Grit Blogs >

Wellness Gardening

Tips for Growing Better Tomatoes

Kayla MatthewsIn addition to being one of the most delicious parts of summer, tomatoes are good for your health. According to WebMD, tomatoes are a super food because they contain all four of the major carotenoids: lutein, lycopene, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. This fact is important because each carotenoid provides individual health benefits such as antioxidants, but they also work together to prevent cancer.

Unfortunately, the cost of tomatoes has risen in recent years. And if you buy organic, the cost is even higher. Growing your own tomatoes only makes sense. Not only will you have fresh produce during the summer months, you can also freeze or jar extra yield to enjoy during cooler months.


Growing tomatoes is pretty simple. Start with good potting soil, plant your favorite variety and water daily. However, there are a few tricks you can follow that will give you bigger, better tomato plants with a more substantial yield. Your tomatoes will also burst with flavor, making them much better than any store-bought variety.

Prepare Plants before Planting

young tomatoes

Whether you grow your own tomatoes from heirloom seeds or you purchase plants from your local nursery, they have likely been kept in different conditions than the great outdoors. When the danger of frost has passed and you’re ready to plant tomatoes, get them accustomed the new outdoor conditions first. This means a gradual introduction to both sun and evening chills.

Consider the following tips for preparing plants:

  • Place outside in the shade during daylight hours.

  • Bring inside at night or cover to keep plants warm.

  • Repeat for 7 to 10 days.

  • Plant in containers or the ground.

Prep the Soil

Prepping the soil is just as important as prepping the plants. Make sure you start with a good mix that is formulated for vegetables. If using last season’s soil, turn it over and then add nutrients with manure or compost. Here are two tips for soil prep:

  • Moisten soil so you aren’t placing tomatoes into dried out dirt.

  • Place a black tarp over the soil so that it can begin to warm in preparation for the seedlings. This is especially important if you’re planting early in the season.

Time Your Planting

Did you know that placing a plant that isn’t used to it in direct sunlight can result in a sort of plant sunburn? You’ve probably noticed this in the past as wilted, yellowed leaves. You can avoid this by planting your tomato seedlings on a day that is a bit overcast. By not placing the plants in direct, bright sunlight you’ll let them adjust gradually to the sun.

Pinch Off First Blooms

If your plant tries to bloom shortly after you’ve planted it, you should pinch off these initial blooms. Growing fruit takes a lot of resources from the stem of the plant and can weaken the plant overall. By allowing the plant to really take root in the soil, you’ll allow it to grow stronger and better. Don’t worry, there will be plenty more blooms and tomatoes throughout the growing season.

Offer Plants the Right Support

tomato plants

If you’ve ever tried to grow a tomato plant without support, you know that it doesn’t work. The plant falls over, it might break and the fruit may rot on the ground. However, a tomato cage, while effective, can reduce the size and number of your tomatoes. Instead, use the right stake for better results. Here are a few tips:

  • Most master gardeners recommend that stakes should be 1 to 2 inches thick and at least 6 inches above the ground.

  • Push the stake about 6 to 12 inches into the ground so that it’s stable. Place one a few inches in front of the plant and one a few inches behind.

  • Use twine to add additional support by running it across the front row of stakes and repeating in the back.

Avoid Fungus

Once your plants are several feet tall, pinch off the leaves around the base of the plant. These are older leaves, and they tend to get drenched in water and then have a hard time drying off again. This is where a fungus might develop or disease might start. By pinching off these leaves, you accomplish several things:

  • Reduce risk of fungus.

  • Make it easier to see low lying fruit.

  • Keep plants healthier and resources focused on growth.

Following just a few quick tips can result in healthier plants and a better crop. Growing your own tomatoes is very fulfilling and a fairly easy endeavor.

All images from Kaboompics: tomatoyoung tomatoes, tomato plants

Need a Boost? Try These 8 Organic Brain Foods

Brain foods
A bowl full of healthy, leafy greens. Image by Kaboompics.

Kayla MatthewsOrganic food has been all the rage for a long time now, but what’s the big deal besides the lack of harmful pesticides? While organic food isn’t necessarily healthier than more traditionally grown varieties, certain fruits and veggies, such as tomatoes, can have higher levels of antioxidants than others.

And animals that are allowed more time to graze on grass on free-range farms produce more of a fatty acid that’s good for human heart health. Organically raised animals are also not given antibiotics, which can help humans maintain strong immune systems.

Check out these eight organic foods that can give you another boost: better memory and brain power.

Fish and Walnuts

It’s a weird combo, but you don’t have to eat them at the same time to get the benefits. Fish and walnuts both contain omega-3 fatty acids, which seem to be important in brain neurons’ normal functioning. In addition to acting as a sort of preventive measure against brain issues, a small serving of nuts in the middle of the day can keep your energy up, too. 

Spinach and Leafy Greens

Eating a serving of spinach or another dark green veggie every day can be enough to prevent mental decline by an average of 11 years, according to a Rutgers University study. Leafy, dark green veggies are packed with essential nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene.


Go ahead and add a scoop of guac. Research suggests that foods high in vitamin E, like avocados, are associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later on in life. 

Peanut Butter

In addition to vitamin E, peanut butter contains a healthy dose of good-for-you fat that keeps your brain running strong. And since adding fiber-rich whole wheat to your diet also promotes brain health, you don’t have to be embarrassed about adding a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich back into your lunch rotation.


A bowl of lentil salad. Image by jules.

Lentils are full of iron, which helps form myelin in your body. Myelin is essential for fast , healthy red blood cells that transmit oxygen, and the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. 


When it comes to brain health, blueberries are a powerhouse, according to a study from Tufts University. Eating a handful or so every day can dramatically slow down and even reverse memory and motor coordination issues that come along with aging. Out of almost a hundred fruits, veggies, nuts and spices tested, blueberries had the most antioxidants per serving. These help eliminate free radicals, which can contribute to the onset of age-related diseases.


Tea with sugar. Image by Kaboompics.

Tea, especially green, is also high in antioxidants. What makes it unique is something called theanine, an amino acid that can help boost your creativity and problem-solving skills. Theanine and the bit of caffeine found in tea also help you maintain focus while running around from task to task, meaning you’ll get more done.

Organic foods won’t magically improve your brain’s abilities, of course. With the right kind of diet and some patience, though, you’ll see benefits over time.

Organic foods are often fresher and contain fewer chemicals, pesticides and other synthetics, which means you’re putting fewer toxins into your body. And since so many tasty organic foods help you get rid of those in the first place, why make the job more difficult?

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters