How to Plant Tomatoes in the Garden


Tomatoes are a popular home garden vegetable. Just a few tomato plants will supply enough fruit for an entire family. Vine ripened tomatoes are tastier than store purchased tomatoes. This tender warm-season perennial is commonly grown as a summer annual. Spring and fall freezes limit the growing season since tomatoes do not grow well when the weather is cold. There are hundreds of tomato varieties available to the home gardener. Different sizes, shapes, colors and plant types are planted together to supply a diversity of tomatoes.

Step 1

Clear the planting area of all grass, weeds, rocks and debris. Loosen the soil to the depth of 12 to 18 inches with a shovel. Work out any buried sticks, rocks and large root masses. Spade the area until the soil develops a crumbly, even texture. Work the soil when it is dry enough in the spring not to stick to your garden tools.

Step 2

Add a 2 to 4 inch layer of peat moss, leaf mold, well-rotted manure or compost on top of the soil. Sprinkle 2 lbs. per 100 square feet of planting area of 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 fertilizer on the soil. Work the soil amendments in the upper 6 to 8 inches of soil.

Step 3

Dig a hole with a hand trowel that is deep enough to plant the first leaves in the ground. Remove the tomato plant from the starter pot and place it in the ground. Any of the stem that is buried will produce roots. Fill the hole with soil up to 1 inch from ground level.

Step 4

Cut a 6-by-6 inch piece of wax paper with scissors. Fold the paper in half and encircle the tomato plant stem. Tape the ends together. Fill the hole the rest of the way so that 1 inch of the wax paper is buried leaving 2 inches of paper above ground level. This little piece of wax paper will protect your tomato plants from cutworm invasion.

Step 5

Drive a 1-by-2 inch wooden stake that is 6 feet long 6 to 12 inches into the ground with a hammer 4 inches from the tomato plant. Tie the tomato plant loosely to the stake with a soft cord. Keep the tie slack with at least 1/2 inch of space to accommodate future plant growth.

Step 6

Plant the rest of your tomato plants 24 to 36 inches apart depending on the mature size of the tomato variety. Keep 4 to 5 feet between rows to make harvesting easier. Water your tomato bed with at least 2 quarts of water per plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Cover your tomato plants in the spring to protect the newly transplanted tomatoes from cold damage. Use clear plastic to create a tepee over the tomato plant. Clear plastic keeps the plants warm and prevents frost from settling on the leaves. Remove the plastic from the tomato plants before the morning sun touches them to prevent overheating.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Peat moss
  • Fertilizer
  • Hand trowel
  • Tomato seedlings
  • Wax paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Wooden stake, 1-by-2 inches by 6 feet long
  • Hammer
  • Soft cord
  • Water


  • University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow
  • University of Missouri Extension: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes
Keywords: planting garden tomatoes, planting tomatoes, tomato gardening

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.