Dry Farming

Tomatoes were once commonly dry farmed in California, where they received no irrigation water (or rainfall) at all. Such plants are markedly sweeter than conventionally grown plants. This is well worth trying if you have a lot of space, but a limited amount of water for irrigation.

In a dry garden, the plants must be spaced further apart than in a conventional irrigated garden. This eliminates competition with neighboring plants and gives their roots more space to forage for water.

A mulch is also helpful, as it conserves moisture and keeps down thirsty weeds.


Most Tomato varieties are self-pollinated, so pollination isn’t usually a problem.

Often the first flowers fall off without bearing fruit, especially if temperatures go below 60˚ F, or above 90˚ F. In very hot weather you should water frequently to keep the plants cool to encourage flowers and pollination.

Fall frost protection

This is important, as an early frost will usually kill unprotected Tomato plants. If you can help your plants make it through these first frosts there may not be another one for several weeks, during which time you can get a lot more ripe fruit. Almost anything can help them to survive a mild frost, old bed sheets, straw mulch, plastic sheet, cardboard.


Pruning consists of pinching out all the suckers (these appear in the axils of leaves) you don’t want to grow into stems. Pruning is most often done in cool climates to reduce the number of fruit produced and give them a better chance of ripening. It can also improve fruit quality by increasing the amount of light entering the plant and increasing aeration. It may hasten maturation by as much as two weeks and allows for closer spacing of plants.

Pruning also reduces the area for photosynthesis which means less fruit per plant (yields may be half that of unpruned plants).

We don't bother with pruning, it just seems like extra work we don’t need to do. The most efficient way to grow Tomatoes is to use indeterminate varieties, unpruned, in cages.

Double stem

More fruit can be obtained if you allow one sucker to develop into a second stem (this is really training rather than pruning). You pinch out all suckers, except the one below the first flower cluster. This will quickly grow into a second stem. It can be supported by planting two flexible stakes together and spreading them apart at the top with a small stick. One stem is trained up each stake. A third stem could produce even more fruit, but this gets rather complicated.