Tomatoes are among the most popular vegetable plant grown by home gardeners. They are native to South and Central America and were thought to be poisonous by early colonizers to America. For the last 200, years they have been a staple of healthy diets, giving us a good source of vitamin C. Tomatoes are easy to grow and supply an abundant crop. One plant is capable of producing 8 to 10 pounds of tomatoes
Tomatoes grow well in any common garden loam if it provides good drainage. Good, healthy garden loam is dark in color and crumbly to the touch. Do not plant tomatoes when soil is wet or sticks to garden tools. Wait for the spring warmth above 60 degrees F, and you will get good root growth. If your garden soil appears too heavy and clay-like, add peat moss, leaf mold or compost. Mix the additives into the soil with a shovel, turning it over to a depth of 12 inches. Continue to check for a crumbly texture that falls easily off the shovel. It is the crumbly texture that indicates soil that will drain well.
Many gardeners keep a compost pile and have a ready supply of rich decayed plant material to add to garden soil. Using composted soil to grow tomatoes can also reduce insect and pest problems by keeping plants at optimum health. There are many brands of commercial compost equipment for sale at garden centers and do-it-yourself stores. Dig your composted soil into the ground before you plant seeds or purchased tomato plants, allowing a day or two for it to "settle." After your tomatoes begin to grow, you can continue to add composted soil around the plants once a month. Compost used this way is also a fertilizing mulch.
Growing tomatoes in a container is easy and rewarding, but care must be taken to provide good soil and good drainage. Fill the container with a good grade of commercial potting soil or your own composted soil. Both will get the tomatoes off to a good healthy start. As they grow, you will need to replenish the nutrients normally lost in watering. This can be done by adding more potting soil or compost as mulch. Apply additional compost when plants are 1 foot high and continue to apply at two-week intervals. Soil around the growing plants should continue to look dark and rich and not "leached." Grey-looking soil indicates lack of nutrients.