How to Grow & Produce Tomatoes

Overview

Tomatoes grow well in most regions as long as they get plenty of sun and water. Considered a vegetable, but technically a fruit by biological classification, the tomato can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Gardeners can grow tomatoes in larger gardens or in pots in small gardens and patios. Sowing the tomatoes from seed is inexpensive and requires no expertise, but you can also buy readily available seedlings at most garden centers.

Step 1

Start seeds indoors. Tomato plants are best started indoors about 10 to 12 weeks before planting outdoors. Place seeds into seed trays and water. Keep moist in a cool, dark place until the seeds have sprouted. Move them to an area with indirect sunlight. Skip this step if you prefer to buy small tomato plants or seedlings from a garden center.

Step 2

Prepare the planting area, using a testing kit to test the soil's pH levels. Tomatoes grow best in soil with pH levels of 5.5 to 6.8. Add a thin layer (about 1 inch or less) of lime to raise the pH level if it is too low, which means your soil is too acidic. Higher pH levels mean your soil is too alkaline. Add a thin layer of powdered sulfur to your planting area.

Step 3

Add a thick layer (about 2 inches) of manure, decayed compost or fertilizer to your soil. This can be laid on top of any lime or sulfur. Use a shovel or tiller to work everything deep into the soil.

Step 4

Set the plants outdoors for about one hour to introduce them to cool temperatures, then bring back indoors. Do this for about a week, increasing time spent outside (unless you have a dramatic drop in temperature) every day. This is called hardening off.

Step 5

Transplant the seedlings. Dig a hole for each tomato plant about 12 to 18 inches apart. Bury at least half the stem underground. This gives the tomato plant a strong base.

Step 6

Tie plants to stakes or a wire cage. This keeps the plant upright and prevents tomatoes from touching the ground. Without support, the plant stem will break because of the weight of the fruit.

Step 7

Water the plant every few days until it is established. Once the plant reaches 2 feet tall, tomatoes need a deep watering once a week. Roots are likely as deep as the plant is tall. If you notice that the fruit is starting to split, the plant is not getting enough water.

Things You'll Need

  • Seeds
  • Seed trays
  • Garden bed
  • Pots
  • Soil-testing kit
  • Sulfur
  • Lime
  • Fertilizer, manure or decayed compost
  • Stakes or tomato cages
  • Rake
  • Shovel
  • Tiller

References

  • "The Everything Grow Your Own Vegetables Book;" Catherine Abbott; 2010
  • Tomato Casual: Hardening off Tomato Seedlings for Transplanting
  • "The Complete Guide to Growing Tomatoes;" Cherie H. Everhart; 1998

Who Can Help

  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Keywords: planting tomatoes, vegetable gardens, tomato variety

About this Author

Carmel Perez Snyder is a freelance writer living in Florida. She attended the University of Missouri and has been a journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Oklahoma Gazette, the Amarillo Globe-News, and eHow.