How to Plant a Tomato


It's easy to grow delicious, fresh tomatoes in your summer vegetable garden. Whether you plan to use tomatoes for fresh salsa, fried green tomatoes, or simply sliced on top of fresh garden greens, you have your choice of hundreds of types of tomatoes. If you start tomatoes from seed, you'll have many more choices of varieties over those that are available in nurseries.

Planting Tomatoes

Step 1

Wait until after your final spring frost to plant tomatoes. Although you can plant them when nighttime temperatures are still around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, plants will not begin to set fruit until night temperatures are 55 degrees or higher on a regular basis.

Step 2

Choose healthy, robust plants if you purchase young tomato plants. Avoid those with yellow leaves, or those whose leaves are speckled.

Step 3

Dig a hole that is at least two shovel spades deep because tomatoes have an extensive root system that needs plenty of deep, rich soil. Allow 3 feet between planting holes.

Step 4

Mix at least two shovelfuls of combined compost and peat moss with the soil you dug out.

Step 5

Refill your planting hole to within 3 inches of the top with the amended soil, leaving an indented basin where you will plant your tomato plant. This allows you to flood the base of your plant when you water it.

Step 6

Put your young tomato into your prepared soil gently, being careful not to break off or damage the roots. If the main stem is leggy or tall, you can bury it to within 2-3 inches of the bottom set of leaves: roots will form along the sides of this buried stem. Gently pat the soil around the base of the plant.

Step 7

Provide a wire tomato cage or other means of support for your plant. A support will keep the forming fruit off the ground and safe from moisture, which will cause it to rot, as well as keeping it away from snails and slugs, which love to eat this juicy treat.

Step 8

Water your newly planted tomato well by flooding the basin in which it is planted. Continue to water your plants thoroughly, at least twice each week, until they begin forming blossoms. At that time, cut back on water---you can wait until your plants begin to wilt before you water them again. This encourages fruit development over excess foliage growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not smoke tobacco in the vicinity of tomato plants because it can introduce a virus called tobacco mosaic. Never overhead water tomatoes because their leaves, flowers and fruit can mildew and rot.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomato seedling(s)
  • Compost
  • Peat moss
  • Sunny location
  • Shovel


  • University of Illinois Extension
  • Growing tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Seed source
Keywords: tomatoes planting, vegetable gardening, seeds starting

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.