Imagine the satisfaction of stepping outside into your own garden to harvest a fresh tomato for your salad or sandwich. Also used for sauces, soups and juice, the versatile and nutritious tomato is high in vitamins C and A plus lycopene, an antioxidant. The easiest way to grow tomatoes at home is from nursery-grown tomato plants. The nursery plants may be less than 6 inches tall and sold in trays of six or nine plants, or the tomato plants may be 6 to 12 inches tall and sold as individual plants.
Choose a sunny location that receives at least six hours of sunshine. The soil should drain well.
Till the soil with a rototiller. For a smaller garden, a shovel can be used to dig down about 8 inches and turn the soil. Use a garden rake to break up clumps and to remove grass, weeds or rocks. Using a rake or rototiller, work in about 2 inches of organic matter, such as compost or leaf mold, if desired.
Use your fingers or a hand spade to create a hole in the soil the same width as the tomato plant container and about 1/2 inch deeper than the container's height.
Remove the tomato plant from the plastic container. Do not remove the tomato plant if it is in a biodegradable container, which resembles cardboard. The biodegradable container will decompose in the ground.
Place the plant in the hole. The soil level of the plant will be slightly lower than the surrounding ground. Cover the top of the plant with the soil removed from the hole, pressing the soil down gently with your fingertips. When planting multiple plants, set them 2 to 3 feet apart in a row.
Water after planting. Water about every seven to 10 days if there is no rainfall.
Push a tomato cage into the ground, centering the cage over the newly planted tomato. A tomato cage is a wire structure designed to support the tomato plant as it grows. A stake at least 6 feet tall and either metal or 2-inch-square wood can be used instead of a tomato cage. When using a stake, pound the stake 12 to 18 inches into the ground 3 to 4 inches from the plant. Loosely tie the tomato plant to the stake 6 inches above ground and at 6-inch intervals up the stem of the plant.
Harvest the tomatoes when they are red and firm. Twist the tomato to remove it or use clippers to cut the stem.