How Do I Get My Tomato Plants to Produce More Tomatoes?

We all want summer tomato abundance, but maybe we’re not sure how to get our plants to be more productive. Join organic farmer Jenna Rich for some insight on how to get higher yields from your tomato plants.

produce more tomatoes. Close-up of several tomato bushes with ripe bunches of tomatoes in a greenhouse. The tomato plant is a striking sight, boasting a profusion of deep green, serrated leaves that cascade from sturdy stems, forming a lush canopy of foliage. The plant produces long clusters of medium-sized, rounded fruits that are bright red in color with thin, shiny skin.


We’re often asked by our farmers’ market customers how they can get more tomatoes on their plants at home. While sometimes I feel like a broken record, I always find myself telling them to go back to basics. Soil health, disease resistance, proper watering and sunlight, etc. The basics are the basics for a reason! 

There are many things we can do to make our tomato plants as healthy as possible. Healthy plants lead to plentiful summer harvests. Let’s talk about how to up your tomatoes’ production so you can go into this tomato-growing season with confidence. 

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Short Answer

Tomato plants will produce loads of tomatoes under ideal conditions when they’re grown in healthy soil, watered properly, and protected from pests. But there’s a bit more to it than that, so in this article, I’ll discuss some things you can do this season to help your tomato plants produce more of what we all want: tomatoes!

Long Answer

Tomatoes are the main event for many home gardeners, and for good reason. They’re healthy and delicious and add brightness to every summer meal. We all want more of that, right?

Combine the following tips to lead to healthier, more productive plants. You’ll also decrease the risk of disease with cultural practices like pruning and selecting disease-resistant varieties. Let’s dive in. 

Get Your Soil Right 

Close-up of a garden rake on top of loose soil in a garden. The soil is loose and dark brown in color. The garden rake is a utilitarian tool characterized by a long handle attached to a head with evenly spaced, sturdy metal tines.
Healthy soil lays the foundation for a thriving garden.

Soil is the first building block of our gardens, and everything will crumble if it’s not strong and healthy. Once your soil is right, everything else starts to fall into place, but soil health can be a confusing aspect of gardening. What’s NPK and what’s it all mean? What are trace minerals? If you’re confused, new to gardening, or ready to have the garden of your dreams, professional soil testing is a great starting point so you can get a good baseline.

I recommend soil testing after your season has concluded or in the winter months and working amendments in as soon as possible, at least two weeks before you plan to transplant. Call the soil testing lab or extension office with any questions you may have. Follow their recommendations as closely as possible for best results. 

A few key pointers:

  • Pay close attention to your nitrogen levels, which can lead to lots of foliage but not a lot of fruit production. I often hear people say their tomato plants look healthy, but they’re not producing a lot of fruit. Excessive nitrogen is one possible cause. 
  • Throwing out too much fertilizer without a plan can lead to plant burn, increased pest and disease harm, and excessive salts in the soil, which throws off the pH. 
  • Tomato soil should be slightly acidic at 6.2 to 6.8 to ensure vital minerals and nutrients are available for uptake. Inaccessibility of necessary nutrients and trace elements can lead to decreased yields. Take caution when adjusting pH with limestone as it’s easier to raise it than lower it, so don’t go crazy when applying. The effects of a high pH can be long-lasting and damaging.

After your initial amendment, opt for organic, slow-release fertilizer like aged compost or worm castings that break down slowly, help with moisture retention and aeration, and encourage a thriving soil ecosystem by feeding the millions of microorganisms that live beneath the soil surface. 

Select High-Yielding Varieties 

Close-up of ripening Tomato Black Krim fruits in the garden. Each fruit is adorned with irregular, ribbed contours and a glossy sheen, adding to its allure. The tomato is covered with a thin, shiny, deep red skin with a dark purple tint on top.
The Black Krim tomato is renowned for its deep, purplish-red hue and rich flavor.

Some tomato varieties are coveted for their old-timey, heirloom flavors and others, their sweetness, but some are raved about for their high productivity. If you’re looking for a standard tomato that is high-yielding for preserving purposes, select the determinate AAS winner ‘Mountain Merit Bush, ’ which will provide you with plenty of fruit for your sauce and salsa recipes. 

Try blue ribbon winner ‘Red Pride Bush’ for a nice beefsteak with a great disease-resistance package or the consistent and delicious heirloom ‘Black Krim’. 

Cherry tomatoes tend to be higher-yielding than full-size tomatoes for the simple fact that less energy and time are needed to produce a small fruit. Try candy-like ‘Sungold’, ‘Sakura’ that features an excessive amount of loaded trusses, or ‘Gardener’s Delight’ that will produce until frost. 

Harden Off Properly

Close-up of a gardener holding a white plastic box with tomato seedlings. Tomato plants have upright, thin, pale green stems with compound leaves. These leaves consist of oval leaflets with jagged edges.
Gradually transitioning plants outdoors ensures their resilience and long-term health.

Hardening off is the process of slowly introducing plants that were sown indoors to the outdoor environment to experience rain, direct heat, sun, wind, and pests that don’t exist indoors. This slow introduction allows them to acclimate to where they’ll live long-term and decreases the risk of transplant shock, which can drastically slow down growth. When a plant is stressed, it’s in survival mode, and all energy is spent on this task.

When this crucial step is overlooked or ignored, plants transition quickly from a warm, cozy environment where conditions are steady and predictable to cold soil in direct sunlight and harsh winds, which can lead to transplant shock. Symptoms of transplant shock are wilting, stunted growth, yellowing or browning of leaves, and even death. While plants may recover, they may have lasting negative effects. It’s best to take this process seriously and slowly to create healthy, strong, high-yielding plants.

Hardening off can take up to a week or more, depending on your climate and the forecast. A good rule of thumb for timing is: when trays of transplants have spent the night outdoors without any signs of stress in the morning, it’s a good indication that they can be safely transplanted. 

Provide Adequate Sunlight and Space

Close-up of a gardener planting tomato seedlings in a raised bed. The gardener is wearing blue rubber gloves. Tomato seedlings consist of thin, upright stems with compound green leaves. Each leaf is slender and smooth, with serrated edges and a vibrant hue.
Ensure tomatoes receive ample sunlight for optimal growth and production.

Tomatoes are sun-loving tropical fruits, so they need lots of sun. Plant them where they can bask in the sun for most of the day. They will not perform well in the shade.

Space requirements should be listed on the seed packet, but most tomatoes should be spaced at one to three feet, depending upon variety, type, size, trellis system, and your growing climate. We space our cherry tomatoes at 18 inches and our large and heirloom tomatoes at two feet using a double leader system for all.

Pruning opens up space for airflow, removes potentially diseased leaves, and provides more space for sunlight to penetrate. Do you see what I mean about some of these items going hand in hand? Every garden is an ecosystem, and everything is connected! 

Protect from too much sun during drought conditions or extremely harsh sun to decrease the risk of flower drop. Increase water during this time if needed. 

Alleviate Stress

Close-up of a raised bed with tall tomato plants. These tomato plants grow with stakes and tomato half rings installed. Tomatoes produce lush green foliage with jagged edges and large, round fruits with thin, shiny orange-red and yellowish-green skin. There is a white row cover around the bed to protect the tomatoes from wind, frost or scorching sun.
Protect tomatoes from extreme weather with proper precautions and care.

Tomatoes are relatively easy to care for if you, well, know how to care for them. They are very resilient under ideal conditions and it’s best to alleviate stressful situations that may set back their growth. The biggest factors that may cause stress are inclement weather patterns like cold temperatures, strong wind, and extreme heat and sun.

Fun fact: Proper levels of potassium improve a plant’s ability to handle extreme temperatures and stress. 

If strong winds are expected in your area, close up your tunnel if your tomatoes are growing there. If they’re outside:

  • Ensure they’re properly staked to prevent stems from being snapped.
  • Use high-quality 30% shade cloth. This can be used with weight bags and hoops or a DIY PVC frame over your garden plot.
  • Place row covers or frost blankets around plants temporarily. If it’s early enough in the season, keep row cover on to protect new transplants for a few weeks. Remove it or crack the ends for ventilation if needed, according to the weather forecast.
  • Use tomato cages.
  • Properly harden off plants before transplanting them, as this creates more resilient plants.

Other stressors that may decrease or slow down tomato production are lack of nutrients, extreme high temperatures, and pests. 

Know Your Pests and Scout Early 

Close-up of a Tomato hornworm on a tomato plant in the garden. The Tomato hornworm is a striking insect, boasting a robust, cylindrical body adorned with vivid green hues. Along its back, distinctive diagonal stripes in shades of white  add to its visual appeal.
Protect tomatoes from destructive pests like hornworms, flea beetles, and cutworms.


Tomato hornworms, flea beetles, and cutworms are some of the heavy hitter tomato pests. When you start to see the five-spotted hawk moth that lays hornworm eggs, scout for eggs right away and often. Eggs may be laid on the upper or underside of leaves and will hatch in about four weeks. The caterpillars are tiny when they hatch and may seem harmless, but as they grow, they can eat a whole plant overnight! Remove them by stomping on them, putting them in a jar of soapy water, or feeding them to your backyard chicken flock for some extra protein. 

Flea Beetles

If you have early-season flea beetles, cover your plants with insect netting to protect them from chewing damage when they’re young and vulnerable. As your tomato plants grow, they are much more resilient to their damage, but you can sprinkle wood ash or Diatomaceous Earth on the leaves to help deter them from landing on your plants. Crop rotation may help prevent future infestations. 


Cutworms are one of the most destructive pests around who quite literally cut your new transplants down by chewing straight through the stem. They mostly come out and do their dirty work at night, making it hard to identify their presence and even harder to kill them! Their eggs are laid above ground but the remaining parts of their life cycle occur beneath the soil surface. 

To prevent them from infesting your tomatoes, remove all plant material any time you clean up or prune them, including before the winter, as they can hibernate in plant debris. A more hands-on method is to place a nail, toothpick, or straw along the length of the stems to prevent them from chewing through it. Encourage natural predators by planting parsley, aster, cilantro, dill, feverfew, yarrow, or sweet alyssum nearby. If you see cutworms, hand-pick and destroy them. 

Prune and Sucker

Close-up of a gardener in gray gloves pruning a tomato plant using black scissors in the garden. The tomato plant is a vibrant spectacle, characterized by lush green foliage and clusters of unripe green fruits adorning its sprawling vines. Its leaves are large, broad, and deeply lobed. The green tomatoes themselves hang in clusters, they are small and round, each one displaying a glossy sheen.
Regularly prune tomato plants to boost fruit production and health.

This is a garden task I feel many of us are gung-ho on during the exciting part of the growing season, the beginning, that falls to the wayside as we get busier. But it’s a crucial part of caring for your tomatoes if you want them to produce more fruit! 

Foliage serves an important role in photosynthesis, but plants can do the same job with about a third of their leaves. As your plants grow and you begin to harvest tomatoes, prune lower leaves and trusses off. If you have an overly abundant plant that has foliage that’s not protecting any fruit from the sun, snip it off. Always prune off any damaged or yellowing leaves that may be diseased, and use clean, sharp snips. Remove all plant trimmings from the garden. Note determinate varieties do not need pruning. 

Suckers are new growth in the space between the main growing stem above a leaf called the axis. The plant’s main goal is to reproduce, and by sending out suckers, it guarantees this. However, you want your plant to focus on one main stem and the fruits it’s producing there, so remove these for peak performance and increased yields. 

Pro tip: Snip the tops of all your tomato plants about three weeks before your first fall frost. This will force energy into ripening all the fruit that’s already present instead of allowing the plant to focus on producing more leaves, flowers, or new fruit that won’t ripen before frost.

Water Properly 

Close-up of watering young tomato seedlings in a sunny garden from a large blue watering can. Tomato seedlings have thin, upright stems and intricate, lobed foliage that is bright green.
Consistent watering ensures flavorful, healthy tomatoes with abundant yields.

Tomatoes consist of 92-95% water when fully mature, so providing ample water as they grow is crucial to the proper sugar and protein concentration in each fruit, along with structural stability. Lack of water can lead to nutrient deficiencies like lycopene, β-carotene, and vitamin C in tomatoes, so while it may just seem like dry soil on the surface, under or over-watering can lead to a host of other negative tomato outcomes, including less fruit production.

When growing tomatoes outdoors and no rainfall has occurred, water them no less than two inches a week, more during hot spells. When growing under protection, plan on watering one to two inches a week or more as needed. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are best so the water gets straight down to the roots, and you aren’t left with wet foliage, which increases the risk of fungal diseases.

Signs of under-watering:

  • Stunted growth 
  • Plants show signs of stress. Symptoms include wilting and overall looking sad. 
  • Curling leaves. Lower leaves may turn yellow. 
  • Perform the finger soil test. If the top two inches are dry, it’s time to water!

Signs of over-watering:

  • Stunted growth
  • Stem or root rot
  • Soggy soil or gnats nearby
  • Curling or limp leaves
  • Fungal disease present

Regularity is key, so have a schedule and stick to it. Put a reminder in your cell phone calendar or a sticky note on your refrigerator, or better yet, attach an inexpensive timer to your irrigation system so you don’t have to wonder if you watered or not. 

Pro tip: Harvest on the opposite days you water when your tomatoes are about 50% ripened. This will prevent them from cracking. 

Prevent Disease

Close-up of male hands in white gloves pulling out a diseased tomato bush in the garden. The tomato plant has dry, brownish-gray foliage and small, round, unripe green fruits.
Maintain cleanliness and airflow for disease-free tomato plants.

To prevent disease in your tomato plot:

  • Proper air circulation and proper airflow, especially in warmer climates where humidity is high and in protected growing spaces where fungal diseases easily spread. 
  • Select disease-resistant varieties. 
  • Avoid overhead watering.
  • Sanitize tools and clothing often. 
  • Keep your garden tidy and free of weeds and debris. 
  • Purchase seeds and soil from reputable sources. 
  • Fertilize according to the plant’s needs but don’t overfertilize. 

If you suspect disease, contact your extension office or seek organic methods of treatment. Removing the plant may be advised, sometimes burning it to avoid disease spread. Losing plants to disease is frustrating and disheartening, especially when you’ve spent months caring for them, so take these simple steps to keep them healthy. 


Close-up of a young grafted tomato seedling in a garden with mulched soil. The grafted tomato seedling has strong stems seamlessly melted to a robust rootstock, creating a union of strength and resilience. The sapling has compound leaves with oval, lobed leaflets of green color.
Grafting tomatoes boosts yield, resilience, and growth speed significantly.

Many growers are intimidated by grafting tomatoes, but in today’s world of technology, there are so many videos and articles on how to do it safely and successfully that it’s crazy not to give it a shot! We started grafting two years ago and haven’t looked back. We have grown the same amount of tomato plants, but our yields have nearly doubled. 

There are many benefits of grafting tomatoes. Here are a few:

  • Plants are more tolerant of inclement weather, so you can transplant them earlier than usual.
  • Growth will be faster and more vigorous.
  • Fruits may mature faster and grow larger.
  • Foliage is bigger and more dense, increasing photosynthesis, and sun coverage, which leads to faster growth.
  • Increased flower, trusses, and fruit production.
  • Longer season = more fruit!
  • Increased disease resiliency and tolerance to abiotic stressors
  • Increased uptake of nutrients.

The three ways of grafting are splice, side or tongue, and cleft or top-wedge grafting. All of them include cutting off the top or making a small cut into each stem and splicing them together, then holding the two plants together with a silicone clip. Some sort of healing chamber or area is highly recommended. This can be as simple as putting a humidity dome over your grafts and placing them in a dark closet or as advanced as a DIY healing chamber made from an old refrigerator. Whatever makes sense in your setup is best! 

Note that the grafting process begins several weeks earlier, and you need an indoor space to do the work and allow the plants time to heal. For example, before we were grafting, we sowed our tomato seeds indoors the last weekend of March. Now, we begin them the first weekend in March along with rootstock seeds, so they have time to grow, be grafted, and then heal. It puts them right on track with the seeds we start at the end of March. A trellis system is needed because grafted tomatoes grow taller and have a longer growing season. 

Final Thoughts

If you want your plants to produce more tomatoes, go back to basics. Work on amending and caring for your soil, selecting varieties that work in your area and soil, treating your plants with TLC all season, and maybe try your hand at grafting. Happy tomato season! 

Tomato grow faster. Cherry tomatoes have slender, vining stems adorned with bright green, serrated leaves. These leaves are medium-sized and alternate along the stems. The small, round fruits, bright red, grow in clusters.


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