How to Care for Tomato Plants


It is hard to beat the taste of a fresh-picked tomato right from your own vegetable garden. Tomato plants produce an abundance of these fruits when properly cared for. Provide the best growing condition possible and perform basic maintenance to your tomato plants and the results will be healthy plants that thrive. Choose tomato plants adapted for your specific region of the country for best results and spend the required time caring for them.

Step 1

Use the shovel to place 2 to 4 inches of mulch around each of the tomato plants. Do not put any of the mulch around the base of the plant. The mulch will keep weeds out and retain moisture in the soil.

Step 2

Place a tomato cage around each of the tomatoes at planting time. Use long stakes placed 3 to 5 inches from each plant or some other support, if cages are not used.

Step 3

Water each plant thoroughly after planting. Supply each plant with 2 quarts water daily and up to 4 quarts daily when plants produce tomatoes. This may be supplied weekly in place of daily through soaking the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches deep with water.

Step 4

Apply fertilizer into the soil next to each plant (side dress) when small tomatoes begin to appear. Use 2 to 3 tbsp. of fertilizer per plant.

Step 5

Re-apply the fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Do not put the fertilizer within 4 inches of the tomato plant to prevent burning.

Step 6

Check the plants for any signs of pests or disease. Look at the stem, leaves, blossoms and tomatoes for any sudden changes in color or form.

Step 7

Contact your local garden nursery or region's Extension office to identify and treat any problems found. This will vary depending on your location.

Step 8

Prune any suckers coming from the main shoot of large vine and late-season tomato varieties, if you desire smaller plants with larger tomatoes (this is not necessary). Early-season tomatoes usually grow fine without any pruning.

Step 9

Let the tomatoes ripen on the vine when temperatures remain around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Harvest the tomatoes every few days after color changes, if temperatures stay above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the tomatoes at room temperature and out of the sun to fully ripen.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune a tomato plant after it has tomatoes on it.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulch
  • Shovel
  • Tomato cages or stakes
  • Water
  • Fertilizer 10-10-10
  • Pruning shears


  • University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow: Tomato
  • North Carolina State University Extension: Growing Tomatoes for Home Use
  • University of Missouri Extension: Growing Home Garden Tomatoes

Who Can Help

  • Cornell University: Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Groiwng Tomatoes
  • Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden
  • USDA: Cooperative Extension System Offices
Keywords: best growing condition, grow tomatoes, late-season tomato

About this Author

Diane Dilov-Schultheis has been writing professionally since 2000. She is a food and travel writer who also specializes in gaming, satellites, RV repair, gardening, finances and electronics. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has been published in Southwest, Intel, TravelChannel, AmericanAirlines, Poker4Amateurs, AOL, CityGuides, Yahoo, GardenGuides and more. Dilov-Schultheis is an electronics media specialist and has a degree in Accounting.