UACES Facebook How to grow tomatoes in Arkansas | Tomato diseases, issues, and problems

Growing Tomatoes in Arkansasred and green tomatoes

Do you grow tomatoes? We have research-based information about planting tomatoes and disease management. Check out the videos, tips, and fact sheets below.

Download our Tomato FAQ handout for answers to common questions.

Got tomato problems?

Check out our Plant Pathology Pal on your phone to browse our tomato disease images and diagnose your plant.

You can also download our Plant Health Clinic tomato newsletter.

Watch our Tomato Gardening Webinar

What are the best growing conditions for tomatoes?

  • Light – sunny. 6-8 hours of sun MINIMUM. Avoid planting near trees.
  • Soil – well-drained loam. Avoid wet feet on the plant.
  • Fertility and pH - pH – 5.8 to 7.2. Lime if needed.  Test your soil before you plant.
  • Temperature – warm. Ideal temperatures are 80s during the day and 50s or 60s at night. If you're comfortable, the tomatoes will be comfortable. If it's too hot, tomatoes have trouble setting fruit.
  • Moisture – moist. Water the plants thoroughly every two to four days during dry periods. Plants in containers need daily watering. 
  • Irrigation - apply water so leaves will be dry going into the evening. Soaker hoses work well but some will have a sprinkler effect. Drip tape can be used for slower application to conserve water.

Culture

  • Planting – transplant after danger of frost or midsummer. Late plantings may be made in early July for fall harvest and storage. These plants have the advantage of increased vigor and freedom from early diseases. 
  • Spacing – 18-24 x 48-72 inches
  • Hardiness – tender, frost sensitive
  • Fertilizer – heavy feeder

Which tomatoes grow best in Arkansas?

Choose the cultivars best suited for your intended use and method of culture. Small-fruited cultivars, such as cherry tomatoes, set fruit during periods of high temperature that limit fruit production of the large-fruited types.

Our webinar gives detailed lists of pink, red, cherry, and slicer tomato options.

The tomato cultivar list below can be found in our tomato fact sheet.

Staking and tying tomatoes

Set stakes every 3-4 feet, 15 inches deep. Place stakes every two plants. Anchor stakes well at the end of the row. Tying the stems too tightly injures them.

You can train  tomato plants to stakes, trellises or cages to improve air circulation and eliminate contact with the soil. This allows more sunlight into the canopy and allow for better spray coverage. It's also easier to control pests and pick the fruit. Wire cages placed over small tomato plants hold the vines and fruit off the ground. Short cages (3 feet high) usually support themselves when the wire prongs at the bottom are pushed into the ground.

Taller cages require a stake, post or wire for support. Large mesh (6 x 6 inch) wire permits easy harvesting. Tomato plants must be tied to supporting stakes or to a trellis because they do not support themselves with tendrils, unlike cucumber plants. Loop ordinary soft twine, cord or cloth loosely around the main stem and tie it tightly to the stake. 

Watch the video to learn more about staking and tying tomatoes.

Grafting Tomatoes

Harvesting tomatoes

  • Tomatoes reach full size in 20 to 30 days, about half the length of the total ripening period.
  • Tomatoes should be harvested when they are firm and changing color.
  • They are of highest quality when they ripen on healthy vines and daily temperatures are about 80 degrees F. When temperatures are higher (90 degrees F or more), the softening process is accelerated and color development is retarded.
  • During hot summer weather, pick tomatoes every day or every other day.
  • Harvest the fruit when it has a healthy pink color and ripen it further indoors (at 70 to 75 degrees F).
  • Harvest all green, mature fruit in the fall on the day before a killing frost is expected. Wrap the tomatoes individually in paper and store at 55 to 65 degrees F. They will ripen slowly during the next several weeks.

Managing tomato diseases in Arkansas

Serious tomato diseases in Arkansas are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and nematodes. Our detailed fact sheet gives tomato growers information on managing all four threats to healthy tomato production.

FAQs on tomato production - advice from former Master Gardener leader Janet Carson. 

Learn More about Tomato Gardening