Tomatoes are not difficult to grow given the right sun and soil conditions. Plant the tomatoes in full sun in most soil types. This makes tomatoes a good choice for areas in which one is trying to build up the soil. Select plant varieties that will grow well in the area where you garden; tomato plants sold at a nursery in your area should be well-adapted for your specific region.
It is easy to start tomato plants indoors or in a small greenhouse. Start seeds six weeks before the last frost date for your area. Use potting soil in small pots for this purpose, and plant the seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the soil top. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Keep the tomato plants in a sunny window until they are ready to be transplanted.
Plants can be placed outside during the day when temperatures hit the upper 60s. Putting them outside for part of the day helps them "harden" and become better able to withstand living outdoors when transplanted.
Preparing the Bed
The soil in the garden bed is prepared by digging 10 to 12 inches into the ground and removing any debris such as twigs and rocks that could hinder growth of the plant's root system. Adding compost to the soil helps put important nutrients into the dirt. The compost is worked deep into the soil before planting begins.
Once the last frost of the season has come, transplant the tomato seedlings. Do this on an overcast day so as not to harm the plants. Bring them outside and let them sit while preparations for planting are being made.
Dig a hole in the garden bed for each tomato transplant. The hole should be deep enough to cover the plant's root system as well as part of the lower stem area, because unlike most plants, tomatoes should be planted deeply. Don't overcrowd the plants; space each hole at least 1 1/2 feet away from the other holes.
When taking the seedling out of the pot, it may be necessary to gently squeeze the pot's sides, but don't break the roots. Place each plant in a prepared hole and cover roots and part of stem with soil. Water the plants.
Tomato plants need support, and gardeners can choose among many methods. Many home gardeners use stakes that they drive into the ground next to each plant. They then tie the plant to the stake using nylons, which will not harm the plants by cutting into the stems.
Tomato cages can also be used once the plants are big enough. The plants will not need to be tied with this method. Some gardeners place a small trellis in the garden bed for tomato plants to climb. It is not difficult to train the vines to grow this way.
Parsley and carrots can both be grown in the tomato bed. The tomatoes will enhance the flavor of the carrots, and all the plants grow well together.
As tomato plants grow, it is OK to add compost around the stems for more support. This practice will also add more nutrients to the soil.
Pinching off the lowest leaves with the thumb and forefinger allows nutrients to more easily get to the upper leaves. Also pinch off any yellowing or browning leaves and offshoots.
Fertilizer is not necessary when using compost. If compost is not used, choose an organic fertilizer made specifically for vegetables. Keep the soil moist, but do not over water.
Tomatoes can ripen on the vines, but harvest them all before the first frost whether they are ripe or not.
Placing the tomatoes in a box or a paper bag in a cool place will help them to ripen completely. If some of them are almost ripe, then placing them on the sideboard for a few days should be sufficient.