Just a few tomato plants can supply a family with all of its fresh tomato needs. Vine-ripened tomatoes, freshly picked from the plant, taste better than store-purchased tomatoes. Tomato plants are cold-sensitive perennials that are used as annuals in the garden. When planted outside, the fall freezes stop the growth and ripening process of tomatoes.
Clear your planting area of grass, weeds, shrubs, rocks and sticks. Choose a site in an area with all-day sunlight. Prepare your site after the last frost date in the spring has passed.
Loosen the soil with a shovel to the depth of 24 inches. Break the soil up into pebble-sized pieces with a garden hoe. Rake the soil smooth and level.
Dig a hole that is two-thirds the length of the tomato plant with a hand trowel. Mix 1 tbsp. of 5-10-10, 5-20-20 or 8-16-16 fertilizer into the bottom of the hole. Drop in 1 inch of soil on top of the fertilizer.
Place the tomato plant in the hole so that at least half the plant is underground. The branches and leaves will turn into roots and create a strong plant. Do not break the stem or branches while setting it into the hole.
Fill the hole with soil and gently firm the soil around the tomato plant. Drive a 5- to 6-foot wooden stake 12 inches into the ground 3 to 4 inches from the tomato plant. As the tomato plant grows taller, tie it to the wooden stake.
Plant the rest of your tomato plants 15 to 24 inches apart. Pour 1 gallon of water on the ground around each of the tomato plants. Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of straw mulch around the plants to keep the soil warm.