A fresh, ripe tomato is one of my little joys in live. I don’t think there’s been a single summer since I was 20 years old that I didn’t grow tomatoes. Picking a fresh tomato from the garden, grabbing some eggs from the chicken coop, picking a few sprigs of basil, chopping in some fresh green pepper for good measure and scrambling it all up is the taste of summer to me! Over the years, I’ve perfected the strategy for how to grow 8 foot tomato plants, and now I’m sharing it with you.
Urban gardening has tons of benefits, like alleviating food deserts and helping local pollinators. Growing these massive tomatoes can help provide your community with food and added sustainability and stability!
Please keep in mind that the size of the plant isn’t always everything. It’s about how many fruit your plants will produce. If you live in an area where the climate restricts your growing season, your plants may not survive long enough to grow to 6 or 8 feet (or taller!) This method really only works if you live in USDA Hardiness Zone 7b or warmer.
It’s also important that you pick the right type of tomato plant. Some varieties grow taller than others. Big Boy and Early Girl tomato varieties are known to grow tall.
Read More: Your Guide To Container Gardening Tomatoes
How to grow 8 foot tomato plants
So we’ve established that in order to grow 8 foot tomato plants, you need to live in growing zone 7b or warmer and you’ll need to pick a variety that grows taller than others. What else is there to know about growing huge tomato plants?
Start your tomatoes indoors
The general recommendation for tomatoes is to start them 4-6 weeks before final frost indoors. My strategy is to push my luck a bit and start them 8 weeks before last frost. I start them in a larger container, which allows the roots to get nice and established and gives the plants extra time to grow. I do use a grow light for these starts, but a sunny window will do just fine.
Read More: How To Store Tomatoes To Make Them Last
Plant your tomatoes a little deeper
There’s a reason why I start my plants indoors a bit earlier and try to get them as tall as possible before planting outdoors. Tall tomatoes need a sturdy foundation of roots off of which to grow. Cut the foliage off the bottom two-thirds of the plant a few days before planting outside. When the time comes to plant, bury two-thirds of the plant underground as well.
Doing this will encourage roots to grow out of the part of the stem you planted underground. This will help keep them rooted and sturdy during the long growing season ahead.
Support your tomatoes
There are two types of tomato plant: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants are sturdier, don’t need support, and grow a bit like a bush. These are great tomatoes for a short growing season.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow less like a bush and more like a vine. These tomatoes are good for long growing seasons and are the types of tomatoes you’ll want to plant to grow massive, 8 foot tomato plants. Due to their size and vining nature, indeterminate tomato plants need support. Without support, the plant will wind up lying on the ground, weighed down by its branches and fruit.
It’s recommended that you provide some kind of support for the tomato vine to grow up, preferably at least 7 feet of support. A wooden stake or extra large tomato cage would do fine. Additional support may need to be provided to stalks that have a large number of tomatoes growing on them.
Provide them natural fertilizer
Feeding your tomatoes is an important part of growing big, plump tomatoes and nice, tall tomato plants. But before you run out and buy some blue looking crystal fertilizer from the store, consider a natural alternative: rabbit manure.
Rabbit manure is the only additional fertilizer that I provide my tomatoes, and I can say without a doubt it grows the best tomatoes I’ve ever had the privilege of growing. It’s what’s known as a cold manure, meaning it doesn’t need to undergo any composting before being applied to your garden.
You can think of the little pellets of manure a bit like ice cubes. As you water your plants, the nutrient contents of the manure will slowly melt away into the soil, providing vital nutrients to your plants. Generally, I’ll mix some into the soil when I do my spring planting and then reapply every few weeks.
Tomatoes can tolerate their soil drying out a little bit, but when growing tall tomato plants with lots of fruit, the plants become pretty thirsty. You’re going to want to diligently set up a watering schedule to ensure that the plants get enough. This schedule will vary depending on your climate and how much it rains. During dry spells, observe your plants and determine how long it takes before they start wilting from lack of water.
Once you’ve established that, water frequently enough that the wilting never occurs.
Prune them diligently
Perhaps the most important, always-on tip for growing huge tomato plants, pruning! Pruning old, unhelpful growth from the plant will help it focus all of its energy on growing taller and growing healthy tomatoes. There are two things that you should watch for when pruning.
First, take off any foliage that is lower and mostly shaded. These branches won’t get much sun and therefore won’t contribute much to the plant’s overall well-being. Your tomatoes are expending resources keeping these lower branches alive, while these branches don’t really pull their weight. If a branch is mostly shaded, go ahead and cut it off.
Next, watch for ‘sucker’ vines that begin growing where branches meet the stem. These sucker vines might produce tomatoes if allowed to come to fruition, but should be removed if you’re trying to grow very tall plants.
Read More: How To Prune Tomato Plants
Summarizing how to grow 8 foot tomato plants
That’s about all there is to know! So to summarize:
- Start tomatoes indoors 4-8 weeks before final frost
- Plant tomato starts two-thirds underground
- Provide tomato plants with a support structure to keep them upright
- Fertilize with a natural fertilizer, like rabbit manure
- Keep them well watered (but not drenched)
- Carefully prune unproductive growth
Keep Reading: How To Save And Store Tomato Seeds