It’s surprisingly simple.
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Green thumb or not, growing tomatoes at home is easier than you may think. You can (and should) channel your inner gardener this season—here’s how:

How Do Tomatoes Grow?

Tomatoes on vines Getty 4/20/20
Credit: Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm/Getty Images

Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm/Getty Images

Tomatoes are edible berries (yes, they’re berries!) that grow on the Solanum lycopersicum, or the tomato plant.

Growing tomatoes is easy, and for many people, tomatoes are the “starter” plant that gets them into gardening.

However, they are quite problem-prone. You have to know what you’re doing to grow healthy tomatoes.

Types of Tomato Plants

Planting Tomato Plant Getty 4/20/20
Credit: Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Guido Mieth/Getty Images

The common tomato plant has two types: vining (indeterminate) and bushing (determinate).

Determinate tomato plants reach a certain height, then they flower and bear fruit. Indeterminate tomato plants, meanwhile, keep growing all season and only stop at frost.

Since they grow to be between two and five feet, determinate tomato plants are best for container gardening. However, they typically produce their fruit all at once—so you’ll need to stagger your planting times if you want fresh tomatoes all season.

Indeterminate plants are less predictable, but they produce tomatoes at a slower rate. They’re best for people who want just a few tomatoes at a time throughout the season, instead of a bunch of tomatoes once per season.

What’s the Best Climate for Growing Tomatoes—And When Should You Plant Them?

Tomatoes thrive when the daytime temperature stays between 65 and 85 degrees. The plants need full sun (at least 6 hours per day) and well-drained, warm soil.

When you plant tomatoes depends on if you’re starting with seeds or transplanting an existing plant.

Tomato seeds should be started indoors near a sunny window, about six to eight weeks before the last frost.

How Long Does It Take to Grow Tomatoes?

Tomatoes in box Getty 4/20/20
Credit: istetiana/Getty Images

istetiana/Getty Images

After you’ve planted your tomato plants, expect ripe and juicy tomatoes in 40 to 50 days.

How to Grow Tomatoes in a Container

Child planting tomatoes Getty 4/20/20
Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

Westend61/Getty Images

Select a large container with drainage holes at the bottom. Fill it with loose, well-draining potting mix.

  1. Only plant one tomato plant per pot to avoid crowding. Some varieties may grow fine without a stake or tomato cage (buy cheap tomato cages here), while taller plants may need some added support.
  2. Place the pots in an outdoor area that will receive at least 6 hours of full sun per day. It’s important to keep the soil moist. Keep in mind that soil in containers will drain faster than garden soil, so water generously (but don’t drown the plants).
  3. The plants may need more water in the few days after they’re transplanted. After that, 2 inches of water per week is a good rule of thumb.

Tip: Watering early in the morning will give plants the moisture they need to survive a hot day.

How to Harvest Tomatoes

Picking Tomatoes Getty 4/20/20
Credit: Peter Cade/Getty Images

Peter Cade/Getty Images

Leave the tomatoes on the plants for as long as possible.

  1. Only pick tomatoes once they are firm and vibrant red. (Of course, not all tomato varieties are red—wait until the fruit is the desired color, whether it’s yellow, red, or orange).
  2. Sometimes tomatoes fall off the vine before they’re ripe, and that’s OK. If this happens, place the unripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag and store it in a cool, dark place until they’re ready to eat.

How to Store Tomatoes

Tomato Getty 4/20/20
Credit: Sosa Kalinia / EyeEm/Getty Images

Sosa Kalinia / EyeEm/Getty Images

Keep ripe tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight. Keep them in a single layer—piling tomatoes on top of each other will make them go bad faster.

Once they begin to become overripe (about three or four days), you can keep them in the fridge for a few more days.