Americans eat more than 24 pounds of tomatoes a year, according to Belly Bytes. The tomato is technically a fruit, but was classified as a vegetable by the U.S. government in 1893. Americans obtain more vitamins from tomatoes than any other vegetable. Because the tomato is such a versatile crop, it is popular a popular choice for home gardeners. Growing healthy tomato plants that will give good yields requires only minimal time and investment.
Prepare an area for planting tomatoes that is in full sun. Use a garden tiller to till the area to a depth of 18 inches. Sprinkle organic compost, such as leaves or cow manure, over the area at a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Till the soil with the garden tiller a second time to mix the organic matter and soil together evenly.
Plant the tomatoes after the danger of last frost. Dig a hole 6 inches deep and 2 inches wide with a garden trowel. Place the tomato plant into the hole so that the roots are just below the ground's surface. Tamp the soil firmly around the roots to keep the plant upright. Plant each tomato plant 8 to 10 inches apart. Plant tomato rows 2 to 3 feet apart.
Water the plants with a watering can. Hold the watering can toward the lower leaves and allow the water to trickle into the ground. Soak the area around the roots and the ground in a 6-inch area around the tomato plant until it is very wet but not holding water.
Add a thick layer of mulch to the tomato plants. Cover the area around each plant and in between plants 2 to 3 inches thick with pine straw, cypress mulch or wood chips. Cover the area between rows with a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of mulch to keep weeds under control.
Fertilize your tomato plants with a fertilizer that has a 10-10-10 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Put on latex gloves, a dust mask and protective goggles. Pour the fertilizer into a plastic, one-gallon bucket. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the plants at a rate of 1 lb. of fertilizer per 100 square feet of planted area. Keep the fertilizer 1 to 2 inches away from the base of the tomato plant. Work the fertilizer into the ground with a small hand rake.
Inspect your tomato plants for signs of aphids or other pests. Spray the tomato plants with a mixture of 1 part insecticidal soap to 4 parts water mixed in a garden sprayer. Soak the leaves of the plant from top to bottom and finish by soaking the base of the plant. Spray two to three times a week as long as insects are present; once or twice a month as a preventative measure if no pests are visible.
Add a cage to the tomato plant when it becomes so tall that its fruit weighs it down. Place the opening of the tomato cage over the top of the plant. Slide the tomato cage down over the top of the tomato plant. Secure the cage into the ground by inserting the supporting legs into the dirt 3 to 4 inches and tamping down gently with a rubber mallet.