Love Apple Farms: How I Plant a Tomato

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My tomatoes from your plant sale are doing so incredibly well. I can believe how big they've grown already -- in San Francisco! They seem super healthy and hopefully well prepared for an SF summer.

Jan C.

Could you do an article on 8 foot tomato trellising? (if you have already, could you repost?) Thanks for the great information.

Love Apple Farm

To Leigh: Yes, all of those veggies would, but since we tend to plant MORE of those in the garden, then use your best judgment on whether you want to go to that extreme. Also remember that those fishheads have to be 2 feet deep in order to ward off marauding fish lovers.

Leigh Parsons

First off - thank you for a fantastic post! I've just finished re-working our garden beds for a new planting, and I am SOOO going to give your advice here a try. I live in Australia, so unfortunately cannot attend any of your classes :-( and being a beginner, I need all the help I can get! But never mind, I'll start with what you've presented here and go from there. I did have a question though - with regards to the additives you've presented above, will other flowering vegetables benefit from these (I'm thinking cucumbers, capsicums, pumpkins, maybe melons, snow peas)? Thanks in advance for any advice. Regards, Leigh.

Aqua Castro de Milla

My first tomato plants were not as I expected. I´m saving some fish heads,egg shells for that, but since I live in thr tropical area I wonder if your technique can be used with papayas and bananas. I would like to know.

Alexis in San Jose

Hi, please enter my comment in your drawing for the drip irrigation kit.
I've been growing tomatoes with varying degrees of success over the years, and finally decided to get serious this year. I bought 3 of your lovely plants and followed your instructions on planting them. My biggest mistake when I first starting growing tomatoes was overwatering (my soil is mostly clay) because the ground either looked dry, or the plants looked droopy. Last year, I planted only one plant and didn't have time to look at it very often. I hardly watered it at all. Voila! It did better than most of my tomatoes have in the past. I learned a valuable lesson! Looking forward to this year with LoveApple tomatoes! Thank you!

Jan Carey

I've always wanted 7 foot tomatoes. Thank you for sharing across the fence.

Love Apple Farm

John: No, you don't need to use any of the amendments when you pot up into a gallon container. New potting soil will have enough fertility in it for about three weeks, and by then, you'll be planting out into the garden. If you keep them in gallon containers for more than three weeks, start fertilizing them every couple of ways with a weak dilution of worm casting tea or other liquid organic fertilizer


Thank you for all the information! I am transplanting my tomatoes into a 1 gallon container. Do I use the same amendments that I would use in a 15 gallon container? I am not sure on the portions needed. All information is appreciated. This is my first time planting my garden in containers and applying your methods. Thank you. John


Hi Cynthia, I'm curious if you pick the "suckers" at all. Do you do any type of pruning?
I planted exactly the way you posted and so far so good, although I am seeing some rolling of the leaves. Otherwise they look great! Thanks for all the help!

B Purtell

I recently got some chicken straw manure from a neighbor. I dug a small shovel of it into a hole and worked it into the soil adding compost and soil as well. I put this into 1 of 3 holes. Other holes 3 feet apart did not get the straw manure.

I watered the plants and put a staked marker identifying the plants. 2 days later, I looked to see how the plants were doing and they were gone from the hole and the mulch was all messed up. My guess was an animal dug it out. Could it be skunks? I planted 6 other tomato plants about 20 feet away in a raised bed area and those have not been touched.

Is it safe to use chicken manure? Now I fear planting any other tomatoes anywhere near this area.


Brian Carroll

Just put 4 tomatoes in a raised bed and 2 cherry varieties in a half wine barrel. I followed the above instructions for the tomatoes but am wondering if it'd work for peppers and eggplants, minus planting them below the soil level.
Thanks. Brian

Cathy Holt

I used this method last year, but I was so swamped taking care of my parents and my sone last year I didn't get to staking them and they didn't so as well as they could've. Thanks for re-posting this.


As others have commented, I really want to thank you for re-posting this article. I, too, was starting to look for it when it magically appeared.
It's raining this morning!! In the middle of May in California!

Diane McClish

OK...I'm excited...I just planted my first tomatos following your instructions. Can't wait to see how they grow...

amy stephenson

I picked up 3 of your plants at the SF Garden show, transplanted them to 1 gallon pots and just yesterday, put them in the ground following your recipe exactly (except used fish parts not the head--my fishmonger insisted that the parts would decompose more quickly--he was giving them to me for free -5lbs of parts--so I didn't want to offend him. ;-) Keeping my fingers crossed for a great harvest!

Christy Slye

I've been preparing my beds all week in anticipation of doing my tomato transplants. I thought, I'm going to check Love Apple as I know in the past there's been a list of what to throw in the hole. Hmmm, I hope I can find it--Imagine my delight when it was the first thing the blog opened to! Please continue to post this every year. I'm hopeful that if I can do some/most of this, my tomatoes will get some benefit. It gotta be better than just dumping the poor thing in the hole all by its lonesome.

Tim Quitter

Long-time home tomato gardener on the East Coast, specifically Virginia Beach, Va. I have had pretty good yields in the past with organic tomato fertilizers, bone meal and compost. But, last week I planted my seedlings using your method (less the Humic Acid and Root Zone spray). It just sounded too cool not to try. Interestingly, I had to visit about 6 fish markets and restaurants to find enough fish heads as most already had promised theirs to other tomato gardeners, and Va Bch is located right on the Ocean! One Rockfish (Striped Bass) could service four holes, head, tail and backbone cut in half! Cheers!

Carolyn Binder

Hi Cynthia:

This is my second year of raising heirloom tomatoes per your excellent instructions. I'm going to try and duplicate your tomatoe cages this year, too. Last year my tomatoes grew over eight feet tall! We had all the neighbors talking!


Carolyn Binder


Wow! I am so impressed. I haven't had the yields I had previously about 4 years ago. This information should change that. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I will definitely look forward to taking a class sometime.

Nants Foley

I'm so glad I read this blog re-post. I created some seedlings from your heirloom tomato seed planting class. I have been watching over them like a mother hen over her chicks! I would have just dug a hole, slapped them in and called it a day! Hmmm...definitely have to start thinking about those fish heads.

Kitty Thomas

WOW...what a recipe! That is the second time I have heard of "unusual" things for tomatoes. Have you heard of putting hair down in the hole for a protein source? I am a new vegetable gardner and we are working towards eating out of our garden almost exclusively, so I better have success! I have 5 kinds of tomatoe starts, CAN'T WAIT to plant a fish heads!!?? It is weird, but I'll give it a go.

yvonne ellefson

Last year I followed your advice in general...except no fish heads, no aspirin, and no eggshells. My Church variety of tomatoes had lots of blossom end rot. This year I planned ahead better and got almost everything right (except hoping I didn't plant too early this past weekend.)

I was a little surprised when one of the fish heads that came in by way of a friend's fisherman source was a large yellowtail tuna! I also snagged some small rockfish (body, tail, no head) from a friend who had freezer defrosting issues. Not all plants received the fish-goodness but it will be interesting to see what happens this year. I am also far better prepared having taken your Tomato Masters course, where I realized (after my garden had already been planted) that I completely reversed everything in terms of which plants should be in the higher and lower sun locations. Trying to improve each year!


I will now be stalking my local fishmongers for fish heads!! Who knew?

I am assuming any fish will do?
Thanks for awesome information.



One of my local restaurants gave me fish heads and I am so excited to plant my tomatoes like you do above. I am hoping they will break the 10 ft mark this year! Thanks!!

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