What Tomato Plants Need to Grow

Tomato plants are beneficial to a landscape for their delicious harvest and its ability for the dozens of varieties to adapt to different climates or regions. More Americans grow tomatoes than any other vegetable, as a fresh tomato always seems to taste better than the ones purchased at a grocery store. Although tomatoes prefer warm climates, they can grow anywhere in USDA zone 3 and warmer. Several items are needed for a tomato plant to grow successfully, during planting, constant care and for support.

Planting Supplies

When planting tomatoes, several items are needed depending on how you want to plant the fruit. These include a planting site or container, good quality potting soil, loam, compost and planting tools. First, decide what you want to plant the tomato in, whether it is in the ground, a hanging basket or a planter pot. Next, prepare the soil for the tomato plant. The soil needs to have plenty of compost and rich organic matter, and must be well-drained and loose. If planting in a pot, make sure the drainage holes are plentiful. Tomato plant soil should be layered with potting compost, then loam, then more potting compost. Do this in advance of planting the tomatoes to allow the compost to settle and warm up. When planting a tomato plant, you will need shovels or garden trowels to create a hole that is about twice the size of the root ball for planting.

Tomato Care

It is necessary to keep your tomato plants in a location where they will received full sun and no more than three hours of afternoon shade. Water about twice a week, soaking the soil from six to eight inches deep. Regular watering is essential as irregular watering will cause blossom end rot or fruit splitting. Also, tomatoes do not respond well to letting the soil dry out between waterings. Tomatoes also require a layer of mulch such as straw or grass to help retain moisture during warmer weather. In the winter, you can use black plastic mulch around the tomatoes to help retain warmth around the plants. Tomatoes also must be fertilized with a soluble, high potash tomato fertilizer once a week at least since they are such heavy feeders. When choosing fertilizer, make sure it has nitrogen since it helps nourish foliage. Phosphorus helps promote flower growth and potassium builds strong stem and root systems.

Supporting Tomato Plants

Tomato plants need support with either a stake or a trellis, depending on how many plants you are growing. It is most ideal to insert the trellis or stakes into the ground at the same time you are planting, so you eliminate the risk that you can cut through the roots later. Place the stakes on the downwind side of the plants, so that when the wind blows the plants are being supported by them. Provide protection for tomato plants if you live somewhere that is very hot or can get cold. At local nurseries, you can purchase plant covers for this reason, such as floating row covers. Tomato plants must also be supported through regular pruning in order to encourage fruit production and keep the foliage under control. Prune back any dead, broken or diseased branches with pruning scissors at any time during the year. In the spring season, cut back stems to the second node from the trunk.

Keywords: caring for tomatoes, tomato growth, growing tomato plants

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.