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Soil Preparation for Growing Tomatoes

By Amy Hannaford ; Updated September 21, 2017
Preparing the soil helps tomato plants thrive.
tomatoe plant image by Coralie Palmeri from Fotolia.com

Growing tomatoes begins with good soil preparation to ensure that essential nutrients needed for strong, healthy plants are available in the soil. Preparation should begin a few months before it is time to plant the tomatoes, usually in early spring, which allows time for the soil to become nutrient-dense, loose and well-draining, making the environment perfect for a good crop of tomatoes. A few basic steps will help get you started as you prepare for a tomato garden.

Select a garden area that receives full sun daily. The area should be away from buildings and other plants, allowing plenty of room for the tomatoes to spread as they grow.

Till the ground as soon as it is workable and loosen down to a depth of 2 feet. Add in a bucket full of compost or peat moss and use a shovel to turn the soil, incorporating the compost in well. This provides a well-draining soil that is loose and fluffy, perfect for tomatoes, which do not like soggy soil.

Add in aged cow or chicken manure, meaning manure that is not fresh. Fresh manure contains too much nitrogen, which can burn the roots of the plant. Mix in the manure well, turning the soil over with a shovel or rake. Manure adds micro-organisms, which are beneficial for healthy tomato roots, to the soil.

Mix in a slow-release fertilizer, such as 15-15-15. Use a fertilizer meant for tomatoes and follow the directions for the right amount to apply.


Things You Will Need

  • Rototiller
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Aged manure
  • Fertilizer


  • Plant tomatoes in early or mid-May, after all danger of frost as passed.

About the Author


Amy Hannaford teaches childbirth education classes and a healthy pregnancy series in Southern Oregon. Hannaford holds an Associate of Arts degree, a certificate in medical assisting, and has been a childbirth educator and birth doula for 20 years. She has been writing articles for Demand Media since 2008.