How to Make Tomato Plants Produce More Fruit (My Top 3 Ways)


There is nothing better than biting into a delicious ripe tomato straight from your home garden.  If you want to make your tomato plants produce more of this fruit, I have a few juicy tips that will really help your harvest.

So, how do you make tomato plants produce more fruit?  First, choose indeterminate tomato varieties that will keep producing fruit until frost kills them.  Second, mulch your tomatoes to keep the soil warm and moist.  Finally, use an electric toothbrush to pollinate your tomatoes by hand and get more flowers to turn into fruit.

Of course, there are other tricks you can use to make your tomato plants produce more fruit.  We’ll talk about all of these tricks, in the exact order you would use them.  Let’s get growing!

How to Make Tomato Plants Produce More Fruit

The top 3 tips mentioned above will help you to get more fruit from your tomatoes.  However, a holistic approach from seed to harvest will help you to get even more tomatoes.

Let’s start at the beginning, with choosing the right variety of tomatoes for planting.

Choose Indeterminate Tomato Varieties

There are two basic varieties of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate.

According to Wikipedia, determinate varieties produce fruit for one short time period during the year, and then die off.

On the other hand, Wikipedia states that indeterminate varieties continue to produce fruit for a much longer time period, until frost kills them.

Indeterminate tomato varieties tend to be taller than determinate varieties.  Indeterminate varieties also produce more fruit during the season over a longer time span.

tomato stakes
Indeterminate tomato varieties produce lots of fruit throughout the growing season.

So, if you want more fruit from the tomato plants in your garden, choose indeterminate varieties.  Some good indeterminate tomato varieties for your garden include:

  • Black Cherry Organic – cherry tomatoes are tiny, but you will get lots of them!  They are perfect for snacking, and the plants will produce fruit for a long time.
  • Juliet – a plum tomato, with fruit a little bigger than cherry tomatoes.
  • Yellow Brandywine – a variety with large fruit.  They take longer to mature than smaller tomatoes, but they are delicious and a sight to see!
  • Cherokee Purple Organic – a purple tomato, if you want a color besides red, orange, or yellow on your tomatoes!

You can learn about all of these indeterminate tomato varieties (and more!) in this table from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Start Your Own Tomato Seeds Indoors

One of the best ways to control the quality of your tomato transplants is to start the seeds indoors yourself.  That way, you can start the seeds at exactly the right time and give them the proper care as they grow.

Tomato seeds take 6 to 11 days to germinate under ideal conditions.  That means you will need moist potting soil at a temperature of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 degrees Celsius).

tomato seedling
Tomato seeds take 6 to 11 days to germinate in moist soil at 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 degrees Celsius).

To learn more about the ideal conditions for germination tomato seeds, check out my article here.

You should start tomato seeds 5 to 7 weeks before you plan to transplant the plants outside.  Tomato seedlings should be transplanted after the last frost date in your area.

To find the frost dates for your area, check out this frost date calculator from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Even if you do not start your own seeds indoors, you can still grow great tomato plants with lots of fruit.  Just make sure to buy plants after the last frost date in your area.

Some of the big-box garden centers leave their tomato plants outdoors overnight.  When it gets too cold, tomato plants will suffer stress and damage.

When you buy tomato plants, be sure to choose strong and healthy ones that are around 6 inches (15 centimeters) tall.  This helpful article from One Hundred Dollars a Month will tell you more about how to choose good tomato plants.

Choose a Location and Prepare the Soil

Before you transplant your tomato seedlings outside, you will need to choose and prepare the ideal location.  Keep the following in mind when choosing a location for your tomato plants.

Sunlight

Tomato plants like full sun.  This means 8 or more hours of direct sunlight per day.

sunlight through trees
Choose a location with lots of sun for your tomato plants.

Choose a location that will not be shaded by trees later in the growing season.

Soil Type

Tomato plants need well-draining soil, not heavy clay.  Wet soil will cause root rot in tomatoes, just like any other plant.

If your soil does not drain well, mix in some compost or aged manure.  This will add organic material and improve drainage.

Nutrients

Compost and manure will add some nutrients to your soil.  However, you may need something a bit stronger if you garden every year.

An NPK fertilizer will provide the “big three” nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).  Just remember: Texas A&M suggests that too much nitrogen can prevent fruit production.

Lime provides calcium, and Epsom salt provides magnesium and sulfur.  If you are a beginner gardener, make sure to get a soil test before you add anything to your soil! 

Temperature

Tomatoes are a warm-weather crop.  They are sensitive to cold, and frost will kill them.

If you live in a cold climate with a short growing season, you will need to keep your plants warm.  Consider using a cloche, row covers, or a greenhouse to warm your plants.

You can learn more about protecting tomato plants from cold in my article here.

Harden Off Tomato Seedlings

If you cause stress or damage to young seedlings, they will produce less fruit when they mature.  To avoid stress and damage, be sure to harden off your seedlings.

Hardening off your seedlings means letting your plants adjust to outdoor conditions gradually.  This will help to avoid the shock of sudden changes in sunlight, temperature, wind, and water.

dying tomato plant
If you don’t harden off your tomato seedlings, you might not like the results!

Hardening off takes 7 to 10 days.  During this time, you will gradually expose the seedlings to more time outdoors, in less protected conditions.

You can learn more about how to harden off your seedlings in my article here.

As mentioned earlier, you should wait until after the last frost date in your area to transplant your tomato seedlings outside.  Remember that tomato plants are sensitive to cold, not just frost.

In fact, if a tomato plant is exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius), it will drop its flowers.  According to the Ohio State University Extension, this is more likely to happen at night in the early spring.

Your tomato seedlings should be ready for transplant outside when they are at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) tall.  You can learn more in my article on transplanting tomato seedlings outside.

Install Support for Tomato Plants

There is one more thing to do before you put your tomato plants in their new home.  You need to choose a support structure and put it in place.

A vertical support allows your tomato plants to grow upward, rather than along the ground.  This prevents diseases that can reduce your yield or destroy your harvest.

You can use tomato stakes or a trellis to support taller indeterminate tomato varieties.  As the plants grow, use twine to tie them to the stake or trellis every 12 inches (30 centimeters) or so.

tomato stakes
Tomato stakes are a great way to provide support for climbing tomato vines, especially taller indeterminate varieties.

A tomato cage works well for supporting shorter determinate tomato varieties.  You can learn more about how to support tomato plants (and why you should) in my article here.

Bury Your Tomato Plants Deep

Now you have made all the preparations.  It is time to plant your tomato seedlings in the ground outside!

Before you do, dig a hole that is nice and deep.  Tomato plants should be buried in a hole that is 2/3 of their height from roots to top.

For example, let’s say your tomato plant is 9 inches tall from roots to top.  Then the bottom 6 inches, including the roots, should be buried in the soil.  The top 3 inches of the plant should be left above ground.

When you bury a tomato plant deep, the vine creates more roots wherever it contacts the soil.  With more roots, the plant can absorb more water and nutrients from the soil.

This will give you more and better fruit in the long run!  You can learn all about the benefits of burying your tomato plants deep in my article here.

Keep in mind that tomatoes are a deep-rooted plant.  According to the University of Georgia, most of the roots are in the top 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimeters) of soil, but the roots can go 10 feet (3 meters) deep!

If planting tomatoes in a raised bed or container, the soil should be at least 18 inches (45 centimeters) deep.  This allows plenty of space for the roots to grow.

Finally, leave 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 centimeters) between tomato plants.  This prevents competition between plants for water and nutrients in the soil.

Mulch to Prevent Weeds

After you transplant your tomato seedlings outside, you need to take steps to protect them.  You cannot stop every pest and disease, but you can give your plants a better chance of survival.

Mulch is one great way to help your tomato plants thrive and produce more fruit.  For one thing, mulch prevents weeds from growing and competing with your tomato plants.

mulch
Mulch prevents weeds and keeps moisture in the soil so your tomatoes will grow better and produce more fruit.

Mulch also insulates the soil to protect plants from unseasonable cold weather.  Finally, a layer of mulch helps soil to retain water, making it easier to keep your tomato plants watered.

Water Your Tomato Plants Evenly

Watering is one of the most important factors to get more fruit from your tomato plants.  Without enough water, tomato plants will slow down growth or set fewer fruits.

A lack of water can also keep a tomato plant from absorbing calcium from the soil.  This will lead to blossom end rot, caused by a lack of calcium in tomato plants and fruit.

Check the soil near your tomato plants daily.  Dig down a few inches with your fingers.

If the soil is dry at that depth, give the plant some water.  Use plenty of water and let it soak down into the soil.

watering can
Water your tomato plants evenly to prevent blossom end rot and other problems with fruit production.

That way, the tomato plant will develop deep roots to get the water that is deeper underground.  A larger, stronger root system will help the plant to survive a dry spell.

Hand Pollinate Your Tomato Plants

This is a secret method for getting more fruit from tomato plants.  Many people know that bees pollinate flowers, which allows plants to produce fruit.

However, many people are unaware that tomatoes are self-pollinating.  This means they have flowers that contain both a male and female part.

As a result, tomato flowers can pollinate themselves.  However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination!

There are still many factors that can prevent proper pollination of tomato plants.  This list includes:

  • High humidity – the pollen will stick to the male part of the flower and cannot fertilize the female part of the flower.
  • Low humidity – the pollen will not stick to the female part of the flower after it falls off the male part of the flower.
  • Lack of stimulus – for a tomato flower to self-pollinate, it needs a stimulus, such as a buzzing bee or wind.

Luckily, there is a way to help your tomato plants will the pollination process.  You can pollinate tomato flowers by hand to make them produce more fruit.

You can use an electric toothbrush or even a tuning fork to tap the flowers and cause pollination.  Just turn on the toothbrush and touch each flower in turn.

electric toothbrush
You can use an electric toothbrush to pollinate tomato flowers by hand.

The vibration (similar to a buzzing bee) will stimulate the flowers to cause pollination.  You might even see little puffs of pollen coming out of the flowers!  That is how you know it is working.

You can find out even more about how to pollinate tomato plants by hand in my article here.

How Many Tomatoes Will One Plant Produce?

Now you are probably wondering just how much fruit you will get from your tomato plants.  The truth is, it depends on the variety.

One tomato plant may produce dozens to hundreds of tomatoes.  In general, you will get more tomatoes from plants with smaller fruit.

For example, you can get hundreds of small tomatoes in a season from a single cherry tomato plant.  On the other hand, you may only get a dozen large heirloom tomatoes per plant.

You can get lots of smaller tomatoes, like plum tomatoes, from a single plant.

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/tomatoesAccording to the University of Maryland Extension, you can expect 10 to 15 pounds of tomatoes per plant.

Conclusion

Now you know how to make your tomato plants produce more fruit.  You also know how to start them off the right way, whether from seed or from purchased transplants.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who will find the information useful.  It’s time to get back to the garden and grow more tomatoes than ever before!

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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