How to Plant Tomatoes

The Snarky Gardener shows you how to plant tomatoes
Beefsteak Tomato ready to be planted

With spring looking to summer, thoughts turn to planting frost sensitive tomatoes. The best time to put these little guys into the ground is when the soil has warmed up and all chance of frost has passed. Of course, one cannot tell the future, but mid-May on is generally considered safe. If you do plant and then there is a freeze or frost warning, covering the plants with straw/leaf mulch or blankets should give them enough protection.

River digging tomato plant holes
Hole dug and ready for planting

Tomatoes are special in that their stems will grow roots if they come in contact with soil, so dig down enough to cover the stem up to the first set of true leaves.  This will allow the tomato to receive all the water and nutrients it needs.  Plus it will be easier to cover them if the weather turns cold (being shorter and all).  I usually dig my holes ahead of time and plant either on a cloudy day or in the evening so not to stress them.

As you can see above, I use the “Terrier” digging method, but you can also use a shovel, Before placing your plant in the hole, you may want to add some extra fertilizer or other materials to the hole.  Some experts recommend adding Epsom salts as they contain magnesium and sulfate.  Others recommend egg shells with their needed calcium.  I tend to use “dynamic accumulators” – plants that collect and store minerals.  My favorites are comfrey (pictured below), dandelions, and mustard greens.  I just remove the leaves I need and bury them.

Comfrey – a dynamic accumulator
Tomato planted so first true leaves are almost touching the ground

Once planted and watered, you should add some support, whether it be a tomato cage, fence, or stake.  Some tomatoes (called determinate) don’t need much as they only get a few feet tall (like Roma for example).  Putting in support now means you won’t be piercing roots later as the plant matures.  As you can see below, I make my own cages out of steel fencing.  These totally surround the plant and are 6 feet tall, providing support for most varieties of indeterminate tomatoes.  The other positive of this system is that peas can be grown up the cages to give more food production plus nitrogen fixing for future crops.

Cage around the tomato plant
Cage around the tomato plant

One other technique I stumbled upon is to grow tomatoes on the north side of an east-west steel fence (behind the caged tomato in the above picture).  As the plants grow up, I weave the branches in and out of the wire, thus eliminating the need to use ropes or other bindings to keep the plant from falling over.

Tomato plant later in the season


3 thoughts on “How to Plant Tomatoes”

  1. I’m putting mine in this morning, too. It’s supposed to be cloudy/rainy, so my little plants won’t cook in the hot sun where I’m putting them. I’ll keep some row cover handy in case it gets really windy or temps fall below 40.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s