How many tomatoes should I plant?

tracydr(9b)February 16, 2010

2 person household (hubby and me), we eat mostly vegetable based meals or meat meals with lots of veggies. I'm also planting eggplant, okra, zukes, armenian cucumber, maybe a few melons and several pepper variaties.

Haven't decided on corn.

My goals for tomatoes is to have enough to eat at each meal, enough to put up (canning, frozen and dried) for a years worth of tomatoes.

Remembering that this is Phoenix so I will probably get tomatoes for a short spring season, die off and another batch for a short fall season, with maybe some extra hardy cherries for the summer heat.

I'm planning on 50 with plenty of cherries and Beam's yellow plum to carry us through summer (and to cook/can yellow plum during heat of summer, assuming it can handle it), but I can plant more. For some reason, my canning seedlings... San Marzano and Andes seedlings for canning died off, even though all other varieties did great.

My garden is in the shade for the morning until about 2pm, gets some afternoon sun and than in the shade again for the evening. This should work pretty well to keep it from getting totally overbaked in the heat of the summer. This is a new garden plot and the sun is the complete opposite of last years. I'll still have a couple in the previous garden as well.

So, 50 plants or should I plant 10-20 more, just to make sure they're coming out my ears? I do make a lot of tomato based sauces, pizzas, salsa, eggplant parmesan, tomato/basil salad, etc.

I also have some concern about buying canned tomatoes from the store, have heard about some health concerns with this so would like to get to the point of being entirely self sufficient from a tomato stand-point.


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Tracy -
Depends on what you plant. Four Matt's Wild Cherry were all we could eat fresh. After a while it's overwhelming.

Don't believe the "tomatoes won't set fruit over 100" words. Perhaps it's because we have better native pollinators or lower humidity, but my plants were setting fruit well into July. Home Depot Romas, and Matt's Wild Cherry were the two best performers. This year I'm doing Matts, Amish Paste, and Royal Chico. Plans are to mostly dry the paste tomatoes and eat Matt's fresh.

Plant another batch if you lost the first ones. I planted seedlings at the 4-leaf stage last year and they LOVED it.

With a bit of shelter, one Matt's and one nameless Indian heirloom (that got started way late and never set fruit until cool weather) kept setting fruit all winter, and the frost-bitten Early Girls are sprouting from the base, as are the eggplants.

What varieties of okra and eggplant are you planting? I found that "Black Beauty" was slow to produce and not as prolific as the long Japanese ... this year I'm doing several from seed.

And Okra? Clemson spineless, 6 plants, was giving us over a quart of pods every few days ... and it LOVES 115 degree weather. This year I'm trying (first batch died it was too cold) a Thai dwarf, and a Phillippine extra-long pod.

Here is a link that might be useful: January Tomato Harvest

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 6:32PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Fifty plants?

Now, think about it. When they begin producing, if they give you just two or three (large or medium-sized) tomatoes per plant per day, aren't you going to be rather overwhelmed? Most will give you a LOT more than that. More so if you plant cherries?

Season before last, we (there are two of us) had 12 tomato plants, and I froze enough to last through the winter, we pigged out on tomatoes all summer long, and I begged people to take them off my hands, even gave them to strangers! I mixed the varieties for sauces, and they were absolutely delicious. Last year wasn't worth the effort I put in in early spring because of the cold, continual rain and plant diseases.

Of course I live in Georgia, so growing conditions here are quite different from yours. If you haven't grown tomatoes where you are, you need to check with people living in the area to see what tomatoes would do for you. Lazygardens is an excellent beginning person!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 6:54PM
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I grew 100+ every year and more on a community garden 2 plots - gave to friends and work and neighbors - but I knew if I had any problems I still could pull plants and have plenty
Sold our house and have moved so limited to 2 16X16 ft garden plots at the communtity garden and 10 plants where we live

Can you stagger your plantings so you get some early and others that have a different - longer avg dtm at the same time and then plant where the earlies were some that will grow in the heats but not be ready to blossum until it starts to cool off - my mom used to do that in Hemet Calif - like the desert and use sun shades - mist and mulch

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 7:28PM
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I planted 10 last year and picked probably 3 or more from each plant, this isn't counting the dozens that came from the few cherry plants we had.

50 would definitely be enough for 2 people. I would say that 20 is too much for 2 people. I wouldn't plant more than 2 per person, if it was me. Then again, my mom is really the only one who eats a lot of tomatoes.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:30AM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

If you have room plant some more. I like to can in big batches and the more tomatoes I get at a time the better. Also I always lose a few plants for various reasons.

I canned about 100 quarts last year for the two of us. I am just about out now. I didn't plan on my son taking the sauce a case at a time. I also give a lot away to neighbors.

I plant two or three hundred and end up with seventy five to one hundred good producers.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 2:06AM
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I would say one plant per person is adequate. But most of us like to have some varieties, cherry, roma, beefsteak, big boy, big girl, .yellow, striped, this that.. So we end up having more than we need and later on beg neighbors and friends to take some (LOL).
I am trying to discipline myself this year and have just one (maybe two !) plants of each. Last count, I will have 8 plants. Same goes with peppers: one plant per variety. That also adds up to about 7 or 8 . Human greed is amazing.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 5:14AM
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One plant per person for enough tomatoes to eat every day all year long?? I WISH my garden produced like that! =)

"Human greed" hardly seems like a fair accusation...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 8:46AM
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Wow, talk about a variety of opinions! From one per person to over 100? That's amazing. No wonder I can't make up my mind. We are a vegetable eating, tomato eating family. I will be putting up batches canned and don't want 3-4 tomatoes laying around when it's time to can 10 quarts.
I also have family, friends and co-workers, none of whom garden. I'm sure if I have any extra I could give them away easily.
Boy, the 25 I just got in the ground look like such a pathetic amount of plants. I'm sure I'll plant the rest of the 50, maybe more.
For okra, clemson spineless. For eggplant-still have a japanese from last year producing and just planted some black beauty seeds.
I just replanted my san marzano rezorta seeds and andes to see if they can survive better this time around. Want to make sure I have plenty to can/make sauce with!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 9:27AM
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I'm sure the varying numbers have a lot to do with growing conditions... spacing, amount of sun, soil type, climate, length of growing season, etc. I am always trying to figure out the "how many" question and it seems like the only answer I keep coming back to is, trial and error! Every garden is different! If you have the space, better to overplant than not have enough, right?

And BTW... San Marzano Redortas are my standard paste tomato at the moment, I LOVE them. Almost no gel, so they are perfect for cooking, but the flesh is still juicy enough for fresh eating. Really nice rich taste, too.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 9:43AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Tracy - since you want to can and do so heavily as well as eat lots then I'm going to come down on the side of "more than 50". Those who don't can can't relate to how we do it. ;)

There are 2 of us and we can, freeze and dehydrate heavily during the tomato season plus eat them at most every meal and we plant 100-125 plants each year (down from our 200 when the kids were home). That gives us enough for a year with just a few jars left over to carry through till the new crop arrives.

Sauces, juice, puree, stewed tomatoes, pizza topping, salsa, whole or chopped tomatoes, etc. require lots of tomatoes ready at the same time - average canning recipe is based on 21-25 lbs. (1/2 bushel) at a time. Cherry varieties are a waste of time when it comes to canning but work well for dehydrating and summer salads so we don't waste space or time on but a few of those.

So do your 50 plants and a few more if you have the room and then next year you will know how many more you need.


PS: and pray for a good tomato season this year unlike last years. ;)

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 10:44AM
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This is what I do:

7-8 cherry tomatoes for colorful salads, also a decoy plant to keep my little ones from picking my bigger toms.

8-10 La Romas for canning, fresh grilling, and salsa.

6-8 Opalka for the killer SWEEEET pasta sauce.

10-15 black tomatoes for fresh sandwiches, canning, freezing, and lots of give aways.

10-15 Pink beefsteaks for same as blacks.

2-3 white or yellow for my mom who likes those kind, the turtles, and throwing.

15-20 "new" varieties to sample and do whatever suits them, usually throwing, or giving them to my more 'seasonal' friends.

I usually eat 4-5 large beefsteaks a day when they are in season, lots of cherries, and preserve as much as I can.

1 plant per person is greedy?? then I'm a pig, a big tomato pig!!!

I end up with 60-70 plants, not much wasted except cherries toward the end when I'm eating a bigger tomato.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:09PM
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A hundred tomato plants!! WOW! Last year I had 23 plants, I canned all I wanted, my mother canned all she wanted and we ate as many fresh as we cared to. I will run out before they are ready to can again, but I'd have to till up the whole back yard to get that many plants in. But, that would cut down on the lawn mowing. Hmmmm.....


    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:50PM
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Plant as many as you have room for.

I am going to plant about 2 dozen different plants this year. IT'S ALL THE FAULT OF THIS FORUM!!! LOL They have corrupted me!

A BIG Thanks to Trudi and Wintersown for the lovely seeds she sent!

Since it is only me and the dogs (they do love tomatoes - especially Zaddi who will go to great lengths to pick her own) I am going to plant about half of them in the new frontyard garden. The neighbors will be happy to take any extras if I leave a note and a basket.

I will also plant another 2 dozen at my daughter's across town. She has totally different soil and sometimes it makes a big difference. sam

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:50PM
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I usually start out with 50-75 total veggie plants, then end up giving most away to friends or at a local plant swap, then finally end up with only 2 of each type. I don't see how I could afford the potting mix & containers for 50 plants or even find the space for them! lol.

- Steve

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:54PM
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Last year I planted 15 plants of various varieties and there are two of us. I canned 55 qts. and 25 pts. of sauce (reduced by half), dried lots, froze peeled ones- chopped up. We ate fresh ones all we could stand all summer and fall.

The canned and dried stuff will last us two seasons, so this summer I will probably plant only about 6 plants for fresh eating. I can't imagine what I would do with 50-100 plants!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 1:08PM
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There you go Carmen.

And I can tell yoo now that even 6 plants will be more than adequate under normal conditions.

I am going to plant 8 to 10, not so much for quantity but for variety. Plus, I have a specific patch for them.
Guess what? I am planting more onions and garlics this year.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 7:57PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

Depends on the yield of course. One year we did 40 plants for the two of us and it was a bit too much, because we did very well and the yields were high. That was when we started canning, drying and freezing. We also became very popular with friends and neighbors. This year we are sprouting about 75, but we will probably give seedlings to friends as I cannot imagine finding spaces for all. If you grow some of the larger heirlooms you will need more plants as they only produce a few fruit per plant. If you grow the more productive hybrids, you will need less. I'd say 50 is about right, and if you are planning on canning a lot, then more than 50. We are going to have about that many, similar diet, only two people, similar weather. I admit to being a tomato pig though. Only one plant per person cyrus? what if you really like tomatoes? I also planted heaps of onion and garlic! lucky that they take a lot less space than tomatoes though!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 9:15PM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)


    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 9:56PM
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I have 24 in the ground. Another 40 or so waiting to be planted. Have the space and I'm just going to plant them all! Hope it's a good year and I'm canning, dehydrating and freezing like crazy.
Forgot to subtract out the cherries that the dogs will be eating too, LOL! There's a family of 4 (well, 3.5 if you count chihuahua for half a puppy)
Now, how many basil plants to go with all those tomatoes? Hmmm

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 9:43AM
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Last year I wasn't sure how many plants to plant and I wanted to have a good variety, so I grew about 12 different varieties, 2 of each, for a total of 24 plants. It was just me and my wife, but I figured I wanted to try out a bunch of different varieties and figured on some possibly being duds, dying off, etc.

Well, even with last year being terrible for tomato growing, I still had enough that we were eating tomatoes for lunch and dinner (hadn't found a breakfast tomato dish yet, heh), making salsa, bruschetta, and tomato sauce by the gallon, I gave 10 pound bags of tomatoes to my parents and in-laws, friends, people at work, etc... And even with all that, my kitchen counter, island, and back patio table were covered in tomatoes of varying degrees of ripeness.

I didn't can any tomatoes since I frankly didn't expect what I got and was overwhelmed, and since I've never done canning, I was afraid to mess it up, heh. Those we didn't use, we gave away to friends and family. For the coming year, I want to can some, but additionally I was thinking of donating extras to local charities.

That being said, I'm cutting back a little this year, from 24 plants to 18 total - I figure I'll spread them out a little more than I did originally (my garden got a little crowded towards the end of the season) and I also figured that if this season turns out to be any good at all, I should likely get even more tomatoes out of less plants.

In my opinion, since you plan to can extensively, make sauces, etc., and you seem to have a short season potentially, I would still think that 50 would be enough - but being the person I am, I tend to think you should grow as many as you can comfortably. If you have extras that you can't can or use fresh, etc., I'd just give those to peopl who can use them. I am of the train of thought that I'd rather have my yard used for growing things I can eat rather than silly grass (and some weeds), heh.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 10:59AM
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homegardenpa, you mean you didn't make omelettes for breakfast?? Fresh tomato, spinach, onions, basil, and feta... yumm!! My mouth is watering already.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 1:08PM
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Tracy -
Basil grows extremely well in Phoenix. I suggest 6 to 8 plants, so you can clear-cut some for pesto and let them recover while you use the others for meals.

It can take full AZ sun, and with a tiny bit of frost protection can last 2 or 3 years.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basil in AZ

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 3:39PM
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First, thank you for the seedlings :)

I think I had 20 plants last year. Maybe 10 in the ground and 10 in pots. There were a couple of weeks where I had some to give away, esp small pears and cherries, but we ATE THEM ALL. A lot of the plants were larger heirlooms, and only produced 3-4 good fruit each (we did have some cracking, but I don't mind.) The ones in containers were VERY prone to blossom end rot.

I think 50 might not be enough for all that canning!


    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 7:11PM
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