Tomatoes are a favorite garden plant, enjoying warm but not hot temperatures and lots of nutrients and moisture. Many different tomato plant varieties exist for the home garden, ranging from red to yellow fruit colors and early to late crop seasons, along with a wide range of tomato fruit sizes. Your climate and own personal preferences will dictate what kind of tomato plants to grow in your garden. Growing tomatoes in your garden will take some preparation and ongoing care, but you'll be rewarded with fresh, delicious tomatoes in the summertime.
Planting Your Garden Tomatoes
Plant tomatoes in your garden after all danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures are warmer than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Select a planting spot in your garden that receives full to partial sunlight and has deep, well-draining soil.
Prepare the soil about two weeks prior to planting the tomatoes by loosening it to a depth of about 12 inches using a rototiller or pitchfork. Spread a 2-inch layer of organic compost on top of the soil bed and mix it into the soil down at least 6 inches.
Mix into the garden soil 2 ½ to 3 pounds of a 5-10-10 NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium) fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden area. Work the fertilizer evenly into the top 6 inches of soil.
Dig planting holes for your tomato plants that are the same width as, and 2- to 3-inches deeper than, the nursery containers. Space the tomato plants about 3 feet apart in rows that are 5 feet apart.
Remove the tomato plants from the nursery containers carefully, and then set the roots along with the soil into the prepared planting holes in your garden. Plant the tomatoes slightly deeper than they were in the nursery containers, with the first set of leaves just above the soil surface.
Firm down the soil around the plants using your hands. Water the tomato plants deeply to evenly moisten the soil to the depth of the plants' roots.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of straw mulch around the garden tomato plants to prevent the tomato fruits from laying and rotting on the soil. You can also use black plastic sheeting.
Caring for Your Tomato Plants
Water your garden tomatoes evenly two or three times each week throughout the spring and summer, moistening the soil moderately to the depth of the plants' roots. Don't allow the soil to dry out, but instead provide constant, even moisture.
Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of well-rotted, aged manure, or 1 tbsp. of ammonium nitrate per plant, along the tomato plant rows to "sidedress" the plants. Apply the sidedressing of nitrogen just as the tomato fruits form on the first flower clusters.
Keep your tomato plants free of weeds in your garden. Pull weeds by hand or hoe the weeds shallowly to avoid disturbing the tomato plants' roots.