Tomato plants, like all warm-season vegetable plants, require three essential things in order to grow strong and healthy: warm temperatures, light and nutrients. Whether you choose to grow your tomato plants indoors or outdoors, in containers, or directly in your garden soil, as long as you provide your tomatoes with these three essentials in adequate quantities (and you keep the tomato plants disease and insect free) your tomato plants should reward your efforts by producing tomatoes.
In the Garden
Plant tomatoes in a sunny area of your garden, for best results. According to Clean Air Gardening, tomatoes do best with at least eight hours of sunlight per day.
Prepare your soil by tilling it with a rototiller or a spade. Add starter fertilizer to the soil after tilling. You can find these fertilizers at most garden stores. Follow directions on the label regarding mixing (some are diluted with water) and how much to apply.
Dig holes approximately 2 feet apart in a row for the tomato seedlings, as suggested by North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Rows should be 3 to 4 feet apart. The holes should be deep enough to cover the seedlings' original soil line--if purchased in plastic flats--or to cover the top of the peat pot, if purchased in these pots.
Plant each seedling in its respective hole and water it well with a garden hose. Tomatoes enjoy a lot of water--you'll need to give them at least 6 inches of water once per week, according to North Carolina Extension. However, in the hot, dry summer months you may need to water more frequently than this. If a tomato plant is drooping, it is likely dehydrated and needs water immediately.
Place tomato cages around each plant or use stakes. Some people wait until the plant gets bigger to add the stake or cage, but you'll be less likely to damage roots if you stick these in the ground now, while the plant is small. If using stakes, push it securely into the soil about 3 inches from the plant.
In a Container
Buy pots at least 12 inches in diameter for each tomato plant. It doesn't matter if the pot is plastic, concrete or terra cotta, but it should have a drainage hole in the bottom.
Fill the pots 2/3 full with potting soil. Add a starter fertilizer soil, unless the potting soil you bought already contains fertilizer (a few do).
Dig a hole in the middle of the soil for your seedling. Remove the seedling from its flat (unless you bought it in peat pots) and place the seedling in the hole. Cover it past the top of the original soil it came with. If it came in a peat pot, you don't need to remove it--just remember to cover the pot rim completely when you plant it. According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, if you fail to cover the peat pot, it will act as a drying wick and dry out the plant roots.
Water the new seedlings well, until water seeps out of the bottom drainage hole. Place a tomato stake in the pot, 3 inches away from the plant.
Move the pot to a sunny location of your yard or home. Check the plant daily to see if it needs watering (if soil is dry an inch or 2 down beneath the surface, it needs watering).
About this Author
Corey M. Mackenzie is a professional freelance writer with knowledge and experience in many areas. Corey received a B.A. with honors from Wichita State University and has been a writer for over two decades. Corey specializes in pets, interior decorating, health care, gardening, fashion, relationships, home improvement and forensic science. Corey's articles have appeared in Garden Guides, Travels and other websites online.