Laurel's Tomato Growing Tips &

Favorite Garden Products


Some of our 10,000 little plants growing happily in one of our greenhouses in winter. We start this many plants from seed every 2 to 3 weeks and when they are big enough, off they go to their new homes.

 Soon it will be warm up enough to roll up the walls let the sun shine in! 


       Marianna's Peace


      The information below offers some sound basic techniques I've learned from my years of gardening experience since 1954, at the age of 4, when I dropped some pumpkin seeds in my Grandma's birdbath. They sprouted; I was thrilled. There are many excellent gardening books and websites available to help you with your garden.

    Stay organic; feed the soil, take care of the pollinators. You will be a doing fine thing for our environment, you'll have a fabulous garden, and the Earth will be happier. 


 How Much Sunlight?    

      Your tomato plants require a minimum of 6 to 7 hours of direct sunlight for proper growth.

    More direct sunlight; healthier plants; 10 hours is optimum. 12 is awesome. They also need rich deep fluffy well-nourished soil for garden health, and for the best possible flavor in your homegrown tomatoes.


Preparing Your Soil

     To begin, let me stress the fact that the finest tasting tomatoes come from plants grown in  rich, healthy well-amended soil. 

    The taste of a tomato, (or any crop) grown in poor soil can be flat and bland compared to the big grand tomatoey taste of the same variety grown right next door in well-tended soil, teeming with biological activity.

    Organic soil amendments are the key. Add compost and fresh planting mix every year. If you don't have a compost pile going, use bagged, purchased compost from the garden store. Better yet, start a compost pile. Many fine books and articles are available online and at libraries to help you learn how to make and use your own compost. It's easy and fun and the best gift you can give your garden.

     IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be very cautious when buying soil by the cubic yard. Do not buy 'top soil' for your garden!

    Some of these companies are less than forthcoming and mix everything they can scoop up and buy -- from farmers who want their debris hauled away -- or feedlot refuse or shredded wood from tree-trimming companies, or construction dirt, mix it all together and call it 'organic composted soil for vegetable gardens' which it is NOT.  It is cheap for a reason.

    A lot of unscrupulous characters are getting into the 'organic garden soil' business. They do not care about your garden. They are not your friends. They will tell you whatever you want to hear -- you will have no idea where this stuff came from.

    In many cases it has fresh un-composted cow or horse or other manure with a lot of urine and un-composted pine shavings which will ruin your garden forever.

    Much of it also has weed debris which was sprayed with herbicides...weed killer. This mix will kill your plants within less than a week and you won't understand why.

    Be sure to get a sample of the exact soil you want to buy before you lay out a penny. Put that sample in a container and examine it.

    It should be rich and dark and fluffy, smell great, without chunks of wood or strong odor or pieces of metal or paper in it.

   Take that sample home with you; you are going to need it later. Plant something in it. Wait 2 weeks for results before you order a load of it.


    When it arrives on the truck, you must insist on inspecting the soil before you let them dump it.  Hand the driver a big shovel; have the driver dig out a shovelful to show you. Be sure it is exactly as the same as the sample you have right there with a plant growing in it.

    Don't get bullied into anything! Stay tough. They may act like they love you and are doing you a favor. "Hi Ray! Hi Marge! Here's your garden soil! Just sign here..." 

    You paid a LOT for it. Inspect it. You have the right to say, "This is not what I ordered. Take it back."

    If they won't let you inspect the load, or try to pressure you in any way, send them packing. If they dump it, you have to pay for it.

    If it smells bad, do not buy it! It should smell sweet and earthy, not like a hog farm or urine soaked feedlot.

    If it has a lot of wood pieces, large twigs, pieces of plastic or metal etc, do not accept it! The nitrogen in the soil will spend all of its energy trying to digest, or decompose the wood pieces, leaving your plants without proper nutrition. 

    I cannot tell you how many customers have called and told me about the soil they bought by the truckload -- with devastating results in their gardens. Just heartbreaking.

     Okay. Whew....

    Dig and loosen your soil deeply, as deep as you can, at least 18" to 24", more if possible. Remove rocks and other garden debris. Be sure your soil has plenty of natural organic amendments like planting mix, compost, etc., so it  is loose, rich, healthy and fluffy. Think FLUFFY.  Below is a photograph of my garden beds, using Tomato Plant Protectors to extend the season 4 weeks by planting in early March. You can get them here, 3 for $15.95.

     We use handy horse manure, well-composted and applied at about 3" twice a year along with about a half inch of chicken manure and then add really good planting mix by the packaged bale, not trucked in. The beds are deeply dug, fluffy, and amended 18 to 20 inches below ground, then built up 10to 12 additional inches into raised beds. (Note cute 2½ ft. grandchild in front of average size horse for photo scale.) I used 2" x 12" sealed redwood planks between the beds for pathways.

     We water by flooding these pathways for an hour once a month because we have adobe/clay soil which holds water like crazy.


      Please use natural soil amendments and fertilizers. The key to a healthy happy garden is to feed the soil because the soil feeds the plants. Add a little bit of horse, cow, rabbit or chicken manure, also according to package directions, and lots of a fluffy great smelling soil amendment like planting mix or planting compost from a reputable nursery. Fluffy soil is our goal.

     This is not the time to try to save money. Find good quality organic bagged planting mix or planting compost which shows you its ingredients and origin on the bag. Avoid the artificial chemically enhanced soil amendments like Miracle-Gro planting mix or potting soil, as they are too strong for tomato plants causing the flavor to be ruined and they don’t nourish the soil. They are cheap for a reason....

    Your tomato bed can be tilled mechanically, or dug by hand. Raised beds should be built up as high as soil volume will allow. I build my beds at least 12” high above the soil line. Combined with the loosened and amended soil 16” below, that’s a fine fluffy 28" deep bed for tomato plants. Very heavy soils and clay can require a tiller and/or a really strong, helpful, digging-type person with a lot of time and energy, who likes you a LOT and to whom you offer free garden bounty forever.

     You can buy pre-made 'raised beds' which are frames of wood, plastic or metal or use lumber or concrete blocks or even bales of straw to frame your raised beds. Bales can be formed into a frame any size or shape you want, then filled in with organic top soil, planting mix, compost and fertilizer. You can make them as high as you like. Easy access, nice place to sit, very fluffy beds, and the straw eventually breaks down and feeds the soil.

    Space your beds so you can plant your seedlings about 32" - 36" apart in rows at least 42-48" apart. More space, better air-flow and root growth: better plants.

     Avoid walking on the soil, and don’t let anyone else walk on it or step on it, as this will compact it, and the roots will not be free to grow healthy and strong. (Fluffy…) Hint: In my experience, if someone walks onto your garden bed, do not go berserk. Remain calm and ease them off gently--as scaring them will cause much running, hopping and screaming in the garden bed--just what we are trying to avoid.

     Water the beds really well until the entire soil volume is moist, and, if you have time, let the soil relax undisturbed for 3-4 days to a week to let the natural microbial systems begin their amazing activity and enrichment of the soil. Got worms? Yay. When you see earthworms, your soil is happy.

     Now we kick back, relax and wait until night temperatures are reliably above 50º for about 2 weeks to give the soil a chance to warm up. You can measure soil temperature with a soil thermometer or digital meat thermometer. Take it out of the roast chicken and stick it about 10" into the soil.


Grandma Oliver's Green





  Before Planting Out

  Please wait until night temperatures are reliably above 50º and daytime temps at 70 ºfor a couple of weeks. 

   It takes that long for the soil to warm up. The soil must be warm when you plant! Tomatoes are a hot weather crop, not a sort-of-starting-to-warm-up-weather crop. So kick back and wait...

      Soil is warm? Okay, almost ready to plant. Dig your nice deep planting hole a foot deep and a foot wide, and place a small handful, about 4 tablespoons, of a good organic granular plant food into that cubic foot of soil, (use package directions) mix it all around to distribute it evenly with the soil in the planting hole. The natural fertilizer will not burn your seedling’s roots the way the artificial fertilizers can. We use Fox Farms Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer.

     Remove some bottom foliage, about half of it, pinching or snipping off the lower foliage -- it should look like a palm tree-- you will be placing the plant deeply into the ground so that only this top foliage is above the soil line and the stem from which you removed foliage will be buried. Those little hairs along the length of that buried stem will become nice strong feeder roots will grow all along the length of that buried stem, giving you a much healthier plant and a far more abundant harvest. 

     Plant your seedlings at least 32” top 36" apart in rows at least 48” apart. This way they will get plenty of air flow and ample room to grow a bountiful crop for you. Crowding your plants will encourage foliage disease.

    Set your plant very deeply into the moist, deeply loosened, and well amended (fluffy) soil, until only that top foliage is above the soil line. Please be careful not to put your plants into dry soil; it will scratch and damage their little roots. Replace the soil around the plant, and firm it gently into the ground so the roots make full contact with the soil, and the soil remains fluffy. Water the plant in, until the soil is completely moistened. Try not to let the foliage get wet.


         Texas Star  Plant Feeding

           You will feed your plants the day you plant, and again every 2-3 weeks. Use Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer scattered all over the bed at least every 3 weeks, a

    Then feed your tomato plants a good soil drenching with a Great Big Tomatoes and Big Bloom. We have both products available. See below. Feed with all of your fertilizers on the same day.

   We use Great Big Tomatoes and Big Bloom Liquid regularly along with Happy Frog Granular Fertilizer.

   Important: feeding with ‘the blue stuff’ or other stuff with a with a 10-10-10 ratio or any higher will cause excessive foliage growth and no fruit set and does nothing to nourish the soil. Use something natural. 

   I believe the only thing blue in your garden besides flowers ought to be your blue jeans.

    Plant Nutrition and Disease Control

    Here are our 3 Plant Care Kits.


Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer, 4 lb Box

Moisture Meters

Great Big Tomato, 32 oz

Great Big Tomatoes, Gallons

Big Bloom Liquid Plant Food, Quarts

Bt Caterpillar Control, Qts.

Monterey Complete Disease Control Ready to Use, Hose End Sprayer

Neem Ready to Use, Hose End Sprayer


All items can also be purchased separately, but you will save a bit with the kit.


Plant Nutrition Kit E-6, The Epic Plant Care Kit, $189.95

This is our Specialty Kit for hearty, healthy plants along with optimum disease & insect control:


4 lb. box Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Food

32 oz. Big Bloom Organic Natural Liquid Fertilizer

32 oz. Great Big Tomatoes Liquid Compost & Fertilizer Booster

32 oz Monterey Complete Disease Control Ready to Spray

16 oz. Neem  -- Hose End Spray Bottle

Rapitest Deluxe Moisture Meter


Don't get lax in your feeding and spraying schedule!


IN CONTAINERS: Feed every 10 days to 2 weeks with Happy Frog and Great Big Tomatoes. Feed every week with Big Bloom. Spray with  Monterey Complete Disease Control weekly.

   Spray with Neem weekly, a couple days after Monterey Complete Disease Control .

   Use your moisture meter before watering, plunge it at least 8" to 10" into the soil in several places and water when it reads 3-4.


IN THE GROUND:  Feed every 3 weeks with Happy Frog and Great Big Tomatoes. Feed every week with Big Bloom. Spray with Monterey Complete Disease Control weekly and with Neem weekly, a couple days after Monterey Complete Disease Control . Use your moisture meter before watering, plunge it at least 8 to 10" into the soil in several places and water when it reads 3-4.




Plant Nutrition Kit C-5, The Deluxe Plant Care Kit, $139.95

For a Happy Tomato Garden.


4 lb. box Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Food

32 oz. Big Bloom Organic Natural Liquid Fertilizer

32 oz. Great Big Tomatoes Liquid Compost & Fertilizer Booster

16 oz. Neem  -- Hose End Spray Bottle

Rapitest Deluxe Moisture Meter







Plant Nutrition Kit A, The Basic Plant Care Kit, $105.95

The Starter Kit For Basic Care.


4 lb. bag Happy Frog Granular Tomato & Vegetable Food

32 oz. Big Bloom Liquid Fertilizer

16 oz. Neem  -- Hose End Spray Bottle

Rapitest Deluxe Moisture Meter





 Happy Frog

Tomato & Vegetable Food 



This organic formula is the best in the world and my favorite for tomato plants, chile plants, eggplant, squash, beans, and all other garden vegetables and fruits. Use a handful or 2 when you plant, scattered over the entire bed just before watering. 


Every 2 weeks in containers.

Every three weeks in garden beds.

4 lb. bag, enough to feed about 10 plants for the season. $17.95

To order, include it with your plant list.









Big Bloom

Liquid Fertilizer 


Odorless! Yay!

.1 - .3 - .7


Our plants are growing better than ever since we switched to Fox Farm nutrients.

Here is Big Bloom, a live culture of vitamins, amino acids, natural growth hormones, enzymes and organic microbes.

This special micro-brewed formula has earthworm castings, bat guano, kelp and other organic ingredients that offer a full, mild, and balance range of nutrients. The Norwegian kelp improves nutrient uptake and increases your yields. 


HOW TO USE: 4 Tablespoons in a gallon of water every time you feed.

32 Ounce Bottle, $24.95   Gallon Jug, $89.95

To order, include it with your plant list.




TomatOH! Holders

Your only source for The Original TomatOH! Holders


Epoxy Powder Coated Steel, Rust Free, Long Lasting, Heavy Duty.

TomatOH! Holders the ultimate plant support system for your plants. The latest innovation in modular plant supports. Our plant supports are easily adaptable because our unique locking clip allows for easy installation any time in the growing cycle without harming the plant, also easy to remove and store during the winter. TomatOH! Holders are expandable! 

The innovative design allows segments to be added any time during the growing season.

Multi-levels can be added to support your plants' vertical growth. Segments are easy to clip together endlessly to encompass any size plant and can even be connected in a row to form a trellis for growing any climbing plant; making TomatOH! Holders the most flexible modular plant supports you'll find.

TomatOH! Holders are very durable! They are epoxy powder coated for a rust-free beautiful finish on a 40" tall frame with rugged 3/16" diameter steel uprights can hold up to 100 pounds. TomatOH! Holders are proudly made in the U.S.A. and have a 5 year guarantee.

 You Get 6  40" Tall Segments Per Set.

Easily stackable to make 6 ft. supports for your tall heirloom plants!

 Six stackable segments make 1 or 2 or 3 Six Foot Tall Cages

I use 6 segments to make one Really Big Cage for the larger plants.

Red or Green $42.95




Easy to Use Patented Clips

Patented Clip System! Easy to snap together!

Shipping to All 50 States!



Patented Clip System, Easy to snap together!

Shipping to all 50 states! Call for pricing. 310 534 8611


Happy Frog Potting Mix, Come And Get It!

We have your Potting Soil and Planting Mix Right Here!

Happy Frog Potting Mix for Your Containers.

Happy Frog Soil Conditioner for Your Garden Beds.

(For Pick up only.)


Happy Frog Potting Soil For Containers, big 2 Cubic Ft. Bags, $24.95 Buy 20, get one free.

Happy Frog Soil Conditioner for Garden Beds. 

1.5 Cu Ft. $24.00.

Or 3 cu. ft.  bag, $47.00





Monterey Complete Disease Control

32 ounce bottle. $48.95


Don't Let Disease Ruin Your Garden!


 Tomato plants foliage diseases can be controlled but not completely eliminated. 

    It helps to remember that tomato plants are not meant to be ornamental, but to produce beautiful and amazing fruit for you, and that foliage disease is present in everyone's tomato patch, no matter who or where. 

    Some diseases lie dormant in the soil and certain weather patterns can trigger an outbreak.

    My favorite way to help control foliage disease or insect problems is to spray preventively with Neem oil for insects and Monterey Complete Disease Control Spray for pathogens. Great stuff. I love them.

    Follow package directions! Neem eliminates aphids, whitefly and mites and helps prevent fungal disease like mildew and early blight by setting up a substantial physical barrier. Monterey Complete Disease Control is fabulous for cleaning your soil and plants of pathogens like fungus, bacteria and viruses. I use them regularly with great success. Organic, safe, effective.

    To discourage foliage disease, don't splash water on your tomato plants, keep your garden clean and eliminate perimeter weeds where disease spores can over-winter. After the season, pull and discard your plants in the trash--do not compost tomato plants--they harbor disease spores.

Spray all of the the foliage until it drips and at the base of the plant.

Also use as a soil drench to fight soil borne pathogens; drench/soak the

first 3" of soil--diseases won't get ahead of you. 


Great Big Tomatoes Liquid Compost



                                                 Aunt Ruby's German Green                               Kellogg's Breakfast                                            Brown Derby 




Great Big Tomatoes


In Quarts and Economy Gallon size, too.

Helps suppress disease and reinvigorate tired soil.


For use in addition to your regular fertilizer. A safe, 100% organic addition to your basic fertilizers, compost or manure in your garden. Boosts the power of your fertilizers!


Can be used as a soil drench and a foliar spray.


Using Great Big Tomatoes Natural Compost Extract for your heirlooms will help maximize plant and fruit growth in your garden or container soil.


The formulation for tomatoes includes beneficial microbes, humic acid, kelp and minor nutrients plus a large dose of specially fermented biotic solution to boost microbial population and help suppress disease.


Renews and invigorates tired old garden beds or soil that has had disease problems.


Great Big Tomatoes is specifically formulated for tomato vigor and suited for soil that's had disease problems or poor old tired soil that needs a boost.


We recommend one quart of Great Big Tomatoes to feed 6 to 8 tomato plants all season. Our Gallon Size is an excellent and economical choice.


  • Add 4 Ounces of Great Big Tomatoes to a gallon of water.
  • Use every 2 weeks during the main growing season, once a month thereafter. Use in addition to your regular fertilizer and on the same day.

We have been using Great Big Tomatoes on our nursery seedlings and the tomato plants in our home garden since 1998, along with Fox Farm Big Bloom Liquid Fertilizer and Fox Farm Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer and are thrilled with the results.

Strong stems, hearty, robust foliage and increased yield have convinced us that Great Big Tomatoes is the answer to maximum growth with minimum effort. One quart of this concentrate makes 8 Great Big Gallons of easy to use Enriched Liquid Compost. To order, include with your plant list.  Use on your entire garden!  Lawn, trees, garden beds, shrubs, flowers, everything!


32 oz. Makes 8 Gallons, $28.95


Also available in One Gallon Jugs, $79.95


A favorite among gardeners, tomatoes are a joy to grow. But growing tomatoes doesn’t always come easy. With a lot of love and a little help from Great Big Tomatoes you can help nurture your plants to grow hearty tomatoes that not only taste great, but look great, too.

Great Big Tomatoes is all organic, environmentally safe and something you can feel good about using.

Follow the simple steps below, and it won’t be long before you start reaping the following benefits:

  • Increased fruit set and harvest
  • Better color, better flavor, and bigger size
  • Improved foliage health
  • Longer shelf life
  • Less insect infestations and disease
  • More nutritious fruit

Growing impressive tomatoes is as easy as watering.

  • Add 4 Ounces of Great Big Tomatoes to a gallon of water.
  • Use every 2 to 3 weeks during the main growing season. Use in addition to your regular fertilizer.


Growing In Containers? Try our Smart Pots, in 3 sizes!


Brown Derby, Black Mamba, Paul Robeson, and Blondkopfchen in 30 gallon Smart Pots.

10 gallon size, $10.95 

25 gallon size, $15.95

30 gallon size, $17.95

We fold down about  1½" inch at the top to create a handhold--makes a great handle. (You can find this type of pot with handles but I've found that trying to move one, when fully loaded with wet soil and a big plant, the handles tend to tear off and if you're pulling hard, you go crashing to the ground....)

We have 25 gallon Smart Pots, great for large tomato plants and 30 gallon size, best for the largest plants which can grow to more than 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Yes, true! 

And our 10 gallon Smart Pots are perfect for the dwarf varieties like Wild Fred, and Velvet Night and smaller plants like Momotaro Gold, Thunder Mountain and Florida 91.

Heirloom tomato plants need a lot of root space and a large soil volume to grow to optimum size and health.



The patented Smart Pot is for the gardener who wants a container that will grow the best possible plant. It is an unique advancement in container technology that is better than any other method of container gardening.

These wonderful pots last for many seasons. Some of mine have been in use for 8 years.

The patented Smart Pot is a soft-sided, heavy fabric container that has the strength and rigidity to hold its shape and can even support large trees. In fact, the Smart Pot was originally developed for and has been used by commercial tree growers for more than twenty years.

Customers who bought these pots at our plant sales this spring and summer were thrilled with the results, finding the plants in Smart Pots have much greener, heartier and stronger foliage.

Many gardeners use the Smart Pots to give themselves a “portable plant”. This is especially true when used for plants that might struggle in either the cold winter or hot summer in your area. You can pick up or drag the pots and put them anywhere you want! (Keep track of where they are so you don't back your truck over one...)

At the end of the season, dump the soil into the trash if used for tomatoes, or save it for other-than-tomato plants, shake the container clean, scrub out any remaining soil or roots, give it a dunk in a tub of disinfectant: 8 ounces chlorine bleach to a gallon, rinse, hang to dry and put it away for next season! With normal use they should last at least 8 years.

The Smart Pot is an aeration container and  keeps soil cooler in high heat.

It has a unique ability to air-prune and enhance a plant’s root structure. A highly branched, fibrous root structure is the key to growing the best possible tomato plant – with more flowers and fruits, and more resistance to insects and diseases. In any container garden, the container you use makes a difference.

Try the Smart Pot for your Smart Tomato Garden. Your plants will thank you. Their root structures will thank you.

Aeration is the Key. Happy Container Gardening!

Important Note:  You will see very cheaply made knock-offs of these pots online at amazingly low prices like $3.00 each.  They are NOT the real deal, they fall apart because you get what you pay for. If it sounds to good to be true....

As my Papa would say in his native Spanish: "Lo barato cuesta caro".  "The cheap comes out expensive."


Get an Early Start on your Tomato Season!

Wall O' Water Plant Protectors



Come See a Video of Handy Hints to Make Set-Up Easy!

 From Our Customer, Jeff Lindberg

   "Hi Laurel,

   I made a video of the way I set up the Wall O' Water Plant Protectors. Makes it fast and easy!

   Like other methods it uses a 5 gallon bucket -- I've added some techniques to optimize the process.

   Here is my 3 minute video with tips for folks to use when setting up their Wall O' Water Plant Protectors."


Filling Wall O Water for early tomato planting - YouTube

     A mini greenhouse for each plant! With these 18" tall water-filled insulating teepees you can plant several weeks earlier than normal and get an early harvest! The water in the tubes absorbs solar heat during the day and releases heat steadily during the night keeping your plants and the soil warm and cozy.

    Great for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers and any other plants which need protection from the cold.

    When the weather warms up, remove them, dump out the water, hang them upside down to dry -- ready for next season!

                  3 pack,  $17.95. To order, include with your plant list.



Insects Buggin' You?



      Above:  Aphids (with molted skins), Whitefly & Mite Damaged Plants  


Spray Preventively!

These insects bring disease to your plants.

    We spray our entire nursery weekly to prevent insect infestations on the tomato plants we grow for your garden.

    We use Neem in a handy hose-end sprayer bottle to eliminate aphids, whitefly and spider mites. It does not work for caterpillars but we have something that does.

    If you have just a few aphids on your plants, knock them off daily with a sharp spray of water.  Do this early in the day while it's warm and the sun is out so your foliage will dry quickly to avoid fungal diseases.

   NOTE: Molted aphid skins can look like whitefly, the photo above shows the differences.

    Spider mites, aphids and whitefly can do a lot of damage quickly if you don't stop them before you have a bad infestation.  Neem works really well.

    You must spray every week to prevent damage. These insects bring disease to your plants.

Already have an infestation?

    You must spray every 4 days until they are gone. Be sure the spray saturates the undersides of the leaves where the mites are living. Spray until the foliages drips. This schedule takes into account their lifecycles and will stop new hatchings. Spray at sundown to avoid hot sun and possible leaf burn.

     After that, spray once a week for prevention. Don't let them get ahead of you!


Eliminating Spider Mites

     If a mite infestation has gotten out-of-hand, Neem may not work. 

         Mites will completely destroy your plants if you don't watch out for them.

Keep an eye on your plants. Check them daily, and use a magnifying glass if you suspect an infestation. Don't let them get ahead of you. This is why automatic watering systems can be a problem.  It means you are not looking directly at your plants daily. 

You've spent a fortune on your garden. Done back-breaking work.

There is a way to eliminate them if they are destroying your garden and you are willing to go non-organic one time. Very effective, a one time use of a different spray.  Call me for more info.

310 534 8611

                                                                                                            Don't get lax on the spraying!

  Here's what to look for:


   Spider_Mites_Outdoors887.jpg (800×600)   tomato_spider_mites_close_arrow_low_rez_( (1069×697)

Spider Mites Damage on Tomato Leaves! The arrow is pointing to a red spider mite. The white areas are webbing.

When customers bring affected leaves for me to inspect, I put the leaf under a portable microscope and show them what's happening.


Monterey Neem Oil Spray


Ready to Spray, attaches right to your hose and mixes automatically.


All Organic and Safe!

16 oz. bottle. Ready To Spray, attaches to your hose, so easy to use!


 To order, include with your plant list.  

Ready to Spray, attaches right to your hose and mixes automatically.

3 in 1 product; insecticide, fungicide and miticide.

Controls fungal diseases like powdery mildew along with rust, anthracnose, leaf spot, blight and other diseases.  


Kills aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, scale and many other insect pests. 

Completely organic, made from true Neem oil - extract of the Neem seed.

Caterpillar Control



32 Oz Bottle, Hand Sprayer

Each, $23.95

tomato hornworm

Did you know a single caterpillar can eat all the leaves of a tomato plant overnight? 

Yes, I've seen it happen. In the morning...nothin but sticks.

How it begins... A moth hovers and flits around your plants, touching down here and there depositing eggs on the leaves. The caterpillar starts out the size of a tiny green thread.

A week or 2 later, a tomato hornworm looks like a Green, 4 Door, 1964, Buick Electra 225, with a horn-shaped hood ornament, munching away on your plants. Other tomato chomping caterpillars are smaller but no less voracious.

This biological insecticide for control of leaf chewing worms and caterpillars is effective on vegetables, fruits, shade trees and ornamentals.

If hand picking is not an option or caterpillars have gotten out of control and are damaging foliage or fruit, Organic Bt is the answer.

It paralyzes the digestive system of caterpillars--chewing damage stops within 5 hours.

Can be applied up to the day of harvest.

Selective - will not harm bees and other beneficial insects.

Contains Bacillus Thuringiensis.

Micro-encapsulated formula provides time release insect pest control.
Contains 12% Bacillus Thuringiensis.




Rapitest Moisture Meter. 

Too much water?  Not enough? Help control your watering challenges!

$21.95. To order, include with your plant list.








      The foremost challenge new tomato gardeners face is knowing how much water their plants need. Be very careful not to over-water your tomato plants. Along with over-feeding, this will stress the plants and is one of the major causes of blossom end rot, yellowing leaves, root rot, foliage drop-off, blossom drop, broken hearts and crying in the garden. 

    Does the top of the soil look dry? Does it look like it 'needs a drink'? That's okay, it's supposed to look like that--just don't water until the soil is getting dry down at the root area.

    On average, tomato plants need about 1" to 1½" of water per week. In very dry climates, perhaps 2". In clay soil, water deeply maybe once a week.

    Test your soil for moisture before you water by carefully checking the soil around your plant 8 to 10 inches or more below the surface, down at the root zone. If it is moist, do not water. The soil should be damp, like a squeezed out sponge. Buy yourself a moisture meter, a great investment, at about  $15.00  to $20.00 from the garden store, and use it before you decide to water.

    Tomato plants thrive with even, moderate watering. The soil should be just moist, not wet. Never wet. Trust your moisture meter. Push it way down into the soil, as far as it will go.  If the soil is moist down at the root level, (where you planted the root ball), the plant will be very happy. 

    Get yourself a moisture meter, it's a great investment and will rescue you from watering quandaries.  We have them, $14.95.

    Do your best to keep the foliage dry when you water your plants. Wet leaves invite disease, especially the fungus diseases.

    Keep the leaves as dry as possible by watering way down at the soil line, by not watering overhead or sprinkling.

   Plant Support  

           These plants get big, from 5 to 12 or 15 feet tall and more. True story. That's why they're called tomato vines. They need serious support. Some gardeners let them sprawl on the ground, but I find  letting them lie on the ground can invite disease, and decreases my yields due to insect damage, and I tend to trip or fall over the sprawling plants and step on tomatoes whilst harvesting in bare feet. Ack.

     If you use tomato cages, get the tallest, strongest ones you can find. For smaller cages, you must stake each cage at the inside edges, with two 5 or 6 foot, 1” or 2” inch wide stakes, (if 1”, use two or three 3 stakes), wood or metal, pounded at least 8 to 10 inches into the ground.

     My favorite method is called the basket weave or the Florida weave. I use 8 ft. tall, 2" redwood or cedar stakes, or metal stakes pounded 14" to 16" deep into the ground every 6 to 7 feet along the centerline of each row.  I plant 2 or 3 plants, (depending on how big the plant gets) evenly spaced between the rows, in rows 4-5 feet apart.

     As the plants start to get taller, I string twine or heavy string horizontally along the row, about every 10-12 inches apart up the stake, starting about 15 inches from the ground.  The twine is strung tightly from stake to stake as I walk down the row looping it around each stake for a good hold, horizontally all the way down the row, along one side, and then down the other side of the row of plants, with the plants between the horizontal strings. This supports the heavy tomato plants on each side as they get taller.  Then I gently tie each plant’s stem to the horizontal twine at two or three levels as the plants get taller. The twine trellising lines continue up the stakes 5 or 6 ft.

        You can also buy strong pre-made net trellising, attach it to the stakes and secure your plants to it.  Be sure it is 6 feet high, which may require two levels of netting.

     Many growers use 5 foot high concrete reinforcing mesh with 6” weave, attached with u-nails to the stakes all along the length of the rows.  It is available in rolls at home improvement stores. 

     Many gardeners also use this rolled wire fencing to make tomato cages about 30” in diameter. Unroll the length you need, cut it with wire snips, leaving prong edges long enough to bend around the other edge of the section you cut, and make your own sturdy tomato cages. It may require a helper to wrangle the roll as you cut it so it won't spring back and get you. These cages will last for many seasons.

     Another way to support your plants is staking. You plants will get heavy when laden with fruit, so use a strong 6 foot or 8 foot tall, 2 inch wide stake for each plant, pounded 16-20 inches into the ground just before planting. Tie the plant’s main stem to the stake every 12 inches as the plant grows. You may need to guy or attach the stakes to ground supports or other sturdy structures like telephone poles or walls. You may want to prune the plant suckers to keep them at a manageable size when using stakes.  Be sure to leave a full canopy of foliage to protect the fruits skin from sunburn, AKA sunscald.

    You can also simply let your plants sprawl on the ground--their natural habit.  Many gardeners use this 'technique' with great success.

     The best tomato supports on the market and my absolute favorite:

                          TomatOHHolders. They are awesome. We have them For You!


Growing In Containers



 Some of our plants in 30 gallon Smart Pots with Happy Frog Potting Mix and TomatOH! Holders

 Brown Derby, Dirty Girl, Black Mamba, Blondkopfchen.

            You Will Need:     

One very large pot for each plant; at least 18” across and 15” deep; bigger is better, 25 gallon pots are good. 30 gallon pots are best but 25 gallon will work.  The bigger the pot, the better the root system and the better your harvest will be.  Use 10 or 15 gallon pots for our dwarf varieties.

Tomato plants have massive root systems and will produce far better yields with ample container space. Bigger pots, better plants. Happier gardener.

Enough potting soil to fill each container to within 1" of the top.

For a 30 gallon container, this would be about 2 or 3 standard 1.5 cubic ft. bags of potting mix OR two 2 cubic ft bags of Happy Frog Potting (the best). Buy good potting mix; this is not where you should try to save money.

("Hey look, Babe! This bags only $5.95!")

Granulated natural organic fertilizer for vegetables like our favorite Fox Farm Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Food and a liquid fertilizer for foliar spray feeding. I use Great Big Plants Liquid Compost and Big Bloom. Great stuff!

OPTIONAL: 1 or 2  1" by 5 ft. wooden or metal stakes for each pot.

(You won't need stakes if you use our TomatOH! Holders.)

Tomato cages, the stronger the better, to fit into the containers. My favorite?  TomatOH! Holders. You can see them in the photographs. We have them here for you for shipping or pick-up.

A top quality moisture meter.

Organic insect and disease controls. (We have the best!)

There are many products on the market for insect problems and every garden or greenhouse will have an occasional infestation. Please use products which are Earth friendly. Keep in mind a healthy, fertile soil is the key to great tasting tomatoes and combating insect infestations and plant diseases.

     Any tomato plant will grow well in a pot, if it is tended properly and the pot is large. Start with the largest pot you can find, a minimum of 18" across the top and 18" deep. We use the 25 to 30 gallon Smart Pots.

    The dwarf varieties like Wild Fred, Velvet Night and smaller type plants can be grown in 10 gallon pots with great success and lotsa tomatoes!

    Half whiskey barrels are available at garden stores, some folks use big trash barrels or deep heavy plastic tubs with 6 or 8 ½" holes drilled in the bottom for drainage, try stacked up tires, truck or tractor tires if you can find them, stacked bales of straw as a frame, stacked up concrete blocks, Grandpa’s old truck bed…etc.

Never put garden dirt into your containers.

    Use top quality bagged potting soil, not garden dirt or top soil.  It's cheap, yes but will transmit soil borne diseases within the confined space of your containers. Buying your garden soil is not the time to save money.

    Please avoid Miracle-Gro type soil or Miracle-Gro type fertilizers; tomatoes do not like the 'blue stuff'. Those synthetics cause 'forced growth' like steroid use.  This causes them a great deal of stress and ruins their flavor.

The Tomato Rule

    You cannot re-use soil from last season for tomatoes. Ever. Period. It is played out and contains pathogens that will ruin your tomatoes. (Same for peppers and eggplant). Don't let anyone talk you into it.

    But you can use it for other vegetables or flowers, just let it dry out thoroughly during the off-season and replace about half of it with soil-free compost and fresh potting soil.

    We always use fresh organic potting soil, like Fox Farm Happy Frog Potting Mix which is the best, or Black Gold or Dr. Earth if you can't find Happy Frog. So: potting soil, a handful of granular organic fertilizer, like Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer, mixed in well; a great start for container tomatoes. 

    Be sure it is a good quality potting soil formulated for tomatoes. Don't buy cheap stuff for your garden. It will turn out expensive when your crop is poor.

    While you're at the nursery, buy yourself a good quality Moisture Meter, about $15.00-$20.00. Or order one from us. It come in our Plant Nutrition Kits or can be ordered individually. It is an essential tool. We have them available for $16.95. (The $6.00 moisture meters are worth $2.00.)

     You'll need a tomato cage for each pot. (Only one tomato plant per pot.)

    Place the containers in full sun, where they will get a minimum 6-7 hours of direct sunlight per day more sunlight; 8 hours, even better. 10 hours is optimum. Less than 6 hours will produce weak plants and very few tomatoes.

    Fill the pot or barrel with your soil mix and moisten it thoroughly. Be sure it drains well out of the bottom.

    Do not add stones or wood chips or shards of pottery for drainage or anything to the bottom of the pots as that will damage the root system. Potting mix only, in the pot. If you use plastic tubs, be sure they have good drainage holes in the bottom. Drill them yourself into plastic tubs. Drill ½ " holes, evenly spaced, about 6 or 8 of them. Do not set a water-catching tray beneath the pot; this will drown the roots and your plants will die.

    Dig your planting hole about 8" to 10” deep, depending on the height of the seedling, right in the center of the soil, just so, and place about 3 or 4 TBSP of the granulated organic vegetable fertilizer in the hole and mix it around really well in the center of the soil, to a width and depth of about 10" until it blends with the potting mix. (Refer to label directions for the proper amount.) The natural fertilizers won't burn the roots of your seedlings and will continue to release gradually throughout the season.

    Get ready to plant. 

    Remove the bottom 1/2 to 2/3 of the branches and leaves from each plant, just snip them off. New roots will grow all along that stem and make the plant healthier with more fruit, better fruit. 

    Be sure the seedling’s root ball is moist. I always dip the root ball into some diluted Great Big Tomatoes Liquid Compost for early boost of growing energy. They love it!

    Plant it deeply, burying the stem so that only the remaining top foliage is above the potting mix line. Gather the mix around the stem and press the plant in firmly but very gently, just enough to get adequate soil-root contact without compacting the mix. Fluffy.

    Water it in well, making sure the foliage stays dry; wet foliage is the major cause of fungal diseases. The only time its okay to get the foliage damp is when you feed by foliar spraying or spray off aphids or whiteflies with a sharp shot of water in the daytime so the sun will dry your plants quickly.

     Place the tomato cage into the pot, over the plant, pushing the tines down as deep as possible, watch out for the seedling! Now push your 5 ft. stakes down into the pot right at the inside edges of the cages, opposite each other, to anchor the cage. Most of these plants will get big. Seriously. Tie the stakes to the cage with twine or strips of cloth.     

    Once every week, before watering, brush back the mulch, scatter about 2 tablespoons of organic granular fertilizer evenly onto the soil, one tablespoon for containers smaller then 18 gallons, scratch it in and water it in. Replace the mulch but keep it away from the stem.     

     Every 10 days to 2 weeks, feed with Happy Frog Tomato & Vegetable Fertilizer along with the Big Bloom and    Great Big Tomatoes according to package directions.

     The majority of tomato plant problems are caused by over-watering so don't not let the soil stay soggy, it will suffocate the roots. Let it start to dry out before you water.

Okay, folks, here's where your moisture meter comes in!  BEFORE you water, check moisture level (down deep)  with your meter. If it says moist or wet, do not water or the blossoms will drop off. Too much water will damage or kill your plant. The foliage will turn yellow, and curl up and drop off.  Water when it reads 3-4 or just into the 'moist' zone.

Resist the temptation to water just because the surface looks dry. Check with your meter. However, if you live in a very hot zone where temperatures reach into the 90's+ for an extended period, be sure to check moisture every 2 days or so, as the sun can dry up the soil right through the sides of the pot, especially in terra cotta, metal, or uncoated ceramic. With Smart Pots, the heat is not a problem--they keep the soil aerated and cool.

When your plants start setting blossoms the lowest foliage will begin turn yellow and may drop off; this is good. It means the fruit is getting ready to form.



If some of the branches look really old or ugly, trim them off.  But don't overdo it.

    We don’t prune suckers or foliage or 'top' (trim off the top foliage) of the plant when it gets big. It's supposed to get big! A natural genetic habit.

    The more foliage you have on your plant, the more photosynthesis, respiration and transpiration, etc. you have, thus more tomato growing power! Healthier more productive plants.

    If you need to increase airflow to your plants to help reduce foliage disease, then moderate pruning of the 8" to 10" or so at the bottom of the plant at soil level is a good idea.

    Always sanitize your pruners before you move on the the next plant. Use rubbing alcohol and spray the blades often during use. This keeps them clean and prevents transmission of foliage diseases to your plants


Tomato plants do not need to be mulched. But if you want to mulch, be sure to pull back the mulch to fertilize

Feed the plants, water them, then replace the mulch.


Laurel's Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil



Golden, bright, and rich with a perfect touch of peppery grass, this superb quality, award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil was created for me by my friend and fellow heirloom tomato fan, Kevin Tazelaar, Founder of California Gold Olive Oil Co. in Oakdale, California.

Kevin presented some of his oil blends for me and my employees to try in a blind taste test. It was unanimous. Each of us picked the same sample; Kevin bottled it and named it Laurel's Blend.

We are very exited to present it this season to go along with your heirloom tomato harvest.  A welcome and delicious holiday gift!

To order, please include with your plant order.

Want to make you favorite gardener really happy?

For Gift Certificates, click here: Gift Certificates


  If you have any questions about your plants, or need more information, I am here to help; please don't hesitate to email or call me.

Laurel Garza   310-534-8611


 “You need more tomatoes.”  ~ Laurel  

All material contained herein is copyrighted, 1997-2024 and is the sole property of Laurel Garza and Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants