I’m a garden killer. It’s what I do. Every year we plant. Every year things die.

We’ve tried planting seeds, using starters indoors & transplanting, planting starters outside & using raised beds. No luck. We know how frugal (and YUMMY) growing your own fruits and veggies can be, so…

We water.

We fertilize.

We get the best soil.

And then all of our plants die. Well ALMOST all of our plants die.

Last year we had tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes. Our tomato plant was HUGE and it produced a ridiculous amount of tomatoes, and didn’t stop. We couldn’t have killed that tomato plant if we tried. It kept on growing well past the first freeze. And in October, when our neighbors/friends/family/mailman were all tomatoed out, we moved the plant into the garage and waited for it to die. It didn’t. We had tomatoes until almost Thanksgiving. It was wild.

So now that I am a tomato growing expert (for all other garden-related advice, read Cathy’s post HERE), I’ll share some tips for growing tomatoes:

1. If you are starting with seeds, plant them indoors so you can get a jumpstart on planting outside as soon as the last frost has past.

2. Soak the seeds before planting for faster germination.

3. Label the seedlings if there are different varieties. All tomatoes plants look pretty much alike.

4. Place the seed trays where it’s warm for a quick start. Warm does not mean oven hot.

5. Use new potting soil for seedlings to avoid dampening off.

6. Snip off all but the strongest seedling in each pot after they’ve reached 3 inches tall.

7. Start fertilizing when seedlings have four true leaves. Dilute the fertilizer.

8. Give the seedlings enough light or they’ll grow too leggy and flop over.

9. Don’t try to resuscitate flopped seedlings. Give them a decent burial in the compost pile.

10. Do not eat thinned seedlings like you would with lettuces, carrots, and leafy greens. Tomato vines, even the little ones, are toxic. No, really they are, so are potato plants. They’re both part of the nightshade family.

11. Use waxed paper cups with holes poked in the bottom for transplants.

12. Use 1/2 gallon waxed paper juice containers with holes poked in the bottom for bigger transplants.

13. Use 1-gallon milk containers with – you guessed it- holes poked in the bottom and the top cut off for the biggest transplants.

14. Wrap the containers of tomatoes with black plastic if the weather is too cool. The black absorbs heat.

15. Bring containers inside the house if the temperature falls below 50 degrees at night.

16. Wrap mini Christmas lights (not LED they don’t get warm) around the tomato cage if frost threatens.

17. Put plastic gallon milk jugs with the tops cut off over smaller tomato plants to keep them warmer at night.

18. Cover the small transplants with straw when frost threatens.

19. To keep your tomato plants healthy, they need 8 hours of sunlight every day, rich soil and consistent watering.

20. If you follow all of these tips and every last thing you plant dies, repeat after me (or with me rather), “We can’t win them all.”  And then promptly head on over to High Country Produce!

Thanks for the tips EGC!


  • Sophie

    It’s ok Amber, you’re not the only that kills plants. I couldn’t even grow herbs two years ago when I tried. How pathetic is that? Some of us just don’t have the green thumb!

  • Coffee grounds are great fertilizer for tomato plants. Starbucks will give you their daily used coffee grounds for FREE! Just ask (even at the drive up window)

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