According to the University of Illinois, the tomato is the most popular vegetable grown in home gardens. Tomatoes are easy to grow and produce a large harvest with proper maintenance, full sun and supplemental water applications. Fresh garden tomatoes have more flavor and are larger in size than those sold in the grocery store. Plant tomato seedlings in the garden once the soil is at least 60 degrees F and there is no danger of spring frost.
Prepare a garden area for the tomato plants in an area that receives full sunlight and has a well-draining soil. Verify that large trees or structures are not blocking the planting area as this creates too much shade during a large portion of the daylight hours.
Test the garden soil to verify the pH level is 6.2 to 6.5 for best growing results. Add ground rock sulfur to the soil to lower the pH number if necessary. Increase the nutrient value of the soil by adding 1 pound of organic compost or composted manure for each 1 square foot of garden space. Work both amendments into the soil to a depth of 10 inches. Let the garden rest for a minimum of two weeks before planting.
Dig a planting hole for the tomato seedlings that is several inches deeper than the size of the root ball. Remove the seedling from the container and set it into the hole so the first set of leaves is just above ground level. Tomatoes grow best when set deep into the ground to force additional root growth.
Mix a 10-20-10 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer into the garden soil around the tomatoes once they reach one-third the mature size. Do not let the fertilizer touch the tomato plant stem or roots as this can cause burn damage.
Provide supplemental water to the tomato plants during the hot summer months to keep the soil evenly most. Tomato plants require a minimum of 1 to 2 inches of water each week for optimum growth. Place a layer of dry grass clippings around the tomato plants to assist with moisture retention as summer sunlight dries the soil quickly.
Place a tomato cage support around the tomatoes shortly after planting. Train the branches around the cage as the plant grows to provide structure during heavy fruit growth.