More tomatoes are grown in home gardens than any other vegetable. According to the California Tomato Growers Association, Americans consume nearly 80 lbs. of tomatoes per person each year. Used in sauces, salsas and ketchup, tomatoes adorn tables across the globe. Served fresh in salads or sliced for sandwiches, tomatoes provide the highest source of nutrients of any vegetable--except potatoes. Although tomatoes will grow in a variety of soils, they prefer well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
Till the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Remove roots, rocks and other debris from the soil. Break up clods of soil with a hoe and rake the soil smooth.
Perform a soil test to determine the needs of your soil. An inexpensive test purchased at your local hardware store provides a quick assessment of the soil. Contact your local extension service for a more in-depth evaluation of your soil, if preferred.
Follow the instructions for taking a soil sample. Typically, soil is gathered from several locations within the gardening area and mixed together to create one sample of soil.
Return the sample to the cooperative extension office or complete the test following the directions in the kit.
Amend the soil following the instructions in your soil test to balance nutrients. Adjust the pH to 6.5 to 7.0.
Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure to the soil. Mix in well with a tiller or hand tools. Organic matter improves aeration and promotes good drainage. As organic matter breaks down, nutrients are released, slowly providing food for tomato plants.