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How To Grow Big Tomatoes (Even If You’re Not Trying to Win Any Contests!)

Do you have dreams of growing big, beautiful tomatoes? Whether you want to grow the biggest tomato ever, or you just want bigger and healthier tomatoes from a smaller growing variety, we’re going to show you how to grow big tomatoes at home. From planting instructions to proper care and pruning, these tips and tricks will make a big difference in the size of the tomatoes on your plants this year.

Ready to learn how to grow huge tomatoes that are the biggest on the block? Let’s get started!

Woman holding a large red tomato.  Every tomato grower wants to know how to grow big tomatoes in their garden!
Nearly every tomato grower wants to know how to grow big tomatoes in their garden!

What Varieties Grow The Biggest Tomatoes

If you want to grow really big tomatoes it helps to know what varieties produce the largest tomatoes. Not every variety is capable of growing that big, but others can produce really massive tomatoes. Beefsteak varieties are where you’ll find the biggest possible tomatoes. There are many subvarieties of beefsteak tomatoes, here are a few of our favorites.

Cherokee Purple

Cherokee Purple tomatoes typically grow to between 12 ounces-1 pound each. They are delicious and beautiful as well!

Farmers market display of Cherokee purple tomatoes.
The Cherokee Purple is a popular big tomato among home growers.

Abraham Lincoln

The average size of an Abraham Lincoln tomato is around 1 pound. They are deep red with thick skin and perfect for making tomato sauce or slicing for sandwiches.

Big Boy

Big Boy is a high yield variety that grows large amounts of big tomatoes between 1-2 pounds each. They are resistant to cracking so they work well in areas that get a lot of rain.

Closeup of cluster of large, red, beefsteak-sized tomatoes.

Brandywine

A meaty tomato, Brandywine produces fruit that is up to 2 pounds each.

Closeup of a Brandywine tomato, a variety of big tomato.
The Brandywine is a beloved big tomato, but it’s one of the more challenging varieties for home growers.

Big Zac

Big Zac is a variety that grows truly massive tomatoes, often between 4-6 pounds! If you really want to impress your neighbors, try Big Zac. Don’t forget the supports, you’re going to need them for these gigantic tomatoes!

A very large, red, heirloom tomato on a plate.

How to Grow Big Tomatoes

A grape or cherry tomato is never going to weigh multiple pounds like a single beefsteak can because their genetic programming just doesn’t allow that, but there are still ways to help your tomato plants grow bigger, healthier fruit. If you want to learn how to grow the biggest tomatoes possible for your particular variety, these tips will help you too!

Choose the Best Tomato Plants

The first step in growing big, healthy tomatoes is to choose the right plants. Whether you’re starting from seeds or choosing plants from a nursery or garden center, you’ll want to pick the best seedlings to plant. If you’re direct sowing tomato seeds, you’ll thin the plants and leave only the strongest and healthiest to continue developing.

Tomato starter plants.

Choose plants with strong stalks that are thick, flexible, and a vibrant green color. Leaves should be bright green (no yellowing) without spots or curling. There should be no signs of disease or pest damage. While it may seem like a good idea to choose plants with flowers, it’s actually not. Plants that are already flowering at the nursery can give you a head start on harvesting, but your tomatoes won’t be as big or healthy. You want your plants to develop a strong root system before they put energy into flowering.

Tips for Planting

If you’re buying seedlings from a nursery, ignore the instructions on the pot. Most will tell you to plant the seedling at the same depth it was at in the container, or just up to the the lowest set of leaves. For a stronger tomato plant, bury it deep so more roots can grow.

Step by Step Planting Guide

  • Dig a hole that is about a foot deep.
  • Amend the soil by adding compost, crushed egg shells (for calcium), and tomato fertilizer to the hole.
  • Cover these amendments with a bit of soil then water. It’s not good for the roots of the plant to come into direct contact with fertilizer, so don’t skip this step.
  • Carefully remove the lowest 2-3 sets of leaves from your plant, or about 2/3 of the way up the stem.
  • Place your plant in the hole and bury it so that half of the stem is under the soil.

Once buried, tiny hairs on the stem will shoot out roots giving your tomato plant a very strong base. As the plant grows all those extra roots will suck up water and nutrients quickly, helping your tomato plant grow strong and healthy and the fruit to become big and full of nutrients.

Garden hose sprayer watering newly planted tomato.

Fish Heads as Fertilizer

If you can get your hands on a raw fish head (a small fish or shrimp shells also work) add that to your planting hole. If you bury it about a foot down it will be safe from critters trying to dig it up. The fish will decay quickly and add many nutrients to the soil including phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium, and other trace minerals. It’s an amazing natural fertilizer for tomatoes!

What Tomatoes Need for Optimum Growth

Good Soil

Tomatoes do best in rich, loamy soil that is slightly acidic. If you’re not sure what kind of soil you have, you can have it tested. Tomatoes are classified as heavy feeders which means they need a lot of organic matter to grow big healthy tomatoes. Adding compost, either homemade or from your local garden center, adds organic matter and helps keep your soil healthy and thriving.

Person planting tomato in the garden.

Plenty of Sunlight and The Right Amount of Heat

Tomatoes do best in full sun. They need regular sunlight to perform photosynthesis. If they don’t get enough light, it can really affect growth and your tomatoes will be smaller. Make sure your tomatoes have at least 6-8 hours of full sun each day.

Tomatoes like it hot, but not too hot. If you plant your tomatoes outdoors too early, it will slow their growth. A very hot summer can also slow their growth. If you live in a very warm climate, choose a heat tolerant variety.

Room To Grow

For the biggest possible tomatoes, give your plants plenty of room. They need space to grow and stretch out. Two feet of space between rows is commonly recommended but for really big tomatoes, try and spread them out even more. When plants are too close together they have to compete for nutrients and water and fruit will be smaller as a result. By spreading them out each plant has access to more nutrients.

Woman planting tomatoes in a raised bed.

Proper Hydration

Like many plants in the garden, your tomatoes need plenty of water. For big juicy tomatoes make sure the soil stays moist but not soggy. An inch and a half of water per week is a good rule of thumb. If you’re not getting that much rain, make sure to water your tomato plants either in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t too strong.

Fertilize the Right Way

Tomatoes require specific nutrients (such as calcium) to produce their best crops of fruit. To learn how to determine what your tomatoes need and when they need it, consult our ultimate tomato fertilizer guide.

Person spreading fertilizer granules around tomato plants.

Use Mulch

Mulch helps keep the soil moist and it prevents diseases in the soil from splashing up onto the plants when it rains. As an added benefit, natural mulches like straw or woodchips add nutrients to the soil over time as they break down.

Prune The Plants

Pruning and pinching are a tomato care technique that can help your tomato put forth its best yield. But you need to know when to do this and what tomatoes need it. To help you with this, visit our pruning tomatoes guide.

Person pinching sucker from tomato plant.

Watch out for Pests and Disease

Unfortunately pests and disease are a fact of life for gardeners. It can be hard to get away from them completely but there are steps you can take to help prevent many issues from ruining your hard work. By spotting problems early you can remove and treat many pests or diseases before they do any major damage. To learn more here’s an article all about common tomato diseases and here’s one with information about identifying and preventing pests.

Wrapping up How To Grow Big Tomatoes

Person holding a very big tomato.
Big tomatoes like this are the goal each tomato season!

Now that you’ve learned all about how to provide the best growing conditions for the biggest tomatoes, you’re ready to get started! The hardest part is going to be waiting for them to be ripe. Follow these tips and you will be growing huge tomatoes in no time. After carefully tending to your plants all summer, your homegrown tomatoes will not only be big and beautiful, they’ll taste delicious and be full of nutrients as well!

What variety are you looking forward to growing this season? Have you already mastered the art of growing prize-winning-sized tomatoes? Let us know in the comments section below! To read about different tomato varieties (some big, others not-so-big), click here for our tomato blog posts.