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How to Grow Tomatoes Outdoors

By Callie Barber ; Updated September 21, 2017
Tomatoes are a popular and delicious garden crop.
tomato image by Henryk Olszewski from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Tomatoes are a summer staple in the garden for use in dishes like soups and sandwiches. Slicing tomatoes like Better Boy, Celebrity and Early Girl are old-time favorites and excellent producers. When selecting varieties, consider disease-resistance. When growing tomatoes outdoors, stick to a plan and makes sure each plant is given the right amount of nutrients, water and sunlight. Tomatoes require full sun so ensure the site receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

Purchase plants from a local nursery or greenhouse. Look for dark green, stocky stems that are 8 to 10 inches tall and have a healthy root system.

Select a well-drained area to prevent poor soil aeration that can lead to root and blossom rot. Plant the tomato away from trees and outdoor buildings to ensure a healthy plant and adequate sun.

Space the tomato plants with 24 to 36 inches between each plant to ensure proper air circulation and prevent spreading disease.

Grow the plants in neutral soil with a pH level reading of 6.5 to 7.0. If lime is needed to tweak pH, add it in late fall or early spring.

Remove the tomato from the container and shake excess mulch or soil off of the plant. Tomatoes in peat pots can remain within the pot.

With a garden spade, dig a deep hole into the soil so that the lower leaves of the plant will be near the ground. Place the plant into the ground.

Add 1 cup of complete garden fertilizer around the roots and after placing the plant into the soil. Cover the plant with the remaining soil and press firmly down to ensure the plant is properly buried.

Water the tomato plants immediately. Make sure they receive at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Soak the soil when watering the tomatoes. According to the University of Missouri Extension, frequent light watering will encourage a weak root system, so occasional thorough soakings are preferred.

Mulch around the base of the tomato plants, leaving a 2- to 3-inch-wide ring around each plant. Use straw, compost, hay or paper to prevent water evaporation.

Stake the tomatoes with a 6-foot-long piece of wood or plastic. Place the stake into the soil, 4 inches from the base of the tomato plant. Use a strip of nylon stocking or heavy string to tie the tomato plant to the stake. Allow at least ½ inch of slack for growth.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden spade
  • Complete garden fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Stake
  • Nylon stockings or heavy string


  • Container tomato plants require daily watering, as their soil to surface ratio is smaller.
  • Large-vined tomatoes like Beefmaster require a 36-inch-wide spacing.
  • If using peat pot tomatoes, make sure the entire pot is covered with dirt, therefore preventing exposed areas of the pot that act as a wick and dry out the root ball of the tomato plant.
  • Watch for signs of disease or insect infestation. Treat plants appropriately and swiftly if problems arise.

About the Author


Callie Barber has been writing professionally since 2002. Barber's love for design and writing inspired her to create Design Your Revolution, a blog that shares creative and affordable ways to decorate indoor and outdoor living environments. Her articles have appeared on Travels.com and GardenGuides.com. Barber holds a Bachelors of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina.