Lots of us love the idea of growing our own vegetables and the No. 1 vegetable people usually wish to grow in summer is tomatoes!

So I am writing this whole article with a message JUST FOR YOU:

Don’t let another summer go by without the wonder and excitement of planting and picking your own tomatoes – and watching every wonderous stage in between.

CHAVAL! (as we say here in Israel)

If you have kids, they will especially love it and learn so much about the world.

I created this guide to make it so easy and doable. You can plant today and be picking your own homegrown juicy tomatoes this summer – even if you have no yard.

How to Grow a Tomato in Israel – in 3 Easy Steps:

Step 1: Plant a tomato seed (or seedling)

The easiest way is to just take ten seeds out of a tomato in your kitchen and cover them with about 1cm of soil. Then, water twice a day, just enough so the soil stays moist, but not muddy.

G-d willing, within about a week they should sprout, which is just so exciting to watch!

It’s that simple!

On the left: a tomato from the supermarket; In the middle: seeds removed from the tomato; On the right: a homegrown tomato seedling

The disadvantage of growing from seed is it takes a few weeks for them to sprout and grow to “seedling” size. Therefore, you may choose to skip this step and buy a seedling from the nursery and plant that instead.

Seedlings from the nursery will generally be from better quality seeds than what you get from your average supermarket tomato, Also many nurseries give you a choice of interesting varieties, such as cherry or golden tomatoes.

However, I can say from experience: the ones from your fridge grow just fine too. Don’t procrastinate planting while waiting for the chance to go to the nursery to find your perfect plant!

If you’re curious to understand the difference, you can do both options!

Whatever you decide, make sure it involves planting today!

Step 2: Provide Your Growing Plant with Water and Support

Tomato seedlings start off small and cute, but they will eventually grow quite big and gangly. So don’t grow more than one plant in a pot. Thin out the smaller ones, and leave only one – the biggest strongest seedling.

Growing happily in an old rice sack, already in bloom with yellow flowers!

As they grow bigger, the plants will do better if you support their stems with sticks or strings or just your window bars. They can eventually grow a meter tall!

Meanwhile, continue to water them twice a day so that the soil stays moist. On very hot days, a third watering may be needed. Plants growing in containers are very vulnerable to dehydration here in our hot Israeli summers.

Step 3: Watch the Fruit Ripen and then Pick

After about 4-6 weeks they will start to produce yellow flowers, which are self pollinating. These should develop into small green fruits which will grow and eventually turn red. It takes about 3 months from seed to harvest.

When they are bright red like a tomato, they are ready to pick and eat!


Tips for Successfully Growing Tomatoes in Israel

  1. It’s best to plant in good rich soil like you can buy in a bag at the nursery, but failing that, just use whatever soil you can have.
  2. You will usually get better results by feeding them twice a month with diluted liquid organic fertilizer, which you can get from a nursery or by contacting me. If you can’t get hold of it, don’t worry. Your tomatoes should still grow well enough.
  3. You can plant tomatoes in a raised bed or in a largish pot or in a woven sack or in an old bucket with drainage holes poked through. Just plant ’em!
  4. Tomatoes need 3-6 hours of direct sun a day to produce at peak, however they can manage with less. The afternoon sun in Israel’s summer is so strong that 3 hours is often plenty. Too much of our sun can actually burn a plant, especially one that’s grown in a smaller container.
  5. Tomatoes are summer plants. They are planted in the spring, thrive in summer, start to look sad in September and die by November. It’s not your fault. That’s the nature of annual plants. 

Most importantly: Don’t worry about doing it perfectly. Tomatoes grow easily in Israel. Your chances of success are pretty good if you follow the above instructions. 

And don’t worry if a plant dies. That is a part of the cycle too. Throw the dead plant on a patch of soil and it will decompose and enrich the soil. 

And then plant something else 🙂

Got Questions about planting tomatoes in Israel? Ask in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. I think it’s great that you’re doing this!
    1. Where do you recommend getting cherry tomato plants?
    2. What kind of fertilizer should we use for tomatoes?
    3. Where should we get dirt?

    1. Hi Penina,
      Good questions:

      1. Many nurseries around Israel are now stocking summer vegetable seedlings, incluidng cherry tomatoes, and they only cost 2-3 shekels each. Not every nursery has them, so call ahead before you shlep. In Beit shemesh, the Mishtelet HaBayit had them when I was there last week.
      2. Organic iquid fertilizer, diluted in water. You can get that at any nursery.
      3. If you are going to the nursery anywway, pick up a bag of quality potting soil while you’re there.

      Wow! I’m starting to feel like an ad for your local nursery! 🙂
      Really this post tries to make growing tomatoes accessible for anyone, even if they can’t make it to a nursery. But if you do go, it makes things easier to get everything there!

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