Growing tomatoes and timing the harvest of your tomato garden is trickier than most growers admit! That’s why gardeners always ask: “How long does it take for tomatoes to grow, exactly?”
We’re about to reveal our best-kept tomato growing secrets to help you pick delicious tomatoes from the vine at the perfect time. Without second-guessing!
How Long Does It Take for Tomatoes to Grow?
It can take anywhere from 54 to 100 days to grow a delicious tomato from the day of transplanting your tomato plant. Tomato plants also require several weeks of additional time to develop up to the point of transplanting. Also, consider that different tomato plants grow and develop at different speeds.
You might wonder why there’s a massively diverse range in the time it takes for a tomato plant to produce a ripe tomato…
The answer is all about tomato genetics! Different tomato cultivars evolved (by calculated cultivation or by nature) in wildly different environments.
You’ll find that some short-season tomatoes originate from Russia and other cold climate regions of the world. From these locations, tomatoes evolved to tolerate and work around the short growing season. Perfect for tomato lovers everywhere. Even in cold parts of the globe!
Tomato Harvest Timetable – From Transplant to Fruit
- Short-season tomatoes = 54 – 70 days
- Mid-season tomatoes = 70 – 80 days
- Late-season tomatoes = 80 – 100 days
What Do Tomatoes Need to Grow on Time?
- Lots of bright, direct sunlight (at least 8 hours per day)
- Warm temperature (70-80 degrees is perfect)
- Plenty of water (1-2 inches per week)
- Lush, moist soil (with proper nutrients)
- No fancy chemicals required (compost and manure work the best)
Determinate Tomatoes vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes
Did you know that there are many thousands of tomato varieties? You can categorize all of these yummy tomato plants into two primary groups; determinate vs. indeterminate tomatoes.
Understanding these groups can also help explain how quickly your tomato plants produce tomatoes. And how consistently! So, what are the differences between determinate vs. indeterminate tomato plants?
Determinate tomato “Homestead” – Price: $3.95 – Buy Now
Determinate tomatoes stop growing once they reach a predetermined height. Determinate plants look short, thick, and they have stocky stems.
Once determinate tomato plants stop growing in height, they focus solely on producing tomatoes and flowers. Since determinate tomato plants create all of their tomatoes at once – they’re perfect if you want to harvest many tomatoes around the same time.
The Best Determinate Tomato Seeds
- Principe Borghese
- Dwarf Red Robin
- Spoon Currant
- Celebrity Hybrid
- Tiny Tim
- Roma VF
- Roma (Organic)
You may notice that many bushy beefsteak tomato varieties belong to the determinate category. Don’t underestimate these tomato plants. They may look small, but they provide tomatoes in abundance when they’re ready to harvest. And seemingly all at once.
During harvest time, expect a basket (or two) of tomatoes ready for your kitchen. Or, you can get your canning supplies and your best spaghetti sauce recipes ready! Or share the extras with your friends!
Indeterminate Tomato “Golden Jubilee” – Price: $3.95 – Buy Now
Indeterminate tomatoes, unlike determinate tomatoes, do not stop growing in height as they grow tomatoes. They get taller and taller throughout your growing season. They only stop growing when the frost kills them.
Indeterminate tomato plants have long vines and can grow absurdly tall! If you’ve ever seen a massive wall of tomato plants, then you can bet that it’s an indeterminate tomato plant plot.
You may also notice that indeterminate tomato plants produce tomatoes more consistently than their determinate counterparts throughout the entire season.
Indeterminate tomato plants are your choice if you want a gradual source of tomatoes so you can snack on cherry tomatoes right from the vine, or if you want to pop a handful of cherry tomatoes in your veggie salad now and then.
The Best Indeterminate Tomato Seeds
Don’t forget that these tomato plants get large! You should probably stake or cage your indeterminate tomatoes to prevent the weight from toppling your entire plant. A sudden wind gust or heavy rain might hurt your vegetable garden otherwise.
I’ve also used a garden lattice for my tomatoes. The right lattice offers excellent support for your indeterminate tomato plants, and they also look majestic, so your garden gets an instant “coolness” upgrade.
Choose Short-Season Tomatoes for the Fastest Growth
Tomato Bush “Early Girl” – Price: $7.36 – Buy Now
One frustrating thing about growing tomatoes for our friends living in colder climates is that tomatoes require warm temperatures to pollinate. Tomato plants prosper in temperatures ranging from 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit and love to bask in the sun-heated soil, all-day long.
The problem that many tomato growers face is that their growing season is short!
In these cases, I can’t recommend short-season tomatoes enough. Below you’ll find a handful of my favorite short-season tomato cultivars so you can squeeze the most out of your short tomato growing season.
The Best Short-Season Tomatoes
- Early Girl (Harvests in 59 days)
- Fourth Of July (Harvests in 49 days)
- Summer Girl (Harvests in 52 days)
- Early Pick VF (Harvests in 62 days)
- Baby Boomer Hybrid (Harvests in 55 days)
- Bloody Butcher Beefsteak (Harvests in 55 days)
- Tomatoberry (Harvests in 60 days)
- Green Envy (Harvests in 70 days)
- Red Currant (Harvests in 70 days)
- Yellow Currant (Harvests in 60 days)
Above is just a small list of short-season tomatoes, by the way.
I encourage you to visit your favorite local nursery and browse all of the wild varieties of tomatoes unique to your area. You’ll be shocked, excited, and overwhelmed! (You can also support small local farmers. Win/win!)
Starting Tomatoes from Seed and Planting Indoors
Tomato “Oxheart Pink” – Price: $4.25 – Buy Now
Planting your tomato plants from seeds is tricky!
I find that squash, peppers, zucchini, and even pumpkins are much easier to start from seed. Many tomato gardeners contact their favorite nursery to buy a small tomato plant for a couple of bucks rather than start from a tomato seed.
Are you up for the challenge?
Then I encourage you to sow your tomato seed indoors 5-6 weeks before you intend on transplanting your tomato seedling outdoors.
When you decide on the perfect time to sprout your tomato seeds, use a Burpee seed starter tray to help your tomato seedlings get the nutrients they need as they germinate and develop. I’ve also had good luck using domed nursery pots. Your tomato plants need all the support they can get!
Especially if they have to deal with cold, cloudy, or an undesirable climate in the weeks and months to come.
You can also use a seedling heating pad to help expedite the tomato seed sprouting and sowing process. Seed heat pads can help skyrocket tomato seed germination rates. Tomato plants love the heat – especially baby seedlings!
The Best Place to Germinate Your Tomato Seeds Indoors
Try to find a spot in your home with at least 6 hours of sunlight. The more sunlight you provide to your tomato seedlings, the better. Once your tomato seeds sprout and develop, they want as much sunlight as your home can muster.
If you want to use cheat codes when growing your tomato seedlings indoors, then consider adding a grow light into the mix. Nothing beats direct sunlight. However, if your home doesn’t get much natural light, then a full-spectrum LED grow light is the perfect fix.
Tips for Hardening Off Your Tomato Plants
After you’ve been growing your tomato seedling indoors for many weeks, you don’t want to transplant it outside directly – otherwise, you might shock and traumatize your tomato plant.
Instead, the idea is to gradually introduce your tomato plant to the outdoor elements – and the sun.
Hardening Your Tomato Plant in 5 Easy Steps
- Mark off the final frost date in your area
- One week before your last frost date, place your tomato plants outdoors for a few hours – try to find an area somewhat protected from wind and direct sun. (A screened-in porch is perfect.)
- The following day, place the tomatoes out for an extended period.
- Gradually increase the amount of time you leave your tomato plants outdoors with each passing day.
- As you approach your final frost date, get ready for the final transplanting of your tomato seedlings.
If you live in a colder climate and experience short growing seasons, and if your overnight temperatures are still near freezing, you can consider covering your tomato plants with a frost protection bag. Your tomato plants can’t survive frost – especially if they’re small and aren’t used to the outdoor elements!
Transplanting Your Tomatoes Outside in Your Garden
Once your tomato seedlings are hardened, and you’re sure that there’s no frost in the forecast, it’s time to transplant them into your garden.
Beforehand, you should dig a deep hole in the transplant site that’s slightly shorter than the plant itself. Expect to dig a hole a little less than or around 6-7 inches deep, assuming your tomato plant is roughly 10-12 inches tall. Consider mixing layers of compost or manure beforehand around the transplant site to help your tomatoes flourish abundantly.
Space your tomato plant transplant holes roughly 3 – 4 feet apart depending on their size and if you intend on staking or caging your larger cultivars. It’s also a smart move to research the tomato variety you’re planting to see how much space they require.
Plant Your Tomato Plant Deep
Planting your tomato plants deep allows your tomato plant to develop strong roots, so you get a much sturdier plant.
One of the coolest features of tomato plants is that their stems root, so you can bury your tomato plant up to the first couple of leaves. You get bonus points if you’re working with moist, composted, quality soil.
How to Harvest the Perfect Tomato Every Time
Tomato “Cherokee Purple” – Price: $5.50 – Buy Now
When I harvest tomatoes, I look at the color of the tomato first and foremost.
When your tomato is a deep red, it’s ready for plucking and devouring. If you’re growing tomatoes with a color other than red, look for the tomatoes to reach their final color. (Be it yellow, orange, et cetera.)
What About Common Tomato Pests?
Tomatoes require a lot of love, attention, and time.
Take common tomato pests, for example. It’s tough for your tomato plant to grow tomatoes quickly (or at all) if it’s teeming with aphids and slugs.
Common Tomato Plant Pests
- Tomato Hornworms (The bane of tomatoes everywhere!)
- Flea Beetles
- Mexican Bean Beetles (A relative of beneficial ladybugs. Little devils!)
- Slugs And Snails
- Whiteflies (Small but mighty pests)
If you encounter any of these pests, don’t panic outright. It’s much better to take a slow and steady approach to pest removal.
Here are my favorite tips to help remove your garden of pests – without pesticide.
How to Remove Pests From Your Tomato Garden
- Keep an eye on your tomato plants – daily
- Manually remove larger pests and drop them in a bottle of soapy water
- Hope and pray for beneficial insects + plant companion plants around your tomatoes to attract helper insects
- Manually remove any stems, leaves, or portions of your plant heavily infested with pests
- Don’t overwater your tomato plants
Here’s a borderline-genius hack to rid your garden of slugs.
You can set a malt beer trap by burying a cup of beer around your tomato plants, and the slugs will fall to their deaths – and drown in the beer. Leave the container of beer 1-2 inches above the ground. One slug beer trap study found that slugs can’t resist Kingsbury Malt Beverage beer. It’s their favorite!
Why Aren’t My Tomatoes Turning Red?
If you live in a colder climate, your tomato plant may die from frost before it gets a chance to redden. If that’s the case, then I invite you to try growing early girl tomato seeds. Early girls rock a short 59-day harvesting span. That 59-day harvesting timeline is perfect for short growing seasons of the cold northern climates.
How Much Should I Water My Tomato Plants?
In the middle of summer, my full-sized tomato plants drink as much water as you can handle feeding them.
Most gardening experts say that a tomato plant only needs a few inches of water per week. However, sometimes I give my monstrous tomato plants up to a half-gallon of water per day when they’re full-sized and when the summer heat is slamming them hard. They don’t mind. They seem to love it!
The best rule of thumb is to stick your finger in the soil around your tomato plant to see if it’s dry or not. If the garden soil feels dry, give your tomato plant enough to wet its roots. Aim for moist soil – not soaking wet.
What Are the Best Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce?
All of our gardening friends and readers want to know one thing about tomatoes – which tomatoes make the best spaghetti sauce?!
After experimenting with endless tomato cultivars and wild pasta experiments, we’re happy to share our best recommendations below.
Best Tomato Seeds for Tomato and Spaghetti Sauce
- Amish Paste
- Red Pear
- Chadwick Cherry
- Celebrity Hybrid
- Juliet Hybrid
- Yellow Plum
- Rio Grande
- Arkansas Traveler
- Sugary Hybrid
- San Marzano
- La Roma III (Red Hybrid)
If you’re growing tomatoes so you can cook delicious homemade pizza and spaghetti sauce, then you might also love to add a few small red chili plants to your garden – especially if you like pasta dishes with a bit of heat and zest!
You can also add purslane or basil plants to nearly any garden – both of which are easy to grow and complement your pizza or spaghetti sauce marvelously! You can add mounds of fresh flavor to your pasta sauce without much extra work – and the seeds are cheap.
The Real Secret to Growing Tomatoes Faster
Growing tomatoes faster only requires three things – hard work, focus, and luck!
I know there are a ton of wonderful gardening and tomato lovers who read this blog. Please let me know your best tomato growing hack by commenting below. Did I miss anything? Thanks so much for reading!