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The Definitive Tomato Guide

Explore the fundamentals of growing tomatoes. Learn about planting, nurturing, and harvesting tomatoes, plus advice on selecting the best varieties and addressing typical issues.

Tomatoes on the vine in the Fort St John region

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in home gardens. Many varieties to choose from, most are categorized into different types of tomatoes, Heirloom, Beefsteak, Slicer, Paste and Grape/Cherry tomatoes. They also come in many different colours, red, yellow, orange, purple, pink and green.

Indeterminate vs. Determinate

Indeterminate tomato varieties are vining plants that continue to grow and set fruit throughout the growing season well into the summer and into fall.

Determinate tomatoes reach their full height and maturity and set all their fruit at once and stop growing. Plants are generally smaller and bushier and sometimes have a shorter or earlier window for fruit.

Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes like it HOT. They need 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.

Summers are short in Canada so take into consideration the ‘days to maturity’ if selecting tomato seeds. ‘Days to maturity’ just means how many days it’s going to take until you are eating fresh tomatoes. Each seed package will give you all the information you need for timing your tomato seedings.

Dunvegan has a large selection of started tomatoes to help you get eating tomatoes by mid to late summer. Don’t plant tomatoes out too soon. Generally, if the night time temperatures are reaching 10C minimum (usually after May long weekend) then it’s all clear to plant outside. But keep frost blankets handy if temperatures dip colder.

Plant tomatoes deep into the soil. Tomatoes can develop roots all along their stems. So planting deep encourages root growth. Plant your tomatoes in containers to have handy on the deck, plant right into the ground or plant in raised beds.

Don’t crowd your tomatoes when planting. They need airflow for disease prevention.

Support your tomatoes with a cage, trellis, or stakes. Dunvegan carries ties that are soft for the stem of the tomato to tie onto the support.

Tomato plant in cage

Watering & Fertilizing

Tomatoes like to be watered consistently. Try to keep the soil evenly moist and not letting them dry out completely. Tomatoes are also heavy feeders, meaning they will produce more abundantly and have bigger fruit if fertilized with a Tomato food. Making sure the fertilizer contains Calcium to prevent blossom end rot where the fruit start rotting on the under side of the tomato. We recommend NL Tomato Food. Fertilize once a month until harvest.

Nurseryland liquid and granular tomato food

We recommend pruning your tomatoes to encourage fruit production and to direct all the energy to the fruit.

Tomatoes have something called a sucker. These suckers are little shoots that grow out of the joint where branches meet the main stem. Suckers, suck energy away from fruit production. Pinch out these suckers when you see them.

Tomato sucker on a tomato plant

Removing the bottom leaves of the tomato plant will also benefit fruit production. Some have found that removing up to half of the leaves on the plant will boost the tomato harvest.


Harvesting your tomatoes is where the hard work pays off. Having a sharp hand pruner will make this job seamless.

All throughout the summer you may have been eating the ripe tomatoes off the vine. When tomatoes are fully red (or the colour they are supposed to be) they will be the highest in sugar content and in turn, the sweetest. Snip the tomatoes as close to the fruit as possible. Also, you can tell if a tomato is ready to be harvested by feeling if the tomato is firm or has a little give to it.

What happens when the weather is becoming cooler, and you still have green tomatoes on the vine? No need to worry, harvest all the green, partially white, or pink tomatoes and but in a box, storing them in a cool dark location. To speed up the tomato ripening, place a ripe tomato in the box with the green tomatoes. To slow down the ripening process remove any ripe tomatoes as soon as they turn.

Tomatoes on the vine
Favorite Tomato Varieties
  • Celebrity (meaty, great for slicing)
  • Beefsteak (large tomatoes)
  • Brandywine (heirloom, excellent flavour)
  • Early Girl (medium size, early, sweet)
  • Gladiator (paste tomato)
  • Sunsugar (sweet, cherry tomato)
Fresh Garden Salsa


  • 6 Medium Tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • ¾ cup Green Pepper (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup Onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup Green Onions (thinly sliced)
  • 6 Garlic Cloves (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons Cider Vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
  • 2 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Jalapeno Pepper (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • Tortilla Chips

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, oil, jalapeno and seasonings. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Serve with chips