Steve Bender

Grumpy has been growing tiny tomatoes for years and he is sharing his mistakes.

I know it comes as a shock to you, but in the 20-plus years I’ve been living in my present home, I’ve never been able to grow a decent tomato. I have mastered tomato failure – and if you’d like to join my club of illustrious ineptitude, here are the five sacred keys.

Key #1. Plant in a really small pot, like this one on our deck. Tomato plants need a good amount of rich soil to spread their roots and gather nourishment for growing future stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. Deny them that. I tell everyone who sees this cherry tomato that it’s a bonsai I’ve been training for decades. No one has ever seen such a beautiful tomato bonsai and they are very impressed.

Key #2. Pick a growing spot with less than full sun. Our back yard is shaded by big oaks and just occasional patches of sun move across the leaves of our plants for a couple of hours each day. Therefore, it lacks sufficient energy to grow new leaves and flowers. This plant has borne a meager total of three tomatoes so far this year. I must be doing something right.

Key #3. Forget the fertilizer. Fast-growing tomato plants that bear basketfuls of fruit are heavy feeders. They need a drink of liquid fertilizer every week or applications of granular fertilizer like Espoma Tomato-tone 3-4-6 every two weeks throughout the growing season. Without this, your plants will look like mine. Booyah!

Key #4. Neglect to water. Assume that one good rain a week will do the job. This is especially effective when tomatoes are growing pots like this one that need watering every day. After all, a tomato fruit is mostly water. Subtract that water and let the soil dry out if you want truly pathetic tomatoes.

WATCH: How To Pick The Best Tomato Plants

Key #5. If a miracle happens and your plant actually bears fruit, leave the tomatoes on the plant well after they turn red. This serves as a clarion call to all tomato-loving squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and other critters that dinner is served. Every tomato will either be stolen, pecked, or chomped. Congratulations! You are now a charter member of the Sorry Tomato Club!