Tomato plants represent one of the most gratifying vegetables that can be planted in the home garden. Plants produce prolific fruit with basic care and proper soil preparation. Learning how to plant a tomato involves choosing a healthy plant from the outset. Adding soil conditioners improves the output of the plant. Tomato plants come in a wide variety of types that produce both large and small fruits. All tomato plants require full sun, plenty of water and high quality soil for healthy plant growth.
Choose a healthy, sturdy six to eight inch tall plant with bright green leaves from the nursery. Plants should have no dead growth and the soil in the planting container should be moist. Infrequent watering will produce leggy plants with drooping leaves that don’t have the strength to produce flowers for eventual fruiting.
Plan locations in an existing, prepared garden bed. Soil should be amended the previous year with peat moss and compost worked into the top 10 to 12 inches of soil. Allowing the garden to sit over the winter months gives the organic matter time to break down hard clay soil, blend with existing soil to improve drainage and improve soil content.
Space tomato plants two to four feet apart in rows with rows spaced at least three feet apart. You'll eventually be staking or caging these tomato plants as the fruit appears to provide support. Allow plenty of room for air circulation around each plant. Some gardeners prefer to plant vegetables on a cloudy, cool day to limit transplant stress for the plant.
Dig a hole about four inches deep, relative to the size of the transplant container. Place the soil beside the planting hole and throw a few handfuls of compost onto the soil pile. Mix it together using a trowel. An extremely leggy or bent tomato can have more of the stem planted in the soil to encourage upright growth. Simply lay the plant sideways with the top of the plant growth pointing upward.
Fill in around the plant, firming the soil to remove air pockets. The soil should be mounded around the base of the tomato plant.
Insert a stake into the soil near the plant. This will make securing the plants easier when fruit appears. If you're using garden trellises, it's easier to place the round support around a smaller plant.
Water deeply directly into the soil around the base of the tomato plant. Avoid getting the leaves wet. It's best to use a soaker hose that slowly releases water into the soil to ensure plenty of water reaches the tomato plant roots.