Tomatoes are by far the most popular vegetable (actually, it's a fruit) grown in home vegetable gardens.
There are many different ways of planting tomatoes and everyone has their own way. Many gardeners have certain rituals and techniques they use to plant tomatoes, and some even get down right religious about their methods.
There are no right or wrong ways to plant a tomato as long as the plant grows to become vigorous and productive – that's the point of planting them in the first place, right?
Let's get started!
First, I want to discuss a bit about what I use when planting tomatoes.
What You Need To Plant a Tomato Plant
In the picture above, I have the bare essentials I use to plant tomatoes into my vegetable garden.
The first item on the left is Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer. Tomato-tone is an organic, granular fertilizer that is specially formulated for growing great tomatoes. It has an NPK rating of 3-4-6 and offers millions of beneficial microorganisms.
The second item from the left is a bag of all natural cotton balls. Make sure they are natural cotton and not synthetic. I'll get to the cotton balls later in the planting process. On top of the cotton balls is a pair of scissors.
You will need something to dig the planting hole with. I like to use post hole diggers to dig the holes for transplanting tomatoes. Tomatoes need to be planted deep and the post hole diggers work perfect for digging a deep hole quickly.
Two items I use when planting tomatoes that is not pictured is fish emulsion and compost. Fish emulsion is a great natural fertilizer that will not burn plants. It has a terrible smell, but is well worth the stink. Compost is a superior soil amendment that adds organic matter to the soil.
Preparing The Planting Hole For The Tomato Plant
The first thing you need to do is determine where you will plant the tomato. Tomatoes need fertile soil with good drainage and plenty of sunlight; at least six to eight hours a day. Tomatoes should be spaced at least two feet apart to allow for maximize growth. Good spacing also helps to increase air circulation around the plants and reduces the risk of the spread of disease.
Once you have determined where your tomatoes will be planted, it is time to prepare the planting hole for the tomato transplant.
I use the post hole diggers to dig out a hole that is at least twelve to eighteen inches deep and about twelve inches wide.
After I have finished digging a deep enough hole, I add two handfuls of compost to the bottom of the hole.
I then add a handful of Tomato-tone Organic Fertilizer to the bottom of the hole and mix it into the compost well.
Once the compost and fertilizer is incorporated well, it is time to add the cotton balls.
Take four or five of the natural cotton balls and gently pull them into a long strip. Then place the cotton strips down into the bottom of the hole. The cotton will absorb water and help to keep the roots of the tomato transplant nice and moist until it becomes well established.
You can also add other useful items to the planting hole such as crushed egg shells, garden lime, pet and human hair, and even vacuum cleaner fluff. For many more useful items that are beneficial for growing tomatoes, please read – Eight Unusual Items For Fertilizing Tomatoes.
Planting The Tomato Plant
Now the planting hole is ready for the tomato plant.
Carefully remove the tomato plant from the pot, teasing the roots a bit if the plant has become root bound. Root bound is when the roots of the plant look like a big knot from being in the restrictive pot. Just take your hands and gently separate the roots at the bottom a little. They don’t need much, just a slight separation.
Place the tomato transplant into the center of the planting hole.
You want to plant the tomato deep, so only the first two sets of leaves are sticking above the soil. As you can see in the picture above, the tomato plant will be planted much deeper than it was in the pot.
With the tomato sitting in the planting hole, take the scissors and trim off any limbs that are below or at the soil level. Trim the limbs off at the stem, but avoid cutting into the stem itself. Allow the cut off limbs to fall into the planting hole. The limbs will help add organic matter to the soil as they decompose.
Adding The Watering Bottle To The Planting Hole
Use your hand, or a garden trowel, and dig a small trench on one side of the planting hole for the watering bottle.
Place the watering bottle in the trench with the lid pointing towards the roots of the tomato plant.
Finish Planting The Tomato Plant
With the watering bottle added to the planting hole, it is now time to cover the planting hole with soil and complete the planting of the tomato.
Take your hand and carefully rake the soil from the planting hole around the tomato plant. You can also use compost or potting soil to create a small hill around the tomato plant.
Make sure to pack soil around the watering bottle to keep it in place. You want the bottle to be at a 30° to 45° angle and about one to two inches or more above the soil to keep debris out.
Once you are finished covering the tomato plant with soil or compost, it is time to add the tomato stake (or tomato cage, if you prefer) and a three to five inch layer of mulch. I like using straw because it’s inexpensive, easy to move, and it breaks down easily, adding organic matter to the soil.
The last task for planting the tomato plant is watering it thoroughly and adding compost tea, or water, to the watering bottle.
That’s it! You're tomato seedling is now planted into the vegetable garden and is off to a great start!
Please share how you plant your tomatoes!
Get Your Tomatoes Started Right!