The method for planting tomato seedlings is quite different from any other plant. 

Transplanting and Supporting

When transplanting, wait until night temperatures are at least 45°F. Transplanting on a cloudy day or in the evening is best. When covered with soil, the stem will develop additional roots. More roots increase the uptake of nutrients and water resulting in a healthier, more resilient plant with improved drought-tolerance. 

When transplanting seedlings outside, either:

1) plant them deeply, burying the stem leaving 1-2 sets of leaves above ground; or 

2) set each plant almost horizontally in the ground leaving 1-2 sets of leaves above ground. 

The buried part of the stem will sprout roots and develop a strong, extensive root system. The top of the seedling above ground will naturally reach toward the sun and right itself. 

Place stakes, cages, or any other type of supports in the ground at transplant time to avoid root damage*. 

*While determinate tomatoes are usually stockier, you may still find a cage helpful in keeping them upright and supported when they are loaded with fruit. Indeterminate tomatoes can easily reach 6′.

If your tomato leaves take on a purple tinge soon after transplant it is a sign that cool temperatures are preventing phosphorus absorption. They will grow out of this deficiency as temperatures warm. Fertilizing with kelp or seaweed can help plants with stress from heat, drought, or transplanting. 


Tomatoes need about 1″–2″ of water per week, depending on the type of soil they are growing in. 1 or 2 deep soakings per week in mild weather, and 2 or 3 per week in hot weather should be sufficient. Water at the base of the plant, avoiding the leaves to minimize disease from soil splash. If tomatoes are cracking, reduce the water. Too much water can cause the fruit to burst and water down the flavor. 

Pruning/Pinching off suckers

Why pinch off or prune tomato suckers?

  • Earlier production. If you let a sucker grow, it will become a full-blown stem and develop its own blossoms. Extra stems divert energy from the main plant’s fruit production. When you prune suckers, plants invest less energy in producing extra branches and leaves and more energy in fruit, producing an earlier crop.
  • Larger, healthier and flavorful fruit. Overgrowth means leaves get less sunlight. Unpruned, and unstaked tomato plants get weighed down. When you prune suckers, more leaves are exposed to sunlight and can make energy for the plant. Plants direct energy to existing branches and blossoms, producing larger fruit.
  • Disease prevention. If unsupported, un-pruned tomato plants spread into a horizontal position on the ground. Water splashes up on leaves, spreading fungi and bacteria. Plants become more susceptible to diseases like leaf spot and tomato rot. When you prune suckers, leaves stay drier and diseases don’t spread as easily.

Here’s how to pinch off a sucker:

  • Carefully grasp the base of the sucker between the thumb and forefinger. Pinch it or bend the sucker back and forth gently until it snaps. This technique is called “simple pruning.”
    • Use your fingers to pinch young suckers rather than clippers or a knife. Pinched wounds will heal quickly and are less disease-prone on young plants. 
    • Pruning tomato sucker shoots when they are young and tender is better than waiting until the sucker is mature and strong. 
    • When stems become older and tougher you may need to use garden clippers rather than fingers on older plants. 
    • Disinfect your tool to prevent an infection to the tomato plant.

Pruning cautions:

  • Don’t over prune in hot climates. 
  • Be careful not to over prune. Too much sunlight or steady, intense sunlight can lead tomatoes to develop sunscald.

Go easy on pruning determinate varieties. Determinate tomatoes set the bulk of their crop at one time. Each plant will produce a limited number of fruit before ceasing production. 


Tomatoes are medium feeders and may benefit from fertilizer during the growing season. Start out using a balanced (all 3 numbers are the same) or a mild grow formula (first number slightly higher) until plants are large enough to bear fruit. Then switch to a fertilizer higher in phosphorus to encourage flower and fruit set. This method ensures plants will get the nutrients they need to grow large and prolific. As always, a soil test of your growing area is ideal so you know what nutrients are actually needed. 


Do not mulch too early when the weather is still cool; the roots of young plants need to be in soil that is warmed by the sun. When the weather warms up (over 55°F at night) and plants are established, mulch to a depth of 2″ or 3″ with a material such as straw, leaves, grass clippings or compost. Mulch helps to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth. 


  • Each variety is different when it comes to color. 
  • Tomatoes may also be picked at the “first blush” stage, when colors just begin to change, and ripened at room temperature without decreasing flavor or nutrition. 
  • Picking often and early increases yield, and decreases the risk of cracking and pest damage. 
  • Another tip to prevent cracking is to pick near-ripe and ripe tomatoes ahead of rain, as excess moisture causes cracking. 
  • At the end of the season, about 1 month before the average first fall frost, clip all blossoms and any undersized fruit off the plant. This will steer all the plant’s remaining energy into ripening what’s left. 
  • If you have a lot of unripe tomatoes near the end of the season and a frost is approaching, pick, clean, and store them indoors in a single layer away from direct sunlight to ripen.




Peppers are very frost sensitive, so wait to harden off until outdoors temperatures are frost-free and settled. Soil should be over 55°F when peppers are transplanted. If your spring warm-up is lagging, use plastic mulch or season extension products like hot caps or walls of water to warm the soil.

Peppers do not set fruit in periods of extended cool temperature (below 55°F) or hot (over 90°F daytime and over 75°F nighttime) temperatures. Fertilizing with kelp or seaweed can help plants with stress from heat, drought, or transplanting.

Growing in containers

Peppers can grow well in containers. As opposed to growing the ground, containers have a limited amount of soil which restricts the amount of nutrients available to the plant. If choosing this method, be sure to use a container large enough to hold ample soil. Adding compost and/or a slow release organic fertilizer can ensure adequate nutrition throughout the life cycle of the plant to aid in a more bountiful crop.

Color Change

Most peppers start out one color, often green, and ripen to another color over time. As peppers ripen to their second color, the flavor sweetens and the nutrients increase. When a plant creates fruit (which contains seeds), biologically it has “done its job”, and flowering and fruiting might then slow down. By picking some fruit early or at its first color stage, you send a signal that the plant should create more seeds, continuing the process of flower, fruit, and seed maturity.