Plant tomatoes the right way

Place cages at planting time

This newly planted tomato seedling is dwarfed by the tomato cage. By July, the Pineapple tomato will fill the cage and spill over the top.
This newly planted tomato seedling is dwarfed by the tomato cage. By July, the Pineapple tomato will fill the cage and spill over the top. | Source

Tomato supports for big tomatoes

By putting cages, stakes or ladders in place when the plants are small, this tomato plant  can be trained up on the supports  from the beginning.
By putting cages, stakes or ladders in place when the plants are small, this tomato plant can be trained up on the supports from the beginning. | Source

How to Plant Tomatoes

Get your tomatoes off to a good start. Planting correctly will get you juicy sun-warmed tomatoes weeks ahead of the neighbors.

Invest in your garden soil

The better the soil, the better the garden. Before you plant, while tomato plants are hardening off, get your garden soil ready to grow. Tomatoes can easily survive the coming days of sun and drought if they well grounded in good soil.

→ Garden Goal: well draining soil with plenty of water holding capacity.

The best way to improve soil is by adding organic matter. Humus can hold 80–90% of its weight in moisture. The increased soil capacity helps your tomato plants withstand summer's drought conditions.

Buy bagged, composted animal manures, peat moss from bogs, or organic mulch. Or, use leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, grass clippings, or kitchen scraps. Some coffee shops giveaway used coffee grounds.

Work these materials into the soil. It is difficult to imagine that any home gardener can add too much organic matter. Add organic materials now. Once the tomatoes are planted, disturb the soil as little as possible.

If a soil test indicates that you need to add N, P or K, incorporate one of the following: blood meal (nitrogen), bone meal (phosphorus) and greensand (potassium). The biggest problem in a vegetable patch is over fertilization. Only apply as is recommended. Work all organic matter and fertilizers into the soil to prevent burning or stunned.

Harden off plants

Use these guidelines if you buy tomato plants or start the plants from seed. If you buy plants that have been outdoors, exposed to full days of sunshine and spring showers, the store has done some of the hardening off for you. Use an accelerated schedule acclimating the plants.

Harden off tomato plants in 7 - 10 days → This will prevent sunburn or windburn.

Starting tomatoes from seed or buying them, this is a good place to start

Plant tomatoes deep

Bury the roots and stem, leaving only one or two sets of leaves above ground. Roots develop along the covered stem.
Bury the roots and stem, leaving only one or two sets of leaves above ground. Roots develop along the covered stem. | Source

Tomatoes are different

Planting tomatoes is different than planting other vegetables. These first planting steps could put you days ahead in the quest for the first ripe and juicy tomato. Seedlings are ready to plant outdoors when they are 6 or 7 inches tall.

Cloudy days are the best for transplanting tomatoes. Pinch off all the lower leaves. Only the very top and one set of leaves should remain.

Dig a hole 2” deeper than the entire tomato plant. Add a handful of crushed eggshells to the bottom of the planting hole. (Optional) Cover eggshells with an inch or two of soil.

Mix a trowel full of compost into the remaining soil. Replace enough soil so that only the top three or four inches of the plant is exposed. More new roots will grow along the deep-planted stem.

Firm the soil around the plant. Space heirloom tomato plants three feet apart. Plant determinate or bush type tomato plants two feet apart.

To prevent root damage, place stakes or cages around tomatoes when the tomatoes are planted. Thoroughly water the newly planted tomato vines. Once the summer heat arrives, heavily mulch around the tomato plants.

Favorite Heirloom tomatoes

Black Tomatoes
Yellow tomatoes
Paste
Black Krim
Gold Medal
Amish Paste
Black Cherry
Yellow Pear
Jersey Giant Paste
Paul Robeson
Hillbilly
Principe Borghese Plum
These heirloom tomatoes are best started from seed or buy starter plants from a local tomato plant grower for the best results.

Plant basil with tomatoes

Basil and tomatoes is a well known flavor combination. They are also excellent companion plants, each encouraging the other to grow.

Grow basil with tomatoes

Each plant enhances the growth of the other. Basil and tomatoes are classic companion plants and a favorite culinary combo.
Each plant enhances the growth of the other. Basil and tomatoes are classic companion plants and a favorite culinary combo. | Source

Companion planting with tomatoes

Tomatoes love basil and basil loves tomatoes. Growing together increases the vigor and flavor of both the tomatoes and basil.

Spinach, lettuce, arugula will grow best shaded by the growing tomato plants. Chives, onion, parsley and carrots are also compatible with the tomatoes.

Nasturtiums help deter whitefly and aphids. Marigolds deter nematodes from tomatoes. Their bold fragrance can also confuse other insect pests. At the end of the season, chop up marigolds and till them into the soil.

Tomatoes with less acid

Red and yellow tomatoes have similar acidity levels. Yellow tomatoes tend to contain more sugar than red tomatoes. Yellow tomatoes taste sweeter (less acidic) than red tomatoes.

Low-acid tomatoes are more a matter of taste than real chemical composition. You think a tomato with a high sugar to acid ratio tastes less acid. In fact, there is not much difference in the acid levels.

Yellow tomatoes generally have more sugar. Therefore, they have a sweeter, less acid taste.

Non-red tomatoes, pink or yellow, do contain less acid than red tomatoes. But the measurable difference it is a very slight.

A tomato high in acid but low in sugars has a more acid taste. A tomato high in sugars and low in acids will taste sweet. If a tomato is low in both acids and sugars, it has a bland taste.

Most people say the best tasting tomato is a combination of high levels of acids and high levels of sugars.

BLT - The reason for bacon

This is a Persimmon tomato. So named for it's color. A very flavorful heirloom. Always keep bacon in the fridge during tomato season.
This is a Persimmon tomato. So named for it's color. A very flavorful heirloom. Always keep bacon in the fridge during tomato season. | Source

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21 comments

Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 21 months ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thelma Alberts Consider container gardens for your tomatoes. Even a 5 gallon bucket (like a paint or pickle bucket) is big enough. Just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Good luck and happy gardening.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 21 months ago from Germany

I love tomatoes and I have tried planting tomatoes but not successful. Thanks for sharing the tips.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

I grow full sized tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets on the patio. Would love to hear how your patio harvest turns out. There are also container variety zucchini and cucumbers.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I love tomatoes and your post has reminded me that I can grow them on my patio. I agree, tomato is one reason I enjoy a good BLT. Thanks for the tips.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

MsDora, thank you for your kind words. I hope we have our best tomato season ever. I appreciate you support.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

I appreciate the details about planting tomatoes and even about companion planting. Thank you for sharing your expertise. Voted Up and Shared!


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Temperature extremes are a way of life now. Consistent water or rain can prevent blossom end rot. Mulching is the best thing we can do for our tomatoes. Thank you.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Your article made me feel more at ease about planting in the drought--Thank you!


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

I appreciate, your comments. Thank you. Can't wait until we can get our tomatoes in the ground.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

It'll soon be time to get those tomatoes going. This is just in time, thanks for the good tomato-growing advice!


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you voting up and sharing. Please ask, if I can answer and questions.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

I had a bumper harvest of tomatoes last year but I haven't tried the black variety, looks very interesting. Very good information, voting up and sharing.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you for your kind words. A green thumbs up to you.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you. This long cold spell makes me order too much seed. A green thumbs up to you.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you for your kind words. I hope we have our best tomato garden ever.


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you for your kind words. I hope we have our best tomato garden ever. This long cold spell makes me order too much seed. A green thumbs up to you.


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 2 years ago from Texas

Awesome tips Patsy for those who garden and for beginners!


Patsybell profile image

Patsybell 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO Author

Thank you, mgeorge1050, I'd be happy to answer any questions you have along the way. Good luck and great tomatoes!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 2 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Aw . . . a tomato is a perfect reason for bacon! I love homegrown tomatoes but often don't have much luck with my black thumb. LOL. So I guess I need to start preparing the soil in my raised beds now, huh? Okay, the next warm day, I will get to it!!! Thanks for the info. This is very helpful.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I like tomatoes and your ideas are most helpful in planting the juicy fruit.


mgeorge1050 profile image

mgeorge1050 2 years ago from West Georgia

Great article, lots of information. I always have problems with my tomatoes. Maybe I will have better luck this year by using some of your tips. Thanks

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    Patsy Bell Hobson (Patsybell)214 Followers
    113 Articles

    I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, Master Gardener emeritus.



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