Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown in the home garden today, and for good reason. The flavor of fresh ripe tomatoes from the garden is far better than from those in grocery stores. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes. Some are better for using on sandwiches, such as beefsteak tomatoes, while others are better for sauces, pastes and salsas, such as Napoli and Romas. The tomato is a warm-season perennial, grown as an annual. If you’ve never grown tomatoes before, plant more than one variety to find your favorite.
Choose a location that has full sun and is protected from strong winds. Purchase healthy tomato plants in the varieties you will like to eat, and prepare to plant them in the garden when the soil has warmed, usually late spring or early summer.
Prepare the garden area by removing the top layer of lawn grass and weeds with a shovel. Then place a 2-inch layer of compost and 1-inch layer of sphagnum peat moss over the soil and till in well to a depth of 1 foot.
Spread a complete fertilizer low in nitrogen over the bed and work into the soil with a hoe. Rake the bed out level and water the area thoroughly. Water every other day for two weeks and remove any weeds that have grown.
Dig holes for the tomato plants 18 inches apart with rows 2 feet apart. This will allow the plants room to grow and air flow to keep the foliage dry and disease-free. Put a stake at each hole. Doing so now will prevent any damage to the plants' root system after they are planted.
Place the tomato plants in the holes at the same level they were in the containers, or completely cover peat pots with soil. Hand press the soil tightly around the plant and use at least two landscape ties to attach the plants to the stakes. The stakes will hold the plants up when the heavy tomatoes start to mature.
Water thoroughly after planting and keep the soil moist for the first week. Tomato plants require an inch of water a week in June and 2 inches a week in July and August. Irrigate on a regular schedule to keep the soil evenly moist. It should never be completely dry or overly soggy.
Spread a 2-inch layer of bark or clean straw mulch around the plants. This will keep weeds from growing, help to retain moisture and keep the tomatoes from sitting on the ground when they grow large.
Apply a tomato plant fertilizer as soon as you see flowers, again when the tomatoes are the size of grapes, and one more time right after you pick your first tomato. Follow manufacturer’s direction on amount of fertilizer to use.