot and set them on a counter to cool. As they seal, you will hear the lids “pop”.