The tomato plant is a popular garden vegetable that is native to the tropics where it grows as a perennial. Tomato plants grow well in Massachusetts when planted in a garden once the soil reaches a temperature of 60 degrees F. Choose disease-resistant starter plants that are at least 6 inches in height and plant them deep into the soil to force a strong root system. Planting three tomatoes for each family member will produce an adequate quantity of fruit at harvest time.
Choose a planting location with a nutrient-rich, well-draining soil in an area that receives full sunlight. Tomato plants do not produce well in a soil that is high in clay matter.
Prepare the soil by working 2 to 3 inches of organic compost in with a tiller. Test the soil pH, as tomatoes grow best in a pH of approximately 6.5. Add ground rock sulfur to lower the pH number or limestone to raise the pH number. Water the soil well and let it rest for two weeks.
Work a high phosphorous 10-20-10 fertilizer into the top six inches of soil prior to planting. This will assist with root and plant establishment.
Dig a hole that is two to three times wider and slightly deeper than the tomato root ball. Set the plant into the hole so the bottom leaves are just above ground level. Fill soil around the root ball and gently tamp to hold in plant. Space the tomato plants 2 feet apart.
Water the tomatoes immediately after planting. Continue to provide supplemental water to keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season. Tomato plants require at least 2 inches of water each week during the summer months. Monitor the soil moisture, as sandy soils will require additional water applications.
Apply a water-soluble balanced tomato starter fertilizer after planting to assist with plant growth. Apply a low nitrogen fertilizer once the plants begin to blossom. High nitrogen will increase foliage growth and decrease fruit production.
Apply mulch around the tomato plants to increase moisture retention and limit weed growth. Dry grass clippings or plastic sheeting mulch works well for tomatoes.