With ample sunlight and plenty of water, you’ll be able to grow six-foot-tall tomato plants covered with plump, juicy tomatoes!
Keep in mind that tomatoes take time to grow (45-90 days), so be patient. You’ll have delicious tomatoes sprouting from your garden soon enough!
Buy your tomato seeds! You can purchase a pack of seeds for less than $2 at your local hardware store. When buying seeds, consider purchasing several varieties of tomatoes rather than a single type so that you can determine which variety works best in your climate. Some common tomato types to start with are: Better Boy, Creole, Brandywine and Lemon Boy.
Don’t immediately plant your seeds in the ground. Instead, let your seeds sprout indoors (you can keep them in a cup, egg carton or even an eggshell!) for about a month before bringing them into the garden. To learn how to start seedlings, read: Plant the Seed: A Potless Approach To Spring Gardening.
When you’re ready to plant your seedlings in the garden, choose a sunny spot. You want your tomatoes to receive at least eight hours of sunlight each day for optimal taste, size and consistency.
Before you plant your seeds, prepare your garden bed by adding compost. Tomatoes grow best in soil with organic matter, so use your compost bin, store-bought compost or store-bought composted manure. You can usually find composted manure for less than $5 per 40-pound bag. If you’re interested in starting to compost, read: Make a Compost Bin. Note: Avoid lawn fertilizer with tomatoes; the high amount of nitrogen will grow a lot of leaves but not a lot of fruit. Also, be careful not to over-fertilize your plants, which can cause plants to grow too quickly, leaving them susceptible to disease and insects.
Now it’s time to plant! Bury your seedling plants so the dirt covers up 50 to 75 percent of the stalk. Don’t hesitate to bury leaves and small sprouts, because new roots will emerge along the buried stem.
When you’re spacing your plants, place them 18 to 36 inches apart. If you live in an especially warm climate, space them 9 to 18 inches apart. You want them closer together in warm climates because the plants shade each other’s fruit, helping to prevent burns.
Tomatoes need a lot of water! Give each plant about one gallon of warm water within ten minutes of planting it.
Continue to water your plants! We recommend at least 16 ounces of warm water per plant, every day. Note: If your soil gets soggy, hold off on watering until it dries. Soggy soil will smother the roots and can cause fungus growth.
As your tomato vines grow, they will have a hard time standing on their own. We recommend supporting your tomatoes for two reasons: 1) Insects and bugs on the ground will rapidly ruin your tomatoes. 2) Your tomatoes won’t get as much air and sun if they’re on the ground or in the shade. There are a number of ways to support your tomatoes, such as stakes, trellises and cages. To learn more, read: Garden Desk.
You’ll start to see small, green tomatoes about 45 to 90 days after planting seedlings in the ground. You’ll know when they’re ready to pick because they’ll be red, ripe and slightly soft. Enjoy!