Tomato plants are a popular choice for the home gardener because they are fairly easy to grow and produce plenty of fresh tomatoes. Start tomato plants from seed, or buy young plants from a garden store or plant nursery. Start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before planting, or plant seedlings immediately. Whether you start your tomatoes from seed or buy plants from the store, choosing the right location and preparing your soil will give your young tomatoes the best start possible.
Start your seeds inside about two months before planting, in mid-to-late March for most climates. Fill small seedling pots or peat pots 2/3 full of potting soil and press one or two seeds per pot about ½ inch below the soil. Cover the seeds with dirt and water the pots thoroughly. Make sure plastic or metal seedling pots have holes in the bottom for water drainage. Soak peat pots thoroughly. If you are planting seedlings, skip to step three.
Place your small pots in a tray to catch any water drainage, and cover the tray with plastic wrap or a clear plastic bag. The plastic will keep the environment warm and moist, which will encourage germination. Place the plant in a sunny room and add water when the soil looks dry, keeping peat pots constantly moist. Remove the plastic wrap or bag when you see small seedlings poking through the soil. Continue watering the seedlings until it's time to plant.
Prepare your garden soil the week before planting. Choose a sunny location for your tomatoes; if you live in a very hot climate, choose a spot with partial shade. Add 1 lb. of 5-10-10 fertilizer for every 100 square feet of soil. Mix the fertilizer into the top layer of soil.
Plant your seedlings when each plant has at least two leaves. Wait until outside temperatures are consistently between 65 and 70 degrees F and there is no danger of frost. Use a hand shovel to dig a hole for each plant, leaving 2 to 3 feet of space between each hole. Your hole should be deep enough to fully cover the plant's root system, or about the size of the plant's current container. Dig holes in straight rows for easier care and harvesting.
Loosen each plant from its pot by placing your hand around the stem and turning the pot upside down. Plant peat pots in the ground along with the seedlings. Place the plant or peat pot in its hole, and cover the roots with soil. Gently press the soil around the stem, and water your plants thoroughly.