American humorist and writer Lewis Grizzard once said, "It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

I have pleasant thoughts just thinking about eating a homegrown tomato, and that's why every summer I put forth a lot of effort, time and money to get them.

Tomatoes like a long growing season, warm nights, consistent moisture, and acidic soil that is mostly humus. Colorado has a short growing season, cool nights, droughts and clay, alkaline soil. In spite of these challenges, delicious tomatoes can be yours if you follow a few simple rules.

  • Plant Selection Since we have a short growing season, some gardeners skip larger tomatoes in favor of smaller, hardier varieties such as Early Girl, Celebrity or Better Boy.  If your plant is going into a container, Roma and cherry tomatoes seem to fare better.  Avoid leggy plants - look for one that is as wide as it is tall. If there are blossoms, pinch them off.  There should be as many plants as there are tomato eaters in the household.
  • Planting: Find a sunny, warm location that is close to a water source.  Add compost and a low nitrogen fertilizer to the soil. Handle the plant carefully and plant it deeper than it was in its pot.
  • Watering: Water regularly in the morning if the plants look wilted, usually every other day or so. Water into the roots slowly and thoroughly. Don't fluctuate the watering or you'll have blossom rot or cracked tomatoes.
  • Harvesting: Leave your tomatoes on the vine until they are uniformly red (or yellow) and very slightly soft. If they fall off while green, store them in a paper bag with the stem up in a dark, cool place. Don't refrigerate your crop; that spoils the texture and taste. If your plant still has tomatoes when the frost comes, hang it upside down in the basement or garage to ripen further.

Below are some additional resources, including a video lesson on grilling tomatoes.


In Praise of Tomatoes: A Year in the Life of a Home Tomato Grower by Steven Shepherd

How to Grow World Record Tomatoes:  A Guinness World Champion Records His All-Organic Secrets by Charles H. Wilber

Organic Gardener's Companion:  Growing Vegetables in the West by Jane Shellenberger

The Tomato Festival Cookbook:  150 Tempting Recipe's for Your Garden's Lush, Vine-Ripened, Sun-Warmed, Fat, Juicy, Ready to Burst Heirloom Tomatoes by Lawrence Davis-Hollander


Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden - Colorado State University Extension

Recognizing Tomato Problems - Colorado State University Extension

Ten Great Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Your Garden - Denver Landscape Network


Please contact Reference Services, located on the third floor of the Central Library, for all of your information needs:
• Phone: 720-865-1363; TTY: 720-865-1480
Email Reference
Ask Colorado (24/7 virtual chat reference)

Written by Lisa on May 18, 2012


Leigh Ann on May 31, 2012


Indeed, there isn't anything better than homegrown tomatoes--best summed up in an old country western song (written by Guy Clark):
Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden

Get you a ripe one don't get a hard one
Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one

Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice
Eat `em with egss, eat `em with gravy
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy
Put `em on the site put `em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I's to change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetary
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes
Thanks for a great blog on a favorite summer fruit, Lisa!

Chris on May 31, 2012


uhhh, what she said.


I can't grow tomatoes, but happy to take any extras off your hands!

BR on June 1, 2012


Thanks for the links to CSU Extension and Denver Landscape Network! They're fun and interesting sites to browse.

Anonymous on June 9, 2012


Tomatoes might just be the only thing i have a green thumb with, my plants get so large that they take over the entire garden, your recommendation of one plant per tomato eater in the household is much too much for my household, come the end of july the tomatoes are still coming you know how people bring zucchinis into work and leave them like a reverse bandit, thats what i have to do with my tomatoes!


Once someone left a zucchini in my car in the Safeway parking lot in Walsenburg. The thing about homegrown tomatoes is that they ruin you for the store-bought kind!

Rose Ann on June 15, 2012


Great blog! I plant tomatoes every year right next to my house and they produce a ton of tomatoes because it is so very warm and they are bit out of way of bad weather.
Can never have too many tomatoes as someone is always willing to take some off your hands.

Anders Svensson on January 25, 2016


Great blog, Which you have written. All the given steps are true to grow the tomatoes. Because i already used this steps to grow the tomatoes. It is very helpful to sprout the tomatoes. Unfortunately I've been unable to crop from last one year because of harm. I totally agree with Denver.

Malin Andersson on February 29, 2016


Hello. Great information you have shared with us. I also grow the tomato crop in my home backyard. It is very helpful to sprout the tomatoes. Thanks for sharing.

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