Summer just wouldn't be the same without fresh garden tomatoes like your grandparents used to grow. The smell of the vines alone can take you right back to those family get-togethers, where fresh tomato slices graced the grilled hamburgers, added an essential ingredient to salads, and provided snacking material in the form of cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges. You can easily grow many different varieties of tomatoes in a fairly small space--from pop-in-your-mouth cherry tomatoes to huge beefsteaks that make slices the size of a salad plate. You'll succeed in growing fresh tomatoes if you follow a few tips.
Add compost or composted manure to your planting area. If you want to grow four tomato plants, for example, plan for an area that is about 4 feet wide by 8 feet long. For this amount of space, spread two 1-gallon buckets full of compost or manure in a line into the center of your tomato patch, spreading it evenly from one end to the other. Then turn it under with a shovel, turning the soil as you work your way down the row.
Scoop out about one shovelful of soil for each planting hole you want to make. For an 8-foot-long area, make four holes, evenly spaced at about 2 feet apart. Then mound up the soil/compost mixture around the outside of each planting hole, creating a slightly depressed basin where you will plant your tomato.
Dig one small planting hole in the center of each basin using your trowel--make it only slightly larger than the root system of your plant. Take your tomato plants out of their nursery pots and set them into their planting holes. Fill the holes with additional soil/compost and pat them down gently with your hands to secure each plant in its new home.
Pound a support stake into the soil about 4 inches from the base of each plant, driving it into the soil at least 6 inches deep with a hammer. You can use a purchased tomato cage if you prefer. When your plant begins to grow taller, tie it to the stake or cage with nursery tape or strips of old sheets, nylon stockings or other fabric.
Water your newly planted tomatoes well by flooding the basin in which you planted them. After your initial watering, flood the basin about once per week until your plants begin to form flowers. Then reduce the water you give them, flooding the basin about every two weeks or when plants begin to wilt.
Fertilize your tomatoes with a balanced plant food once about two weeks after you plant them. When blossoms begin to form, give them a low nitrogen or "blossom booster" fertilizer once a month to encourage maximum fruit production. Follow label instructions on the fertilizer you use.
Apply iron phosphate granules on the ground around your tomato plants if snails or slugs begin to attack your plants. Dust your tomatoes with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is a soil bacterium helpful in controlling tomato hornworms.