What I've Learned About Growing Tomatoes

All year I long for summer and for the taste of my own home grown, vine ripened tomatoes. My tomato garden is quite tiny though, as I have only two patio plants in pots and two plants growing in the flower bed. In spite of my lack of space, I know even a few plants can produce an abundance of fruit if my thumb is green enough.

Tomatoes have not been easy for me to grow, and I have learned some valuable lessons by making mistakes with my tomato gardening. I have learned from other gardeners, by trial and error, and by reading about tomatoes. I have experimented with different varieties in past years, and some do better than others in the Arkansas heat. This year I am growing Bush Goliath plants in my patio pots and Better Boy plants in the flower bed. Both of these varieties can typically be counted on to be good producers.  

When I visited Bean2Blog at Moss Mountain Farm and toured the P. Allen Smith gardens, we spent the day learning about soybeans, but I also picked up some valuable information on growing tomatoes. Allen had several raised beds in his one acre vegetable garden, and he told about the yearly rotation of his plants. We visited the farm in late May, and my tomatoes were already planted at home, so I was interested, but disappointed, to learn that tomatoes are one of the plants that should be on a scheduled rotation, not being returned to a plot for three years. I have planted mine in the same spot several years in a row, setting them up for problems with plant disease and pests, such as tobacco hornworms. I'll know better next year.

My patio plants are producing well this year and rewarded me with these beauties today.

I'm not the only one who likes the red, ripe tomatoes though. I have some mockingbirds around my backyard, and they are keeping a watchful eye on the tomatoes too. This is how they damage the fruit by pecking holes in the best red tomatoes, making them ruined for use.

I knew I needed to take some precautions against the birds, but I let the birds win the first round this year. Some people hang rubber snakes or something shiny or reflective to scare the birds away. Old computer CD's can be recycled for this by stringing them above the tomato plants. Since the birds only like the red mature fruit, another method to outsmart the birds would be to pick the fruit just before it gets fully ripe and let it finish the ripening indoors, but this would take away some of the vine ripened flavor of the tomato.

The method I plan to use is bird netting. This will cover and protect the tomatoes so the birds can't get to the fruit. By covering these green tomatoes with netting from the local garden center, I can protect them before they start ripening and the birds become interested in them.

Next year I'll be rotating my tomato beds to protect the plants from disease and pests, and I'll cover the plants in netting BEFORE the first tomato ripens. Growing tomatoes may not be easy, but I think given time it's an attainable goal, if only I can outsmart those birds.


  1. I also need to cover the tomatoes with netting. We live a half mile from a bird sanctuary, so really need to protect the berries and tomatoes!

    Netting does work, but birds are smart. Make sure there is no opening at the bottom or anywhere in the netting. Also, make sure the netting isn't resting right on a tomato, they peck right through it.

  2. I read this somewhere. Someone hung red Christmas ornaments to fool the birds, thought that was unique trick.

    1. Thanks for the netting tips, I hope I can keep the the rest of the tomatoes covered safely. The red Christmas ornament idea sounds like a clever trick for the birds!

  3. Great tips that you've shared, Anita! Thank you for sharing all that you've learned with us.

  4. Good stuff! We have a lot of tomato plants this year but have no fruit yet! I knew to rotate the tomatoes but had not heard the 3 year part...good to know! I've missed seeing ya at the Rock 'N Share...you should stop by! Have a great weekend! Blessings, D@TheShadyPorch

  5. Thanks for the info. So this is year one for me to grow tomatoes' I have 3 different varieties and they are growing very tall, got green tomatoes and can't wait for those red beauties. I love them. Toasted tomato sandwich....oh yummy
    So I will remember the switching of the garden for next year. Nice post so enjoy your tomatoes.................Andi

  6. Wow. your tomatoes are beautiful.. Good luck with the birds. I have something eating my tomato stems! Can't figure it out yet.

  7. My husband just loves fresh tomatoes. He dreams about them. Today, I fixed him a BLT with homemade bread (blogging about it soon) and he cannot stop talking about it. I do not grow tomatoes because I live in Conway and we visit Collins orchard to pick peaches, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, blackberries, and more. It is really nice to have fresh produce so close to home. Blessings and visit me anytime. I found you from Arkansas bloggers community. Diane Roark www.recipesforourdailybread.com

  8. I have a tiny yard in Dallas and one tomato plant in a pot. So far NO tomatoes. Ugh. I can buy gorgeous heirloom tomatoes down the road at Whole Foods all summer long. Next year I'll plant more herbs, something I can successfully grow!

  9. Oh my gosh - I would have been so mad at those birds! When I lived in the Midwest, we grew tons of tomatoes every summer - I wonder how they would fare out here in Arizona? I'll definitely keep in mind that netting! Thanks for linking up to All My Bloggy Friends - I can't wait to see what you share this week!