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Soil & Temperature Requirements for Tomatoes

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Environmental Growth Requirements for Tomatoes


    Air Temperature:

    • Minimum air temperature: if planted out when it's too cold outside for the, tomatoes will be less productive.
      • 50 degrees F (BBGS)
      • 45 degrees F (REOG)
      • 54 degrees F (GGC) (2-4 weeks after frost)
    • warmth needed for good production (REOG)
    • to fruit well, tomatoes need the temperature to be between 70 and 75 degrees F (REOG)
    • Temperatures over 95 degrees kill the pollen and prevent floweres from setting fruit (Matchstick). Production will start up again when temperatures drop. (G101)
    • considered a tender crop: plant out 1 week after last frost

    Soil Temperature:

      • at least 65 degrees F (BBGS)
      • at least 50 degrees F (REOG)
      • at least 55 degrees F, even at night (GGC)


Since tomatoes are from tropical & semi-tropical climates, areas with dry seasons commonly experience issues like powdery mildew and lack of production due to lack of pollination.

Day Length: 

  • tomatoes need between 6 and 10 hours of sunlight daily (NCG)
  • 8 hours of sunlight per day (GGC)

Light Requirements

  • Full sun
  • good light needed for good production (REOG)
  • The site should be in full sun; if using growing bags, a south-facing wall is ideal.(GV)


  • tomatoes like a site that is warm, sheltered, and gets full sun
  • Can be grown under cover (green house) in large beds
  • containers (see below)
  • bales of hay. 

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Tomatoes do well in containers because their roots are fairly shallow. Trailing bush tomato varieties are exceptionally pretty. A number of bush tomato variteies have small, cherry-sized fruits and the plants are natural trailers. They are ideal contenders for hanging baskets, although they are notoriously hungry & thirsty. Line the basket with mock moss: made from wool, coir, or other recycled materials (as traditional sphagnum moss is no longer considered to be eco-friendly) in order to retain soil or potting mix, and water and fertilize regularly. This may mean watering twice a day in hot weather. If you let the basket dry out completely, it's hard to get it to hold water again. Tomatoes are also well-suited for windowboxes.(GV)

Tumbling Tom Cherry Tomatoes, available in red and yellow, are a great variety for hanging baskets because of their compact, trailing growth habit.

Bush cultivars can even be grown in hanging baskets. (REOG)

Soil Requirements

  • well-drained soil
  • Soil pH: 
    • BBGS: 6.5
    • REOG: 5.5 - 7.0
    • GGC: 6.0 - 7.0
    • GV: 5.5+
  • rich & fertile soil because they are heavy feeders
  • fertile soil rich in organic matter (REOG)
  • high magnesium
    • Lime is a good addition if you need for magnesium, if your soil pH is too low. (BBGS)
  • tomatoes do well following a cover crop of winter rye - green manure (REOG)
  • Recommended soil amendments (REOG):
    • option 1: medium-fertility soil improver
    • option 2: low-fertility soil improver + general organic fertilizer
  • Work fertilizer into soil before planting (NCG)
  • When tomatoes are as big as plums, fertilize every 4 weeks (NCG)
  • Not particularly fussy about the soil, as long as it's rich & fertile. Dig in well-rotted compost or manure to a depth of at least 12" before planting or apply general high-phosphorous fertilizer or pellets of poultry manure. Lime acidic soils only if the pH is below 5.5. (GV)

Crop Growth Duration

  • Tomatoes occupy the ground for the majority of the growing season (BBGS)
  • Seed to harvest takes 7-12 weeks (REOG)


Title Big Book of Gardening Skills Great Garden Companions Grow Vegetables Northern California Gardening Rodale Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening  
Author Andrea Chesman & Louise Lloyd Sally Jean Cunningham Alan Buckingham Katherine Grace Anna Kruger  
Buy It  
Copywright 1993 2000 2008 2005 2005  
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 April 2011 18:02  

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