When trying to grow big tomatoes, it would be hard to beat Gordon Graham of Edmund, Oklahoma. His 7-pound, 12-ounce tomato, grown in 1987, is listed as the largest in The Guinness Book of World Records. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tomatoes are the most popular of all home garden vegetables. American colonists believed the fruit, which is native to Central and South America, was poisonous, and it was not recognized as edible until the 1800s. Staked plants take up little space, yet can produce 10 pounds of tomatoes per plant or more, depending on the variety, location and care given to the plants.
Purchase tomato plants with straight, sturdy stems. Avoid plants that appear unhealthy, have pests or already have flowers or fruit.
Plant tomatoes in a location that receives full sun all day. Plants that do not get enough sun will be spindly and weak, and will not set large fruit.
Take a sample of your soil to a local nursery for testing. Tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Amend your soil as recommended by your garden center.
Plant tomatoes 1 to 2 feet apart, with at least 3 feet between rows. If you plant them closer together, the plants will compete for soil nutrients. Pinch the top set of leaves off in order to encourage stronger growth.
Provide support for the plants with stakes or cages at the time of planting. Tie the plants loosely to the supports with garden ties. Plants that have good support are able to bear the weight of heavier fruit.
Apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of a complete 8-8-8 fertilizer per plant after the plants have begun to set fruit. Continue to fertilize every four to six weeks during the growing season. Apply the fertilizer at least 4 inches away from the stems to avoid burning the plants.
Water tomato plants thoroughly to a depth of 6 inches at least once a week. Warmer climates will require more frequent watering. Water the plants at the stems to avoid getting water on the plants. Spread mulch, compost or pine needles under the plants to retain moisture.