The Q&A Archives: how do you plant tomatoes

Question: how do you plant tomatoes?

Answer: Tomatoes grow best when they receive full sunshine. Plant them away from trees and buildings to get highest yield. A tomato plant needs a lot of water, so arrange for easy watering. Select a well-drained area because poor soil aeration leads to root loss and physiological problems such as blossom-end rot.

Tomato plants grow well in many types of soil. Work the soil only when it is dry enough so it will not stick to tools. Improve garden soil by adding peat moss, leaf mold, well-rotted manure or compost. Add a complete garden fertilizer at the time the soil is prepared. For tomatoes, use a fertilizer low in nitrogen (N), high in phosphorous (P) and medium to high in potassium (K). Among the best analyses for tomatoes are 8-32-16 and 6-24-24. Avoid using ammonia fertilizers such as urea or ammonium nitrate for tomato fertilization.

Proper spacing and staking are essential for healthy plants and good fruit production.

Set tomatoes in the garden when the weather has warmed and soil temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Tomato growth is impaired by temperatures below 50 degrees.

Before planting, remove all clay pots, plastic pots or wood bands from the soil ball. Peat pots may remain. Set plants a little deeper than they were originally growing so lower leaves are next to the ground. If only "leggy" plants are available, plant them at about a 30-degree angle in a trench long enough to leave only the top 5 or 6 inches of the plant exposed. Roots will develop along the buried portion of the stem. If the plant is in a peat pot, make sure the entire pot is covered. Exposed portions of the pot will act as a wick and rapidly dry the root ball.

Tomato planting distance depends on the type of tomato grown. Generally speaking, 24 to 36 inches between plants is the ideal spacing for most home garden tomatoes. Planting closer than 24 inches reduces air circulation around the plants and can trigger disease outbreaks. Large vine tomatoes should be spaced 36 inches apart. Rows should be 4 to 5 feet apart.

Best wishes with your tomatoes!

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