Gardening is a great way to have access to fresh food all summer long and I think tomatoes are essential in every garden! While they grow without much hassle, there are a couple of tips that will help you get the most fruit possible off of every plant and it all starts with learning how to plant tomatoes the right way. These tips are so easy they fit perfectly with my lazy gardening ideals!
I’m no master gardener, but I am a perfectionist and very thorough in my research when I decide to tackle a project. It was no different when I decided to start gardening! As a result of all my reading, watching me plant a tomato is almost like watching me make a complicated recipe in my kitchen.
I scoured books and websites trying to find all of the tips and tricks to get the most out of a small garden without it overwhelming my life.
How to Plant Tomatoes
Once you’ve figured out which variety of tomatoes you’re going to grow, and have either started your seeds indoors or purchased seedlings at a local greenhouse, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to transfer them into your garden.
If you’re planting directly into the soil and have tomato varieties that grow tall, make sure you think ahead and have something to stake them to as they grow. Varieties that stay small are great for container gardening and you can place them on your deck or patio.
When to Plant Tomatoes Outside
Tomatoes are definitely warm weather plants and will not appreciate being put outside too early! Make sure to wait until the nighttime temperatures in your area stay above 50 degrees and the risk of frost is very low. A late frost can kill the plant, so experts recommend you watch the weather forecast in late spring.
If you can check the temperature with a soil thermometer, make sure it’s above 60 degrees.
Dig a Deep Hole for the Tomato Plant
Dig your hole deep enough! You want only the top leaves of the tomato to be sticking out. You will feel like an idiot burying all those beautiful green leaves on the bottom of your plant, especially if you worked hard to grow them yourself. It’s important, though, because the plant will grow roots from the entire stem, making its gripping system stronger and feeding system able to consume more nutrients from the soil.
Plant the Tomato Sideways in the Hole
This little trick is also to help the plant send out more roots. You simply dig the planting hole so that you can place the tomato in and the stem goes along the ground. This way it has the opportunity to put roots down the whole way.
Plant your Tomato with Fertilizer
If you want the most yield, don’t skip this step! When you put proper items in the hole, you’ll have natural tomato fertilizer all season long. The extra nutrients will help the plant grow strong, tall, and bear a lot of tomatoes!
8 Things I put in my Tomato Plant Holes (Other than the Tomato Plant) for Awesome Yield:
- banana peel
- fish head/bones/eggshells
- composted manure
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ cup Espoma GardenTome organic fertilizer
- Epsom salts*
- baking soda*
- nonfat dry milk*
*Recipe for tomato blight preventer: Mix 3 cups compost, 1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk, 1/2 cup Epsom salts, and 1 Tbsp baking soda. Sprinkle a handful into each planting hole, and put some powdered milk on the soil every few weeks throughout the growing season.
RELATED: How to Get Rid of Tomato Blight
Use a Cutworm Collar at the Base of Tomato Plants
Prevent a problem before it even starts! Certain insects sure love tomato plants, so cut the bottom out of a plastic food container like cottage cheese or sour cream, and place the remaining ring down into the dirt around your plant’s stem. The top should crest the surface by a half-inch at least. Cutworms can only travel on the surface of the dirt, so they can’t get near the plant’s stem with this barrier. (see photo below)
Most of my homemade gardening solutions and tips are from Jerry Baker’s Terrific Garden Tonics book that I checked out of the library when I decided I wanted to garden, copied what I needed and took back. I also grabbed some of his many other books, but I can’t recall which ones. My gardening tub in the garage is full of all sorts of weird stuff as a result, from tea bags and mouthwash to cheap beer and tobacco (I felt the need to explain to the cashier that this purchase was for my garden!).
The Best Watering System for Tomatoes
My Grandpa’s tomato planting tip is the most brilliant way to water tomatoes in the world. Tomatoes don’t really appreciate their leaves getting wet, so watering at the base of the plant is important. While you are busy planting your tomatoes, go one step further and bury a plastic jug, like a milk jug, next to each plant. (Before burying, use scissors or a kitchen knife to puncture holes in it on the bottom and sides.) After the jug is buried, just fill it with water from your hose, and it goes right to the roots of the plant.
At the end of the season, you can easily string up the jugs and cutworm collars and hang them in your garage until next year.
RELATED: Growing Heirloom Tomatoes virtual course – learn everything there is to know about growing the best heirloom tomatoes in your garden!
In case I’ve done such a good job of talking up my brown thumb that you might not want tomato tips from me, they are the one thing I was absolutely successful with. Three years ago, my five plants grew nearly as big as me and twice as wide, and I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with (thankfully I’ve learned to can tomatoes)!
Want to Dig into Gardening?
I want you to imagine increasing your harvest with proven techniques that won’t consume your time.
I also want you to imagine decreasing disease and pests with time-honored crop rotation and companion planting.
Check out my dear friend Melissa’s Organic Gardening Workshop. Melissa is a 5th generation homesteader with 20 years of experience growing her own food. In fact, she raises more than half of her family’s fruits and vegetables with a day job and on only a half-acre.
She has got an amazing special going on to help you learn:
- how to naturally build healthy and organic soil at home with composting and/or cover crops
- vertical gardening to grow MORE in the same amount of space
- natural pest and disease treatment options that WORK
- how to easily work permaculture techniques into your property to take advantage of nature’s design for your food
- how to use cold frames in the spring and fall to increase your ability to grow food longer & extend your growing season (if not all year long)
- easy seed starting with vigorous seedlings that not only sprout but thrive when you plant them outdoors
- how to evaluate YOUR property and growing space to its best advantage so you don’t waste precious time, resources, and energy having to replant or move beds