Tomatoes are one of the easiest to grow garden vegetables. Though Europeans originally thought this South American native was poisonous, it became one of the most popular vegetables grown in the home garden. Tomato fruits have a wide variety of uses, from the base of a marinara sauce to fresh eating off the vine. Plan to plant at least two plants per person for fresh eating. Plant more if you want to make sauces or preserve any of the fruits.
Choose a location that receives full sun at least 6 hours per day. Well-drained, fertile soil will give you the best results, but tomatoes are not fussy plants and you can amend the soil.
Spread a 3-inch layer of compost over the tomato bed. Till or dig the soil to at least 8 inches deep.
Decide what variety of tomatoes you want to grow. Tomatoes are available in two types: determinate and indeterminate. You can choose from many varieties suitable to your climate and desires.
Purchase tomato plants that look healthy after the last frost date for your area. Avoid plants with any discoloration on the stems or leaves. Alternately, you can grow tomatoes from seed and transplant the seedlings into the garden.
Place stakes, if you are growing indeterminate varieties and want to stake them, in the ground 8 inches deep. Space the stakes 18 inches apart.
Dig a hole deep enough that the plant can sit in it up to its leaves. Place the plant in the hole with the leaves just above soil level. Roots will grow from the buried part of the stem, and the extra depth gives the tomato access to deeper water during dry periods.
Replace half of the soil you removed. Fill the rest of the hole with water. After it settles, finish filling the hole. Water again until all of the soil settles.
Place cages or other similar support systems over the plants. Be careful to avoid the roots. Ignore this step if you have already put in stakes.
Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch over the bed. Leave a 4-inch-diameter circle around the base of the plants. Appropriate mulch materials include straw, chopped leaves or grass clippings. The mulch retains soil moisture and prevents weed growth.
Fertilize the tomato plants with a complete fertilizer at the time of planting following the manufacturer's directions.