One of the most popular indeterminate hybrid tomato varieties on the current market are better boy tomatoes. You can grow this tomato plant in almost any area in the country, right alongside the big boy tomatoes. This tomato is crisp, juicy, and it explodes with a classic tomato taste. They’re perfect to add to any recipe that calls for tomatoes.
Better boy tomato plants give you big, one-pound fruits roughly 70 to 75 days after you plant them. This tomato variety is resistant to fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt, and other diseases. It has very dense foliage that protects the fruit from getting too much sun exposure, and this prevents sunscald. This tomato plant will grow slightly larger, so it’s not suitable to grow in containers as it requires caging or staking to keep it upright.
Better boy tomatoes are very large, so it makes sense that they take slightly longer to mature than smaller varieties.
Better Boy Tomatoes – General Information
|Bloom Time:||Summer or fall|
|Botanical Name:||Solanum lycopersicum ‘Better Boy’|
|Common Name:||Better Boy Tomato|
|Hardiness Zones:||3 to 11|
|Mature Size:||2 to 3 feet wide and 5 to 8 feet tall|
|Native Area:||North America|
|Plant Type:||Annual vegetable|
|Soil pH:||6.5 to 6.8 so slightly acidic|
|Soil Type:||Moist, loamy and well-drained|
|Sun Exposure:||Full with six to eight hours or more a day|
|Toxicity:||Toxic to pets|
Better Boy Tomato Care
This indeterminate hybrid cultivar is very popular due to how easy it is to care for and the large, delicious fruits it produces. To grow these tomatoes, you’ll want to space the plants three feet apart to ensure that each plant gets enough room to grow without overcrowding it to prevent diseases by having good circulation. When you plant it, trim off the bottom two sets of leaves, dig a deep hole, and bury your tomato plant down to the first set of leaves. Tomatoes can quickly produce roots along the stems, so planting them deeper in the soil helps to create a strong root system and a sturdy plant.
Since better boy tomatoes grow so large, caging, staking, or some other method of support are critical. To help the soil retain moisture, add a layer of mulch around the base of your plants. This is a disease-resistant cultivar that usually doesn’t have an issue with the main tomato diseases. Always look out for pests that can attack your plant, and rotating crops each year is the best bet for reducing the chances of building up soil-borne diseases or pests, balancing the nutrients, and increasing your soil health.
Typically, you’ll feed your tomato plants throughout the growing season using a water-soluble tomato fertilizer or a slow-release granular fertilizer. Granular-style fertilizers usually last a month or two, and the liquid forms usually only last a few weeks. Be sure you follow the application instructions and frequency guidelines based on your choice of fertilizer. Also, you want to avoid fertilizer that has a higher nitrogen content like evergreen fertilizer, lawn fertilizer, and some all-purpose mixes. Higher amounts of nitrogen in the fertilizer you choose can lead to big tomato plants with lots of foliage but few fruits. It can also encourage issues with blossom end rot.
If you plant your better boy tomatoes in full sun, they should easily be getting between six and eight hours of sunlight each day, and this will maximize your fruit production. So, enough sunshine and light is the biggest factor to consider when you grow this tomato plants so you can harvest more fruit.
Better boy tomatoes easily adapt to soil that is suitable for a large range of tomato varieties, but nutrient-rich, slightly acidic soil that is high in organic matter will give you the healthiest plants. The pH levels in your soil should be between 6.5 and 6.8.
Temperature and Humidity
This tomato variety performs better when you plant it in warmer weather. They prefer to be around moderate humidity levels, and very high humidity can quickly lead to moisture-related diseases. Frost can easily kill the plants, so you want to protect them when the temperature drops. If the temperatures hover near freezing or you have frost in the forecast, cover them with a sheet or frost blanket.
Temperature and humidity levels are very important for these tomatoes as too hot or humid can encourage diseases.
You want to water your better boy tomato plants consistently and frequently so they can give you more fruit. The easiest way to water them is to install an automatic drip irrigation system, but you can also water them using any method that soaks the soil around the base of the plant while avoiding getting water on the plant’s foliage.
You may only need to water your plants once or twice a week in the springtime or during rainy weather, but they’ll likely need water every other day or even daily when the temperatures rise. The best time to water them is early in the morning hours so that any moisture that falls on the foliage has an opportunity to quickly dry during the hottest points of the day.
Irregular watering once the plant sets fruit can lead to cracking in the tomato peels. Give your plants an even supply of moisture and avoid sudden influxes of water like watering them heavily after you miss for a few days. This sudden burst of water can cause your tomatoes to swell, and this leads to cracking peels.
How To Grow Better Boy Tomatoes From Seeds
Better boy tomatoes are one vegetable plant that is easy to start from seed. This being said, it does require a bit of materials and space, so many gardeners choose to buy the seedling plants from their local nurseries and start there. You want to plant your seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date of the season in your area. Depending on your planting zone, this is usually in February to April.
Plant Your Tomato Seeds
Fill your seedling tray with potting soil so the mix settles into all of the cells. Then, water the whole tray to help settle it in. Add a little more soil if it dips too low. The seed starting soil mix should be roughly ½ inch from the top of each cell.
Next, use your fingertip or a seed dibber and carefully sow your seeds roughly ¼-inch in the seed starting mix. It’s a good idea to put two or three seeds into each cell, but if you’re short on seeds, cut this back to one per cell. Once the seeds are in the soil, brush a little potting mix over them. GIve your tray one more light watering and allow all of the excess to drain out. Pour out any water that collects in the bottom of the tray.
Add Heat and Light
Put your seedling tray on a stable, flat indoor surface on top of a seedling heating mat. Your better boy tomato seeds will germinate quickest in soil temperatures that range from 75°F to 9°F. In this range, the seeds should germinate in roughly six days. Your seedlings will also require supplemental light to thrive when you plant them inside. If possible, add grow lights on a pulley system that you can raise so they stay roughly four-inches above your seedlings as they grow. Most gardeners leave their grow lights on for 16 hours a day and turn them off for eight hours overnight. Most plant lights come with a timer built-in to remove any guesswork.
Water and Thin Your Seedlings
Water your seedling tray using a mist-style watering can or with a spray bottle full of clean water so you don’t batter your seedlings. Once they emerge from the soil and get an inch or two tall, you can start bottom watering them by filling up the bottom pan tray with water and allowing it to passively and slowly wick up through the potting mix to reach your seedlings’ roots.
Pick the strongest seedling out of each cell and remove the others. If you have two or three seeds per cell, most cells will end up with two seedlings in them. Wait until your seedlings have the first pair of serrated leaves before you decide which one is stronger. Look for the seedling that has the straightest, thickest stem as this is the one to keep. Using a clean pair of garden scissors, trim off the weaker seedling at the base as close to the soil line as you can. Make sure you don’t damage the seedling you want to keep.
Pot Seedlings in Bigger Containers
Once the seedlings reach three times taller than the seedling tray and have three pairs of serrated leaves on them, it’s time to think about transplanting them into bigger containers. You can either get a seedling tray with larger cells or plant each seeding into an individual pot that is four-inches wide. Generally speaking, you’ll have to pot up a size at least once before you plant them outside because it’s still too cold in most climates for your tomato plants to go outside and survive.
Tomato seedlings can grow quickly once they germinate, and you’ll have to work to keep them moist and ensure they have enough sun.
Propagating Better Boy Tomatoes
All you need are a few simple tools and a bit of patience to propagate your better boy tomatoes. You’lll need the following for this project:
- Get a pair of clean, sharp garden scissors or snips to remove the sucker from the tomato plant.
- Remove the lower leaves from your cutting.
- Put the cut end into a jar of water or a small starter container that you fill with a potting soil that is very nutrient-rich. Water any cuttings that you put into soil.
- Put your cutting in a spot that gets indirect but bright sunlight to allow time for the roots to adjust to the new sun exposure.
- When your cutting develops roots and you expose them to increasing amounts of sunlight, you can transplant them into the ground.
Days to Harvest and Plant Maturity
Generally speaking, better boy tomatoes require 70 to 75 days from the point that you transplant them outside to produce the first fruit. Days to maturity or harvest are counted from the time you set the tomato plants out in the garden. This is a broad range as there are several varieties. Generally, cherry tomatoes will ripen first, followed closely by the early cultivars. Better boy tomatoes require a longer ripening period than most. However, this is due to the sheer size of the fruit as they can easily top out at a pound each.
Pruning Better Boy Tomatoes
To get productive and healthy better boy tomatoes, pruning them correctly is highly recommended. In this case, you’ll start by pruning the lower leaves a few inches from the soil to prevent the fruits or leaves from touching. Pruning will also improve airflow and help prevent rot. Direct the plants’ energy into the main stems and carefully remove the suckers. Trim off the early buds as this helps to support strong growth and heavy fruit production. When summer winds down, trim off the tip of the tomato plants to divert energy into the last fruits.
Harvesting Ripe Better Boy Tomatoes
It’s better to leave better boy tomatoes on the vine to ripen, and it usually takes 72 days after you first plant the seedling outside to see the first tomato ripen. Expect to wait between 70 and 75 days after you plant the seedling before you’re ready to pick the first tomatoes. It will take longer if you planted the seedling too early or if the midsummer weather got very hot.
These tomatoes are ripe and ready to pick when you see a rich red peel color and they’ve barely started to soften up. You want your tomatoes to be firm but have a small bit of give when you gently squeeze them. Pick them in the morning and eat them as soon as you can.
Since this is an indeterminate plant, it’ll continue to give you tomatoes right through the early fall months until the first frost. Keep an eye on the forecast because freezing temperatures or frost will kill the plant. If it forecasts frost, harvest the green tomatoes on the plant and ripen them indoors off the vine.
Storing Better Boy Tomatoes
You can store better boy tomatoes up to a month or two in a dry, cool storage area. Pick out the undamaged, whole tomatoes for storage. Any tomatoes that are less-than-perfect can get stored on the kitchen counter at room temperature out of the direct sun for two or three days until you’re ready to use them or start processing them to use in a sauce or salsa recipe.
The most critical component about storing tomatoes is to find a spot that isn’t too cold but it’s not too hot either. They store best when the temperature is between 55°F and 60°F. It’s common to find a good spot in the garage or basement that stays in this temperature range naturally. Don’t put your tomatoes in the refrigerator as the colder temperatures can cause the flavor to deteriorate very quickly and the texture to turn mushy.
Generally, you’ll wrap your tomatoes in newspapers or put them in paper bags to ripen. The paper stops the tomatoes from coming into contact with one another, and this can cause early rot. It also helps to trap in ethylene gas that the tomatoes naturally release, and this encourages ripening.
Overwintering Better Boy Tomatoes
It’s very well known that it’s possible to grow tomatoes as a perennial plant in warmer climates. However, in most areas of the country, tomatoes are annuals. If you’re planning on overwintering your better boy tomatoes, you should:
- Grow your tomato plants in a large bucket and move them indoors when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark.
- Overwinter sucker propagations. You do this by planting your tomato suckers in a larger pot filled with a high-quality potting mix and keep them in a warm location. They need a decent amount of sunlight and moisture to do well.
If you plan on overwintering better boy tomatoes, one thing to keep in mind is that it may not produce fruits as much in the second year. If you want the most fruit, grow them as annuals instead.
Putting tomatoes in a dry, cool place will extend their shelf life by several days or weeks, and this is great if you can’t eat them all right away or can them.
Better Boy Tomatoes – Common Diseases
Tomato plants are prone to having issues with several diseases. This being said, how short the plant’s lifespan is means that you don’t have to necessarily prevent diseases as long as you can delay their progression until the end of the season. Also, organic gardening practices can naturally reduce the chances of diseases spreading too.
This is a fungal disease that causes small depressions to form on tomatoes as they ripen, and they slowly get larger and turn black, causing your fruit to be covered in rotten black spots. It’s most common when the summer weather turns humid and hot, or when you water your better boy tomatoes from above instead of at soil level. To slow down the growth rate of this fungus, rotate your crops annually, make sure they have great air circulation, prune the bottom leaves, add mulch, and remove any dead plant material as soon as you see it.
Blossom End Rot
This condition is where the bottom of each of your tomatoes turn brown or black and the fruits rot before it ripens. It happens when your plant can’t absorb enough calcium, and it won’t recover once it shows signs of this disease, so you have to discard the whole plant. To prevent this from happening again, you should apply a liquid tomato fertilizer that has a high calcium content or some lime. Stress on the plant or root damage can also cause it, even if you have enough calcium in the soil. Make sure you fertilize and water your plants regularly throughout the season.
This fungal disease causes brown rings on the leaves of your better boy tomato plant, especially right near the base. The leaves will turn brown and eventually drop from the plant, and it can stunt your tomato’s growth and slow down the fruit growth before stunting that too. Your tomatoes can even form dark spots and rot right on the vine. This is very common in wet, cool weather and you want to avoid overhead watering with your plants, give them plenty of space, and trim off any diseased leaves straight away to prevent it.
This disease is either bacterial or fungal, and it causes your tomato plant to wilt very quickly. Soil-borne fungi or bacteria are the root cause of this issue, and it targets the plant’s roots. Give your plants plenty of space, rotate your crops, remove or destroy infected plants right away, and apply a copper fungicide to help stay on top of it.
Better Boy Tomatoes – Common Pests
Better boy tomatoes or any other ripening fruits in your garden can be a big draw for garden pests or rodents. Protective netting covers can go a long way to help deter these pests, but some pests can sneak through to attack your plants. They include:
Aphids are very common garden pests that feed on the plants and suck the liquid out. You’ll see small, colorful bug clusters on the stems or under the leaves. They also drop a sticky residue that attracts ants, and they can also cause damage to your plants. If you notice this pest on your tomatoes, you can start by ordering ladybugs and releasing them into the garden as they are natural predators. You can also spray them off your plants using a sharp stream of water from the hose.
If you have a lot of aphids, consider applying an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to your better boy tomato plants to help get rid of the pests. You can reapply most organic sprays on a regular basis to get rid of the pests without harming the plant.
This is another very common garden pest for tomatoes, especially if you live in warm climates. This is a microscopic worm that lives in the soil and damages the roots, and this will lead to stunted or wilted plants. You can avoid them by not planting your tomato plants in infected soil. Instead, use large containers or grow bags with a new potting mix. Also, try planting a green manure crop during the off-season and rotate your garden beds each year.
Overall, better boy tomatoes can easily thrive in most areas of the country without any huge issues. You can grow it from seeds or by using propagation, and both work well for this plant. You generally grow them in warmer weather, but you can also overwinter them. Pay attention to the soil, light, humidity, water, fertilizer, and water to keep your plants healthy and thriving so you get those large fruits all season long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.