Tomatoes are one of the most valuable crops to grow at home – not because of their cost but because you can grow varieties that the shops do not sell. Tomatoes selected for thin skins and flavour rather than the ability to travel and shelf life.
This article by Michael Russell somewhat amended covers planting tomatoes outdoors.
To begin with, tomatoes need a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight each day to grow well, and full sunlight is recommended especially if you live in the more northern cooler climates.
Soil pH for Tomatoes
The soil should be well drained with a pH of around 6.0 to 6.8 in cooler climates.
Plant your tomatoes in the spring well after the last frost and frost danger is past. Of course there is always going to be that freaky April day where temperatures dip below 32 (0 deg C) but these days will be very rare.
In hot climates, try to plant your tomatoes when temperatures begin to drop in the early fall.
The tools and materials you’re going to need for planting your tomatoes are compost, a trowel, garden fork or tiller, plant supports such as cages and stakes, and plant ties.
Harden Off Before Planting Tomatoes
First thing you’ll need to do is prepare the plants. In order to harden transplants to the elements, give them at least a week to ten days of transition time between indoor and outdoor growing conditions.
Start off by placing the plants in dappled shade and make sure they’re protected from strong winds. Make sure you bring them in the house at night.
As time goes by, gradually give them more exposure to the sun and wind. Eventually you’ll be able to leave them out overnight. If it looks like there is going to be a frost, bring them back inside.
Prepare the Soil
Next thing you have to do is prepare the soil. Mix the soil with composted manure until it’s loose for at least six to eight inches into the ground. Mix the soil with a rototiller or garden fork. Test the pH of the soil. If the test shows that the pH needs to be adjusted, add limestone or sulfur as is needed to achieve a pH around 6 to 6.5.
After the soil is prepared, you can transplant. Bury the tomato stems up to the plant’s second set of leaves, digging a ten to eighteen inch deep hole, if you need to. Fill up the hole with amended soil. Eventually, roots will form along the buried stem. Wrap a newspaper collar around the stems to protect the plants from cutworms.
Finally, you need to install support. You’ll have a number of options for staking tomatoes. There is however, one method that is most common. In this method you’ll position wire cages over the plants.
Use five feet tall galvanized wire mesh and make cages twelve to thirty inches in diameter. You’re going to need about three feet of mesh for every foot of diameter. Fasten the cages to short stakes driven into the ground so that they don’t fall over.
Keep your tomatoes well watered through the growing season so you don’t end up with disfigured fruits.
Finally, fertilize very carefully. Too much nitrogen will give you more foliage than fruit.
Further Information: Tomato Growing Guides
- Types of Tomatoes – An Introduction to Tomato Growing Part 1
- Sowing and Starting off Tomatoes – Introduction to Tomato Growing Part 2
- Growing Tomatoes in a Tomato Grow-house (Mini-Greenhouse)
- Growing Tomatoes in a Greenhouse
- Growing Tomatoes in the Greenhouse Border
- Growing Tomatoes in Pots or Grow Bags in the Greenhouse
- Growing Tomatoes by Ring Culture
- Growing Tomatoes in Straw Bales
- Growing Tomatoes Outdoors
- Planting & Growing Tomatoes Outdoors
- Growing Patio Tomatoes – Dwarf Bush Variety Patio Tomatoes
- Water Requirements for Tomatoes
- Ideal Temperatures for Growing Tomatoes
- Removing Tomato Side Shoots (Suckers) & Stopping Tomatoes
- Best Tomato Varieties – My Top Tasty Tomato Picks
- Heirloom Tomatoes (Heritage Tomatoes)
- Best Tomatoes for Greenhouse Growing
- Tomato Troubles & Diseases | Causes & Cures of Tomato Problems
- Raising Tomato Plants from Seed