The Complete Guide: How To Plant A Tomato

Ilona Erwin

Perhaps you are new to this, or maybe desire to go over the basics, but if you want to grow tomatoes I would like to help.

This is an in depth look at the details of actually planting your tomato transplants into the ground (or container).

In my own gardens I always grow within the vegetable garden plots, but with my grandson I planted a mini veggie garden in a large container, which he could move to a good spot in the yard.

Prepare Your Soil

Tomato seedlingsBefore you even begin to put a plant into the ground, prepare the soil to support good growth and productive fruiting.

Most plants do not need perfect conditions, but the closer to their liking, the better they grow of course.

Tomatoes like

  • Soil pH around 6.0 to 6.8
  • Organic matter, humus or compost
  • Calcium in the soil.
  • Cultivated six to eight inches deep.
  • Good drainage

I find they aren’t picky about clumps in the soil, so long as there is lots of loose organic matter. These plants can be greedy feeders, so fertility is important. Compost adds nutrients, and well buried fertilizer is a good idea. Alternatively, use a transplant fertilizer to give plants a boost before you fertilize in earnest with your “every two week” program.


If you want to grow your tomatoes from seed, see How To Care For Tomato Plants which provides 5 quick tips to start from seed.
Tomato Companions
Tomato Variety Review

Get Them Into The Ground

Whether you use a garden space, a raised bed, or a container, recommended practice is that you bury deeply so that the stem can produce extra roots. Those good root systems support a big plant and are needed to produce lots of fruit.

If in the garden, laying the stems sideways underground for some inches is a good idea, in containers just plant deeply up to the first set of leaves or so.

Stake at the beginning to reduce chance of damage to the roots.

Young vegetable plants, including tomatoes, are sometimes ruined by cutworms. I have a cheap easy trick that I use to protect the new plants. Collect toilet paper rolls, those cardboard tubes, and place one around each stem of first planted seedlings. Just gather leaves in your hand and slip the tube over the plant to cover the stem and secure the end of the tube in the soil.

For me, clay drainage pipes do the same thing, but I don’t have enough to use on my cucumbers, so I use the paper rolls for them. You can use the paper rolls for your tomatoes, peppers. squash, eggplant, and cucumber starts.

Good Soil for Container Growing

First, what not to use: don’t use garden soil. It is too heavy and compacts, and may harbor problem organisms.

Do use potting mixes. I personally like to add mushroom compost or other commercially available compost to the potting soil.

Simple instructions with pics @ Renee’s Garden

Fertilizer For Tomatoes

Organics Rx Sea Kelp 100 Seaweed Fertilizer, 32 fl. oz.

When first planting into the ground the seedling gets a shock to its system, called “transplant shock”, which cannot be avoided, but can be reduced.

Use Kelp solution, or any seaweed solution as a mild way to feed the plant and ease its way into growing in its new “digs”. (Use 1 quart per 1000 square feet annually)

Do not use regular fertilizer, or you may accidentally kill or damage your new plants.

After the plant is established and starting to grow new leaves, fertilizer of 5-10-10 or similar can be used. This means smaller amount of nitrogen (N) and larger amounts of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

Natural amendments that are good for your tomatoes:

  • Seaweed
  • you can use Epsom salts
  • Coffee grounds
  • Fish emulsion
  • Aged chicken manure
  • Bone meal

In A Nutshell

  • Plant your seedling/transplants deeply.
  • Fertile, well drained soil with organic matter is good for tomatoes.
  • Water regularly, and use kelp liquid fertilizer for transplants.
  • Protect from cutworms with collar.
  • Train up a trellis or stake.
Tomato Troubles

Finally… here is a simple trellis system to use.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.