Tomato plants are popular in home vegetable gardens because of the large fruit harvest they can produce in small spaces. Tomato plants are annual, and form in the shape of a bush once they reach mature size. The fruit is high in vitamin C and low in calories, making it an excellent addition to many recipes and garden vegetable dishes. The best time to plant a tomato bush is once the soil has warmed to 60 degrees F and there is no longer a risk of frost.
Choose a garden area that has full sunlight and well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Test the garden soil pH where the tomatoes will be planted to make sure it is slightly acidic, with a pH of 6.2 to 6.5. Work ground rock sulfur into the soil with a tiller to lower the soil pH, or limestone to raise it, two weeks prior to planting.
Add 100 pounds of composted manure for every 100 square feet of planting area. Work the manure to a depth of 10 inches with a tiller, then let the soil rest for two weeks before planting. Add manure at the same time as ground rock sulfur or limestone amendments.
Plant the tomato seedlings in a hole deep enough to cover the plant stem up to the first set of leaves. Setting the plants deep into the ground will stimulate additional root growth to strengthen the plant structure.
Fertilize the tomato bush once it reaches one third of its mature size. Add a 10-20-10 fertilizer to the soil making, sure it is 2 to 3 inches from the stem to prevent burn. Water the soil generously after applying fertilizer.
Place a 2-inch layer of dry grass clippings or plastic sheet mulch around the tomato plants to increase moisture retention and limit weed growth around them.
Water the garden soil around the tomato bush to keep it evenly moist throughout the growing season. Provide supplemental water when the weekly rainfall amount is less than one inch. Do not allow the soil to dry more than 2 to 3 inches below ground level, as this will stress the bush and reduce fruit production.
Place a tomato cage around each bush shortly after planting. Train the plant to grow through the cage, as it will provide support to the branches once the fruit begins to mature.