How to Grow a Tomato at Home


Growing tomatoes is a popular endeavor for home gardeners. The tomato is the most popular vegetable in home gardens in the U.S., according to the University of Illinois Extension. Tomatoes are a warm-season vegetable that can grow well in many soil types, making it a good choice in many parts of the country. For the best results growing tomatoes in your own garden, check with your local university extension office about the varieties that grow best in your area.

Step 1

Tomatoes grow best in full sun and in well-draining soil. Optimal soil pH for tomatoes is between 6.2 and 6.8, according to the Ohio State University Extension.

Step 2

Harden off your tomato plants by setting them outdoors during the day for about 10 days before transplanting. Start by placing them in a sunny spot for a few hours and gradually increase the time the plants are outdoors, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. The plants should be brought indoors at night or whenever daytime temperatures are less than 60 degrees F.

Step 3

Dig a hole about twice the size as your tomato plant's root structure. Tomatoes should be set in the ground at the same depth they were originally grown, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Step 4

Set the tomato plant in the hole, placing it firmly but gently in the soil. Allow the roots to spread naturally to prevent damage to the plant.

Step 5

Fill the hole in with the surrounding soil, packing it down firmly with your hands or feet to remove air pockets.

Step 6

Add a water-soluble, high-phosphorus starter fertilizer to the water to be used to irrigate the plant.

Step 7

Water the tomato plant immediately after planting with water containing a starter fertilizer.

Step 8

Install a cage or stake around the plant after planting to provide support during the growing season. Stakes should be placed 4 inches behind the plant and driven 10 inches into the ground.

Tips and Warnings

  • Tomatoes should not be planted outdoors until the threat of frost has passed for your area, according to the Ohio State University Extension. The soil temperature should be at least 60 degrees before setting tomatoes in the ground. Do not allow fertilizer to come into contact with the plant's stem or leaves because they can become damaged, according to the University of Illinois Extension.

Things You'll Need

  • Trowel
  • Fertilizer
  • Tomato cages


  • University of Illinois Extension: Tomato
  • Ohio State University Extension: Growing Tomatoesi n the Home Garden
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Growing Tomatoes
Keywords: growing tomatoes, planting tomatoes, home garden tomatoes

About this Author

Meghan McMahon lives in the Chicago suburbs, where she spent six years as a newspaper journalist before becoming a part-time freelance writer and editor and full-time mother. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University in 2000 and has written for "The Daily Southtown" and "The Naperville Sun" in suburban Chicago.