Testing My Brown Thumb With
Beefsteak Tomatoes

Overcrowded and mangled Beefsteak Tomatoes 1 month.

Overcrowded & mangled beefsteak tomatoes after a windstorm.

I’m attempting to grow a few beefsteak tomato plants in containers on my patio this year to test my brown thumb again.  How does one kill cacti?  Couldn’t tell you.  It just happens 🙁  Up until last year I’ve managed to keep only five spindly green houseplants alive longer than a few years.

Things may be taking a turn for the better though.  Last year a wonderful neighbour gave a bunch of us ladies in the building seedling cherry tomato plants to kick off the summer solstice.  Gulp!  I panicked.  Could I nurture this living organism to maturity?  Or would I have to bare facing my neighbour as the person who puts her summer solstice gesture out to pasture?  However, with each passing week I was thrilled to see the little plant grow taller and taller, so much so I thought “Humph, this is easy!” and went out and bought a handful of herb plants. Most of the herbs survived but that’s another story.  Well, that cherry tomato plant yielded a whopping total of five little jewels of which three made it to a sunny hue of red.  It was literally my first taste of growing something edible. 

A month and a half ago at my friend’s place I spotted a few trays with dozens of newly sprouted seedlings and asked what they were.  Her mother said they were squash and tomato seedlings but they all looked the same to me.  I asked why she had so many as I knew she grew other vegetables and they couldn’t all fit in their backyard garden.  She said some won’t make it, some she plants, some she gives away and the rest she throws out.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  How could she dispose of life so nonchalantly?  I volunteered to adopt a couple of plants seeing as how I had garnered a little experience last year.  She laughed and obliged with four seedlings in a little pot.

After a week the familiar shape of the tomato leaves emerged and I wondered what to do with the rapidly growing plants in the crowded little pot.  I knew I would have to re-pot them but didn’t know if I should just put them all into a larger container or how much larger of a container.  I spent a couple days researching how to grow container (beefsteak) tomatoes and find out the fruit grow as big as two pounds.  Holy guacamole!  I’ve never seen them that big in the supermarkets (lesson 1: go organic).  And they are “indeterminates” meaning they’ll keep growing and producing fruit until fall whereas “determinates” stop growing at a certain point and produce fruit once over a short period of time.

I had transplanted 2 of them into a large pot I had on hand but found out they should ideally be planted one per 5 gallon or larger pail (lesson 2: they need lots of soil).  So I scrambled to find some old restaurant pails, soil and fertilizer!  In the meantime I put the young plants outside one day to bathe in some warm sunshine and went out for the day.  Unfortunately, we had a crazy windstorm last weekend that left many homes without power and my adopted plants with mangled limbs! I was so afraid to replant them again while in their beaten up condition!

I finally rounded up the four pails and more dirt and put each plant into their new home (lesson 3: 5-6 gallons is a lot of dirt!).  I’m worried the two most wind damaged plants may not survive as they had only two & three limbs left before I tore apart their intertwined roots.  The poor things lost quite a bit of root in the process!  Found out yesterday the 2 foot tomato cages I surrounded them with should be at least 4 feet tall or have 4 foot stakes and that I need fertilizer to grow the tomatoes to maximum size (lesson 4: worm castings is mother nature’s best fertilizer for tomatoes).  Compounding this are the few days at a time I’m out of town when they’re kept inside to protect them from anymore high winds and cold evenings.  So they’re not getting maximum sun or daily watering during this critical transitional stage.  I hope they’re hardy plants!


  1. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information about this subject for ages and yours is the best I have discovered till now. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

  2. Thanks for reading! I was also given another cherry tomato plant at the time. My sources were a number of horticulturists, successful tomato gardeners of many years and many on-line resources with similar advice and instructions. Keep your eyes out for all the “juicy” details of last season’s tomato experiments coming soon!

  3. Good luck! Make sure to give the plant lots of room and good fertilizer. I’ll post my results from last year soon. Haven’t decided yet if I’ll try again this year.

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