How to Care for a Tomato Plant

Overview

The tomato plant is a plant that is native to South America. It reaches heights from 3 to 5 feet tall and produces a fruit that is usually bright red in color. The flowers of the tomato plant are yellow and often grow in groups of three to 10. Tomatoes thrive in hot climates in bright sun. Tomatoes were once thought of as being poisonous and grown strictly as ornamental until President Thomas Jefferson ate fresh tomatoes while in Paris and he sent some seeds home to the United States.

Step 1

Water your tomato plants at least twice a week with 6 to 8 inches of water. Do not allow the soil to dry out between watering. This will cause rot in your tomatoes. Instead keep the soil continuously moist.

Step 2

Apply a layer of mulch at least six inches thick at the base of the tomato plant. This will help hold in moisture, will keep the soil warm and weeds to a minimum. Early research conducted by the USDA and Clemson University has found that red plastic mulch encourages tomatoes to produce 20% more fruit.

Step 3

Fertilize your tomatoes about a week after they have been planted.. Use a 5-10-10 fertilizer and apply a ring approximately one foot from the base of the tree. Place 2 inches of topsoil on top of the fertilizer, cover with mulch and water the entire area. Fertilize the tomato plants, following the method above, every 2 to 3 weeks. This will provide the plants with continuous nutrients.

Step 4

Use tomato cages to keep the tomato plants from bending and laying on the ground. This will keep the fruit from lying directly on the ground and suffering from rot. Tomato cages are simply round wire, tall baskets with no lid that sits down on top of the plant. As the plant grows it will grow on the wire and will not need staking or supporting.

Step 5

Support your tomato plants with stakes if you do not have cages. Drive a long, skinny piece of wood into the ground and use string to tie the tomato plant to the stake. This will keep the plant from drooping on the ground and will keep the plant from bending and breaking.

Step 6

Prune the leaves from your tomato plants in the late fall when the weather begins to get warm. This will provide the tomatoes that are left with the greatest amount of sunshine. Warmth is what makes the tomatoes ripe so you will want them to get the full benefit of the sun. Pruning the leaves will help prevent shade on the fruit.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer

References

  • Tomato Garden Care
  • Growing Tomatoes
Keywords: tomato plants, caring for tomatoes, growing tomatoes

About this Author

Melanie Hammontree has a master's in business and is working on a master's in journalism from the University of Tennessee. She is a member of the Society for Porfessional Journalists and has been writing for five years. Works include publications with Hall County Crime Examiner, Player's Press and The Gainesville Times.