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9 Tips to Grow Amazing Tomatoes in Colorado

By May 10, 2014 March 29th, 2019 Garden Planning, Garden Tasks, Uncategorized

1) Choosing Transplants: When purchasing your transplants, make sure they are high quality plants. Ask if they have been “hardened” (prepared to be planted outside). You want the plant to be about 6-10” tall, have a thick stem, and dark green leaves. The ideal tomato plant is almost as wide from leaf to leaf as it is tall. We suggest choosing a plant that isn’t already producing flowers and fruit. Do your best to avoid buying “root bound” plants. Here are our favorite varieties:

      • Cherokee Purple (heirloom)
      • New Girl (hybrid)
      • Big Beef (heirloom)
      • Black Krim (heirloom)
      • Sun Gold (hybrid)

2) Location: Pick your location carefully. You want your plants to have access to full sun and warm soil. If you have planted tomatoes before, make sure you are rotating them to avoid soil-borne diseases and soil depletion. If you can, do a four-year crop rotation.

3) Timing: Plant your tomato transplants well after the danger of a frost has past. Nighttime temperatures should be in the low to mid 40’s, and daytime temperatures in the high 60’s or 70’s. A week of cool daytime temps (below 55) will permanently stunt plants, reducing yields. We recommend planting around May 25th—don’t plant before the 15th unless you’re growing them under protection.

4) Plant Deep: Plant in rich soil. Dig a deep hole for transplanting. Place the plant deep in the hole, and bury the stem of the tomato plant deeper than it was growing in the pot. You can plant it up to three or four branches from the top because roots will develop from the stem. Consider applying a water-soluble organic starter mix, which will help stimulate growth and help reduce transplant shock.

5) Water: Water regularly. Irregular watering (missing a week and trying to make up for it) can lead to blossom end-rot and fruit cracking. When the fruits are dehydrated, then receive a rush of moisture, the fruits will crack and the plant is more susceptible to problems. A layer of grass clippings, straw, or compost as mulch on the soil will conserve moisture and keep the soil temperature even.

  • Tomatoes (and peppers and eggplant) need water most critically during flowering and fruiting. However, don’t overdo it. The tomato family has a lower water requirement than many vegetables and plants are often over-watered in the typical home garden.
  • Water the soil, not the plants. Tomatoes are more susceptible to disease when they get wet. Symptoms of blight, or a fungal disease on the plant, often start as tiny black spots on lower leaves.

 6) Keep Them Off the Ground: If you don’t have a trellis, we suggest caging your tomatoes. Find the largest cages you can find and put them over your tomato before it’s too large to fit it over the top. With cages, you don’t have to prune the suckers. The plants will simply sprawl out in the cage, but will take up several square feet (as opposed to just one square foot on a trellis).

 7) Trellising, Staking, and Pruning: If you want to grow tomatoes on a trellis, it’s possible to keep them growing upwards without taking up too much space in your garden. The key is to continually prune your tomatoes by removing the “suckers”.

Here is a picture of suckers; they’re the stems that grow in the “armpit” between the main stems and the side stems.


  • Pinch off the suckers as the plant grows upwards. Suckers will eventually turn into new main branches and cause the plant to bush out. Suckers take a lot of energy from the plant, which you want to devote toward the one main stem growing up the trellis. We suggest pruning suckers off until the tomato is climbing up the trellis about a foot. At that point, it is actually ok to let a couple suckers fan throughout the trellis a bit more.
  • Beans, peas, and hops are “self-climbers”, but tomatoes must be guided between the trellis netting a bit. It helps to use small twine or ties to keep the plant to the trellis when it’s young. It may take a bit of training for the main stem to “reach” back toward the trellis.
  • It’s possible to stake your tomatoes with a large stake at least 6-7′ tall, using the same sucker-pruning method described above. Use string or twine to keep the main stem to the stake as it grows upwards.

8) Maintenance: Remove the lower leaves. The leaves closest to the ground are the oldest, and will be shaded by top growth as the plant grows.  Removing them helps prevent disease and provides better air circulation. Remove them when the bottom leaves turn yellow.

9) Prepare for Fall Frost: Before a frost, pick ripening fruit and green tomatoes. Remove the stems. Save only blemish-free fruits for ripening indoors. Place them in a cardboard box or brown paper bag to ripen.


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  • Kelly Simmons says:

    Once article Bryant! I’ve also had excellent luck with Eva Purple, Moonglow, and Martinos Roma, that I grew myself from seed. Purchased seed from Seed Savers Exchange and started the seeds indoors in February. The smaller the tomato produced, the easier it is to grow them here.

  • glenn says:

    hi, when you say ‘water regularly and deeply’, this is vague to a neophite like me.
    please elaborate as i am growing black krims in a container.

    • The Urban Farm Co. says:

      Hey Glenn! When we say that, we mean watering on a consistent schedule for a specific time. In containers, we’d suggest a couple things. When they just go in the ground, give them a good water everyday. At this point in their development, they’re a little stressed from transplanting and are needing the extra water. After about a week, you can cut that back to every other day. Once they’re growing well, and that root system is well established, you can cut it back even more. The best way to determine if they need watering is to stick your fingers in the soil a couple inches down and feel if it’s muddy (too moist), crumbly (too dry), or just right.

  • Rachel says:

    Hi, my beefsteak tomato plant is about 7 feet tall and loaded with fruit. The upper 18 inches of the plants have lots of blossom but oddly enough very few leaves. I have been deep root watering twice a week; should I take it up to three times a week? We are having a long stretch of 90°-plus temperatures so that seems to make sense but I would appreciate your advice. Thanks!

    • The Urban Farm Co. says:

      Hi Rachel! Thanks for reaching out, that’s interesting to hear. I’d bump the watering up to 3 times/week in this heat, and can you send us a photo of that tomato plant? Then we might be able to see what’s going on and be able to help more. Send it to info@urbanfarmcolorado.com. Thanks!

  • Tom P. says:

    H I. Great tips for growing tomatoes. I planted my beef steaks and stripes a good 4 feet apart.
    They have now grown into one giant tomato plant that is a tangled mass about 6 feet tall.
    I have lots of green fruit with only a few ripening. they are tightly bunched within the cage.
    Have you any tips to change this setup to improve my harvest. Thanks.

    • The Urban Farm Co. says:

      Hey Tom! If you have the room, I might suggest ditching the cages in favor of the row/weave method. This is where you plant them in a row, hammer in posts on either end and about every 4-6′ in the middle of the row. Then you weave string through the tomato plants to one end and back. As the tomatoes grow, you add more layers of string so they’re held up and you can harvest a bit easier. I just found this site from the web that has photos:

      I’d suggest this in the future, especially if you keep having such good growth!

  • cate says:

    any tips for how to keep the squirrels from eating all of my tomatoes? arrghhh!

  • Su Welty says:

    Great info. We live at 8,200 feet near Westcliffe, CO and grow tomatoes and peppers from seed in pots in our Palram greenhouse. The greenhouse gets hot in the summer and we added a side fan, plus 2 roof vents, a misting system, UV woven cloth, some regular cloth shade and we leave the doors open. We added a rain barrel drip irrigation system this year. We’ve had pretty good yields with Mighty Sweet tomatoes. But try as I might, the inside is moist but the skins are tough. We tried Rio Grande Romas because they can handle cool nights and hot days. Same problem. Plus they didn’t ripen before frost. (That may be because I broke the main stem when it was young and a side stem has to take up the role.) Anyway, I’m wondering what I can do to grow tomatoes with thinner skins? Also, do Pepper seeds deteriorate after a year? I planted Poblanos last year and got beautiful large peppers with no blossom end issues. I used that same seed this year and plants and fruit were smaller and had some BER like two years ago. I appreciate any thoughts you might have. I’m willing to change varieties, if you have suggestions. Thank you!

    • bryantm251 says:

      Great question! Honestly, I’m not sure. My first thought is that the skin thickness would be genetic (variety). But the fact you’re experiencing that on multiple varieties makes me think it’s about heat/humidity. Google confirmed this, for what it’s worth: “High heat can also cause a tomato plant to have thick skins. In high heat, tomato fruit can be scalded by the sun. In order to prevent sunscald on the tomato fruit, the tomato plants will start to produce tomatoes with tougher skins. The tough tomato skins are less likely to burn in the intense sunlight.” So I’d suggest more shade and more humidity with your sprayers when the fruit is growing and ripening!

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