Tomatoes grow so easily that many early Americans considered them weeds. We now know that tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, plus potassium and lycopene, an antioxidant. Tomatoes can be cut for use in salads, purÃ©ed to make tomato sauce or juice, chopped for soups, sliced for sandwiches or eaten on a plate with a little olive oil and Parmesan. One or two tomato plants can produce enough tomatoes for a family of four to dine upon all summer long.
Purchase tomato plants (seedlings) from your local garden center. The garden center may make plants available before it is actually safe to plant them. Keep the plants indoors in a sunny location until the last spring frost.
Pick a sunny location that drains well in which to plant the tomatoes. Dig down to at least 10 inches to loosen the soil. You can work about 3 inches of organic matter--like compost or leaf mold--into the soil to act as a natural fertilizer.
Rake the soil to break up any clumps and to level the area.
Remove the plant from the container. If the tomato is in a biodegradable container (may look like brown cardboard), you do not need to remove it. Those pots are made from peat or other material that will degrade underground.
Use your fingers or a hand spade to dig a hole 1 to 2 inches deeper than the dirt portion of the tomato plant.
Place the tomato plant into the hole and cover the hole with dirt, pressing lightly around the plant. The dirt will reach 1 to 2 inches up the stem of the plant. Roots will then grow from the stem, giving the tomato plant extra nourishment and balance.
Space the tomato plants 2 to 3 feet apart if planting more than one.
Make a cylindrical wire cage about 24 to 30 inches in diameter and place it around the plant to support it as it grows. Alternatively, place a sturdy stake into the ground about 2 inches from the plant. The stake should be at least 8 feet tall. Pound the stake 2 feet into the ground, so that 6 feet of stake is exposed. As the plant grows, loosely secure it to the stake at about 6-inch intervals up the trunk of the plant.
Water lightly. Plan to water at least weekly if there is no rain. In particularly dry or hot periods, watering may be necessary more than once a week. Depending on the size of the plant when it was placed in the ground, it can take from 45 to 70 days before tomatoes appear.
Harvest the tomatoes when they are firm and red. Tomato plants will continue to produce fruit until the first fall frost.