To grow healthy, productive tomato plants isn't really as hard as you might think. It's easy and fun to grow your own tomatoes, and the bonus is, you'll enjoy fresh, delicious tomatoes all summer long, right from your own backyard.
- The Soil. First, you need good soil to grow tomato plants. If you don't know your own soil's makeup, you can have it analyzed for free at your local cooperative extension. Then, you can add the right blend of fertilizers and additives, like lime, or clay, to help grow the perfect tomatoes. Another solution is to buy potting soil and add it to your garden or container, and grow your tomatoes in this mineral-rich soil. If you have a compost pile, add compost to your garden soil and you should be ready to plant your tomatoes.
- The Plants. Most local garden centers carry a wide variety of tomato plants you can grow at home. If you live in a colder climate, where your summer growing season is relatively short, look for early producing varieties, like Early Girl, Better Boy, Red Rocket, or Sugar Baby. Other varieties you may see at your local garden store may be Brandywine, Beefsteak, Celebrity, or many heirloom varieties. When you grow tomatoes, be sure to plant several different varieties that mature at different times, so you'll have tomatoes throughout the growing season. You should expect to pay around $4.00 for plants, although heirlooms may be a little bit more.
- Planting the Tomatoes. Be sure to dig a deep hole and bury your tomatoes deep into the ground. You can bury the first set of leaves; this will help form a strong and healthy root system. Be sure to give your transplanted plant a good drink as soon as you plant it, this will help keep it from going into transplant shock. You should use about a gallon of water per plant.
- Space the Plants. Growing tomatoes is easy, but don't forget that small plants grow into mature plants, and they need space to grow. If you're going to grow your tomatoes spread out on the ground, plant your plants at least 3 feet from each other to give them plenty of room to spread. If you're going to grow tomatoes with tomato cages, you only need to plant them about 18-inches apart, but don't forget you need to have room between the plants so you can work around them.
- Watering. Water with about two cups of water for two weeks after you plant, and then water two to three times a week with about a total of 2 gallons of water, but you need to water more if it's really hot or dry in your area.