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How To Grow Monster Tomatoes

Learn what you need to know to grow huge backyard tomatoes!  This 4 step video series documents step by step instructions that you can use to grow a 17ft tomato. Buy Tomato Secret® Today!





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How To Grow a Monster Tomatoes (transcribed)

Episode 1

One of the most important things that you have to take into account when you're trying to grow a giant tomato is what's the frame going to be to support this monster? We learned a long time ago that a traditional tomato frame does not cut the mustard. We use a 10 gage, concrete reinforcing wire that you can buy at a concrete supply warehouse. I'm going to take this flat panel, and I'm going to make a roll out of it. When you pull these together, this wire twists very easily. It's a lot easier to work with. You can do it just with your fingers. You don't even need a pair of pliers. Once you have them wired up, I take my bolt cutters, and I clip these off. Now that we've got this assembled, I think it's important to make this point. You may not have to go to all this trouble. If you stop at your local nursery or garden center, they may already have tomato frames to support a giant. These things really need to be at least eight feet tall to do what we're trying to do, and if they're not, then you're forced to make these. 

I think it's also important to understand that we have grown tomatoes that were approaching 20 feet tall using this technique. Many people get confused about what size of tomato they should plant. A small, what I would consider to be a four inch tomato plant, will get you where you want to go for a giant tomato just as fast as buying a large, already pre-grown variety. It's important to pick the right variety if you're trying to grow a giant monster. There are two kinds of families of tomato plants, one that we call determinant, and one that we call indeterminate variety. The indeterminate varieties are the ones that we're going to want for the growing of the giant tomato. Here's a tip from my great-grandmother. A tomato plant should actually be planted in a trench, not in a planting hole, and because tomatoes are actually related to potatoes, they have the ability to root all the way along the stem. We're going to take advantage of the fact that the soil is a little bit cold, and the sun isn't very intense, and we're going to allow this tomato to develop roots all the way along a stem.

In order to do that, we need to take our tomato plant, and we need to pinch off all of these side branches, leaving just the stem to root. You just take your fingernail and your thumb, and you just pinch them off. When you pinch them off, you're actually crushing that plant material, and I think it kind of heals it a little bit. I don't question grandma. She said pinch them, so I pinch them. In this case, we're not going to listen to grandma, because these branches are thick enough, the plant is big enough that if I try to pinch these off, I run the risk of tearing the entire stem, so on these big ones, I am going to use a pair of sharp pruners, just to snip the bigger ones off, so now, now that you see what I'm left with, do you really want to pay $16 or $20 for a plant that this develops, so that you can pinch it all the way off, so that it ends up looking like this? Once we've picked the tomato variety that we're going to plant, the real question is, what do giant tomatoes eat? I have a secret for you.

There's a million formulas on the web, and people love to experiment with different ingredients. We certainly have done that for over 40 years in this process, so you can go through all of those things, and you can get a formula off the web, and buy a whole bunch of expensive ingredients, or you can just do what I do, which is use Tomato Secret. I've picked a location to grow this giant tomato in a planter box that seems too small to do what I'm trying to do, but I think it's important to understand that it doesn't take an acre of ground to do what we're trying to do. This is a four by four planter box in a backyard. What is critical, however, is you need all day hot sun, the hotter the better, and you will find the leaves of those tomato plants are solar panels, and it doesn't really matter what else we do. If they don't have access to that all day sun, they're not going to be able to get to be the giants. We need to create a good foundation for this giant.

I usually, when I'm preparing the bed, assuming that I've got some good soil, I take a shovel, and I dig down a reasonable amount, good 24 inches, and make sure that that soil is loose and nice down there. Then I begin by putting a couple of scoops of Tomato Secret, and then I cover that up with dirt. Think of that as layers of treasure that we're giving that tomato, but we're kind of creating a layered foundation for this giant. What I've done is I've taken that great big tomato with the snipped off side branches, and I've laid it on its side. I have to be sure that I'm staying inside the area where the tomato frame is going to be, because I don't want to crush that root system, but I'm laying the tomato in, and I'm going to gently kind of support it up at an angle. When you plant a tomato in a trench like this, there's a couple of things that we're going to gain. We talked about how the stem is going to root all the way along, creating a root system that's a foot and a half long, but the other thing is, closer to the surface that you get, the warmer the soil is going to be.

Tomatoes do not like their feet cold, and if you dig down deep and bury this tomato really deep in the ground, it's going to stay cold longer. It's really important that we protect this tomato right at the very beginning of the season. A lot of people have used a wax hot cap, what we call this, place this around the plant. You cover dirt around. It allows some sun to come through, but mostly prevents it from frost. The one that I use, widely distributed, is called a wall of water. I position the wall of water around the tomato plant, and I like to take a couple of stakes, and place them in, kind of in a triangle around the actual tomato plant. The neat part about the wall of water is that as you add the water to it, it will kind of lay on itself and form a teepee, but I kind of want the stakes to keep it from closing completely. I want it to be warm, but in the event that we get a hot day while I'm at work, I don't want it to burn my tomato plant.

The process now, once I've got it in position, I'm going to add some water, and I'm actually going to give the tomato a good drink. We're not so much watering the tomato as we are getting the air pockets out from around the roots. You need to be patient with this process as you're adding the water, because many times you have to give it a good soak, and then you have to come back and give it another good soak. You can see I've got this most of the way prepared. You kind of go around like you're tightening lug nuts on a car. You do this side, and then you do a tube on this side, and as you can see, it's a series of like 20 tubes individually, and you fill each one of those tubes with water, see that they're full of water, and then it naturally will want to lay over on itself. This water acts like a radiator, so to speak. The sun warms it up. It still is like a greenhouse, but the warm water keeps it warm at night. As it begins to get warmer outside during the day, I prop this open like this, so that the hot air can expand.

You can do that with stakes like this, by just placing them out closer to the edge, and kind of hold it open a little bit, still provide that greenhouse, but allow the hot air to get out when the temperatures are up above 75. From this stage forward, it's a matter of providing a little bit of care and daily love. You need to pay attention to this wall of water configuration. When the temperatures get above 70 consistently, I'd take it down. Process is, when you come out in the evening, take the branches of the tomato, and just tuck them in to the cage. Don't let them grow outside. Just always be taking them, and you have to be very gentle so you don't break them off, but just ease them in, and tuck them in maybe to the next level up. You want to keep it contained inside of this frame. I still do pinch off the blossoms through the month, probably until Memorial Day. I don't allow a lot of blooms to set, unless you're in a northern climate, again, and your season is just very, very short, but we want this plant to develop roots, and really develop some structure so that when it starts to put tomatoes on, it can put them on in a hurry.

I love growing giant tomatoes. This is a hobby for me. If you've spent the time to watch the video, you're probably into it as much as I am, so if you have further questions, email me the link below, and stay tuned. We're going to follow it month by month, and show you the progress as we grow a giant. Thanks for watching.


Episode 2.

We no sooner finished filming the first version of the Monster Tomato Video where talked about using a wall of water to start tomatoes at the very beginning of the season to kind of give them a start. We got a ton of comments and emails. People were panicked. They could find wall of water brand. What we did, we went to some nurseries and we found this to be a very, very common brand. Essentially they are water filled hot caps and any brand will work. These ones seem to be the most common. If you were having trouble finding those, here's a good solution for you.

All righty. Here we are about a quarter of the way into the season with our second video on growing a monster tomato. I did a little bit of an experiment to show you what happens when you use the techniques that we're talking about and don't have an adequate tomato frame. So, what I have here is an indeterminate variety in a tomato frame that's only probably 30 inches tall, and you can see one quarter of the season, we're already completely out the top of the cage and we're sprouting out of both sides.

The challenge that we have if I let this go is that this will eventually, when the fruit sets, those branches will get heavy and they will lay over, pinch, and break off. It's a fair question to ask, why do I wanna grow a monster tomato anyway? The answer is that is saves an awful lot of space. If you take a look at a tomato like this one in a traditional 30 inch tomato frame. In order to make enough salsa and BLTs for a regular family, you've gotta have four or five or maybe more plants this size. The reality is most people don't have 2,000 square foot of garden space anymore.

So, if you take a look at what I've done here, I have in one 4 x 4 planter box, what I'd call a salsa garden. So, I'll grow enough tomatoes to have all the salsa I want and share with the neighbors along with some green peppers and some onions in one planter box. It's really tight and it's clean and it's efficient. You can only get enough tomatoes if you do it in this format.

There's kind of a nursing process that goes along with this monster. We've got our tomato that's established now. It's about six weeks. We've removed the wall of water and it's absorbing the full hot sun every day. Remember that I described that the first month or so when that tomato doesn't really wanna do much, and it just kind of develops roots and whatnot. And, in that second stage, when it starts to gain some momentum, that's where we are today with this tomato plant.

Then in the next probably 10 days, is when we reach that really that super boosted stage where this tomato is going to want to grow six inches a day. It becomes really important that almost every single day, you come out to your plant, and you kind of keep it under control. You bring in branches like this one. You tuck it in, so that all these branches stay inside the frame. We want these, when they start to set fruit, we want them to stay inside the structure.

When we planted this tomato, we built layers of tomato secret, so that as the plant develops, this material is breaking down slowly and providing nutrition. But, in order for us to take this tomato out the top of the frame, like we want to do, we're gonna need to continually be building treasure chests for this tomato to find as it continues to grow. So, once the plant is in the ground of course, we can't go back in and put more underneath. But there are a couple of ways that we can do that artificially.

So, I've got my Tomato Secret, and I'm gonna do what's called side dressing. And, I'm just gonna take my scoop shovel, and I'm gonna reach in here, and I'm gonna spread this material in and around the tomato plant. I'm going to do exactly three scoops of Tomato Secret or whatever I feel like. In other words, it doesn't really matter. You can do more or less if you like. I'm just spreading this around in the planting area.

Now, some people like to go in the soil out away from the tomato plant and dig down a little bit and actually bury little pockets of Tomato Secret so that the soil can break them down a little bit better. So, you can do it that way, put half a cup in and then cover it back up with dirt if you like. That might be more efficient, but always just plain side dressing works great.

In my salsa garden the neat part about a very diverse product like Tomato Secret is we really can use this on everything in our salsa garden. We can simply just put this on the soil right at the surface base of these plants or give it a little bit of water just to kind of get it started soaking in. I can do my peppers. I can do potatoes, any of those types of things. You don't have to be worried about over doing it. It's just a simple matter of put it on the surface and get it wet, get it started working.

I really like to use Tomato Secret in all different places in the garden, especially in things I'm going to eat. That slow steady nutrition that it provides makes for wonderful tasting strawberries and lots of them. It works on raspberries, also flowering plants. You have a lot of versatility, and you really can't go wrong. I just take some and just spread it around in the planting bed even in the areas where the plants aren't at this point, because the roots are gonna move that direction.

You can stir it in if you feel like you need to, but it's not critical. You can just put it on the surface and water it in if you like. It's very simple to use.

So, I think the real secret to Tomato Secret is that you almost can't go wrong. You just simply plant the tomato right using the product and side dress through the season. You don't have to change the dose. You don't have to be really careful about how much you use. You can't burn. It's just easy and fast and it works every time.


Episode 3.

Hi. Thanks for joining us for episode three on How to Grow a Monster Tomato. As you can see, we're well out the top of our ten foot tomato frame. Because we bury it a foot and a half in the ground, we're approaching nine feet tall, and we're about two-thirds of the way through the season, but the tomato plant is not only that tall, but it's also full of fruit all the way through, so this frame is actually supporting quite a lot of weight. As we move this direction, if you recall from the previous video where we talked about the drawbacks of using a 30 inch tomato frame like this one, which is the typical size, I told you that you would need to cut back and tame that tomato plant to make it stay, and you can see that I've snipped off some of the growth, but I've also left some to show you as they grow out the top and the fruit sets, the branches begin to lay over, and as these get larger and heavier, these branches will bend, and they will eventually break, and a lot of that fruit may not ripen. So creating a frame at the very beginning to support the tomato plant that we want to grow is really important.

So one of the things that happens when you've got a tomato plant that's well over ten feet tall that has hundreds of pounds of tomatoes on it, especially in the summer time in North America, we get thunderstorms occasionally, and that wind has actually been known to buckle these completely over, so I learned a couple of things. The first one is, as you'll see I've placed this somewhat close to a fence that will help break some of that wind and prevent some of that, but the other thing I've learned is this concept of it's almost like putting a backbone into the tomato frame. So I've got a ten foot piece of rebar, and if your tomato plant is getting this big and you're concerned about it, you can buy this at any hardware store, and you take this piece of rebar, and you actually weave it through the bars all the way down, and then drive it into the ground. This acts like a spine just to keep that tomato frame solid and prevent it from bending too much or actually breaking over in the wind.

You don't have to use two. If you were worried about a lot of wind or if you didn't have any kind of a fence, you could actually put a piece of rebar on either side. If you prefer not to weave it through, you could run it along and then either wire it to the frame or zip tie it to the frame on either side, but think of it as a backbone, just keeping everything rock solid. Also, if you plan on trying to go beyond the ten foot tall and put two tomato frames together, then I strongly recommend that you use a couple pieces of rebar because as you approach 15, 18, 20 feet tall, they become very, very heavy and very susceptible to blowing over in the wind.

One of the things that's happened this year as you all have been growing your own monster tomatoes, I've been getting emails and questions asking what is the secret in Tomato Secret, Jos? We always laugh because it's proprietary. We can't tell you, but I will let you in a little bit of a secret. One of the ingredients that we add is a metabolite. It's not a hormone in the truest sense, but we think of it as a secondary metabolite, and this all natural certified organic ingredient actually tells the plant to grow, grow, grow, and it's important that you put the nutrients there to support that growth because that metabolite by itself doesn't actually provide any nutrition, it just encourages the plant to eat, so that particular ingredient, when you apply in a top dress fashion, it takes about three days for it to work its way into the system and be fully active, and then it's active in that plant for about ten or 11 days, so every two weeks is what we recommend for the side dress just to keep it in that cycle, that metabolite not only does it encourage it to grow, but it encourages it to flower and to fruit, which are of course all things that we want to do with Tomato Secret.

Now we've talked about that secondary metabolite that tells the plant to grow, grow, grow. The other common question is what else is in Tomato Secret? I'm going to pour some out here for you to take a look at. What you'll see is a lot of material that actually doesn't look like fertilizer at all. That's one of the secrets on how we put Tomato Secret without worrying about it burning is it isn't fertilizer just yet. These materials have to be digested by bacteria in the soil to be readily available to the tomato plant, so we put this product down and there's a constant cycle of the bacteria breaking it down, making it available to the tomato plant, and it's part of the magic. All of these ingredients with the exception of our secret metabolite, these are all ingredients that exist at our family's feed mill. You could theoretically open this bag up and feed it to a cow, and while it would be a fantastic steak, it would be very, very expensive because this is not a cheap way to feed a cow. It's just a very inexpensive way to feed a tomato.

When we added up all the cost of the individual ingredients if you were to buy them yourself and then try to piece them together in a ratio that Grandma Z figured out a long time ago, then you would have four or five times the cost of a bag of Tomato Secret invested in trying to rebuild this product. It's one of those neat, unique, simple products that just work. As you can see, there's plenty of ripe tomatoes starting at the bottom working their way up, so these were the first one to set. We've been eating tomatoes for a couple of weeks now. These are early girls, so these are the ones that we actually get to have BLTs earlier in the season. I got a question ironically from my wife who has a couple of tomato plants at her office, and she works with children, and one of the things they've been doing this summer is they have a garden there and some tomato plants, and while her tomatoes look very healthy and they're tall, some of her new tomatoes were developing a rotten spot on the bottom and she couldn't understand what was causing it. The cause of that is actually inconsistent watering.

We call that condition blossom end rot, and you'll see a lot of people talking about added calcium to prevent blossom end rot, but the reality is when the water is inconsistent, it inhibits the plant's ability to absorb calcium, and applying a foliar calcium to the tomato plant is really just a bandaid to help you solve the inconsistent watering problem, which really is easier to solve by watering consistently. On this tomato, you can still see the blossom is attached to the bottom of this particular piece of fruit, and that end is the one that turns brown and blossom end rot. It turns out when I started asking more questions, her tomato plants were planted in a pot on the hot side of the building, and they would water them on Friday before the weekend, and then by Monday when they came in in the morning, the tomatoes were all wilted over. They had gotten too dry, and then they would water them and they would perk right back up, and while they weren't dying and they were still growing, they were getting blossom end rot. We solved that problem with consistent watering, and if you still have an issue, we have a foliar calcium product, but I strongly recommend you try to solve it with the water first.

Kids all over the world are worried about monsters eating them, and in this particular case, the question is what's eating my monster? You'll see I've got a leaf here that has some holes in it, and there are a number of things that will eat a tomato plant in your yard. The key thing is to take a look at the damage, take one of the leaves itself. Sometimes you can take that into a garden center in your area and they can diagnose specifically what bugs might be eating it, or you can become a detective, and that's my favorite thing to do. One of the things about bugs is they may be sneaky, but they're terrible liars. When you come out, if you come out at night, maybe at 10:00 in the summer time when things have started to cool down in the garden, if you look around really closely at the leaves when it's cooler, you're going to see those guys eating. They don't get this much damage done by sleeping all day and all night, so if you come out at night, you're going to see exactly what the bug is, and in this particular case, they were simple slugs that were eating my tomato plant, and I'm really not worried about the slugs in that they're not going to eat enough that they could kill my plant or harm it that much.

One of the things that is good about slugs is they're relatively easy to treat because you don't have to actually spray poison on your plant, which is what I like to avoid. You can use a bait that's around the base of the plant that attracts the slugs to it, and they eat it and they die. You just need to make sure that whenever you're spraying anything on your tomato plants or around your tomato plants, make sure that it's safe to be used in a tomato garden so that you don't take any of the poison up into your fruit.

That about wraps up episode three. Please join us again for the fourth episode. We're going to get closer to the end of the active growing season and see how tall we can get this monster to grow, but also want to encourage any of you that have questions, please continue to email me. They're giving us really good information to do in these videos, so share and answer questions that probably everyone has. Thank you for those that have contributed and bring more. We love them. I'll see you next time.


Episode 4.

Good afternoon. Welcome to Episode Four of how to grow a monster tomato. As you can see, we're well at the top of our 10 foot tall tomato frame, and as temperatures are beginning to cool here, they growing, the active growing part of the season is about finished. We're harvesting tomatoes about as fast as we can. One of the questions we got since the last episode is how many pounds of tomatoes can a person expect on a giant tomato of this size? The reality is all these things are affected a little bit about the weather and which particular variety you grow.

But, in this particular case, with an Early Girl variety and all those things done right, we'll probably get somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 pounds of tomatoes off of this particular plant. That's an awful lot of tomatoes I can tell you. Those first few, you can't eat them fast enough, but by the time you get to September, like we are now, we've had plenty and we're sharing them about as fast as we can.

So, I left one of the branches outside the tomato frame to give you an example of what can happen when you don't keep these tucked in on a regular basis. So, this particular branch has got some fruit set on it, and now that it's beginning to get heavy, it's creasing. And, that will pinch off and these won't be as good of tomatoes as they could. That's why through that active growing season, when it's really growing, we wanna keep it tucked inside the frame, so the frame can help support that weight and keep it upright.

The big focus at the end of the season with this tomato plant is how do we extend the season so that we don't lose the tomato plant too early? Most cases, the first frost is not followed by frost every single day. It's usually a little nip that would kill most people's tomato plants and end their season. But, if we're careful we can avoid that and end up with another month or so of the season.

So, the technique is starting around the 100 year frost for your particular area, and those are available on the web. Just Google the 100 year frost in your town. They'll give you the average frost date. Then when you get around that date, the technique is simply watch the evening news, and if the weather man says there's going to be frost in your area. Then you come out. You get your ladder and an old sheet. Or, you can buy frost cloth. And, you're gonna drape that over the top of the plant and use some kind of string of some kind, a bungee cord and pull that cover over the top.

All we want is the frost to not settle on our plant. Then in the morning before you go to work, you come out and you take that cover off, and you will have avoided the frost. The thing about a tomato plant is as soon as that tissue gets frozen, the flavor of all the tomatoes on the plant will no longer be good. If you are giving up on the season, and you're not going to try to protect the tomato plant, then any of the fruit that's left, pick it all.

So, any of the fruit that's begin to color up, started coloring up, it will ripen if you put it on the kitchen counter. Even the green ones, there's a lot of recipes for things to do with green tomatoes. I recommend you check that out, because they're pretty good, and they're still good for you.

So, not everybody has had a chance to watch all four episodes of how to grow a monster tomato. So, with the magic of video editing, I can show you the entire season in speed version. So, roll the tape!

What's not to love about a fresh juicy tomato picked right out of your backyard? Ten times better than anything you could ever buy in a store, especially because of all the love that goes into growing them. We've really enjoyed sharing the video with you this season as we've gathered all the footage that we needed to really show you succinctly and quickly how to grow a giant tomato.

Next season, the product becomes widely available in the United States for purchase, and we'd love to include you in those early season buys. So, if you subscribe to our page, or if you email us at the link at the bottom of the page, we'll make sure to include you when those special promotions begin.

Thanks again, for joining us this season, and we'll see you next year.