Being more environmentally conscious has caused people to think twice about purchasing fruits and vegetables from the local store. These items are often treated with chemicals that can be harmful to the human body. Having a home fruit and vegetable garden will save you money and provide organic food for the table. One of the first things the home gardener needs to learn is how to grow tomatoes.
Step 1: Purchase a tomato plant or buy tomato seeds. It will be easier for a first-timer to start the tomato crop from a living plant rather than seeds. The plants are inexpensive, come in several varieties, and more than one can be planted, if desired. The best kinds for new gardeners are Big Boy, Brandywine, Better Boy, Early Girl, and any grape or cherry tomato plant.
Step 2: Locate a spot within the garden that receives full sun for seven hours per day. The plant will need this much sun to yield the best tasting tomatoes.
Step 3: Add compost to the soil, combining it with the top three inches of dirt. Compost or manure can be purchased in a garden center. Refer to the directions on the tomato plant regarding the amount of compost required or follow the general rule of five to eight pounds per square foot of soil.
Step 4: Dig a hole large enough to accommodate three-quarters of the tomato plant. Bury the plant this deep, even if some of the leaves are covered. Roots will grow on these stems, providing the plant with additional support and nourishment.
Step 5: Immediately after planting, pour one gallon of warm water on the plant.
Step 6: Water the plant daily for the first seven to ten days, using 16 ounces of warm water.
Step 7: After two weeks, place mulch in a one-foot diameter around the stem of the plant. This will keep the soil moist and deter the growth of weeds.
Step 8: If the plant is not receiving between one and three inches of rain weekly, water it several times per week with one gallon of water each time. During particularly hot weather, it may be necessary to water it more frequently.
Step 9: As the tomato vine begins to grow, determine whether a stake or wire cage will be needed to support it. When fruit forms, the vine will be weighed down, so a support system is usually necessary. Stakes and tomato cages can be purchased at a garden center.
Step 10: Once the plant begins to flower, gently shake it once or twice per week in order to stimulate fruit growth. The fruit will begin growing within 90 days of planting. When the fruit is large, slightly soft, and deep red, it is ready for picking.
Step 11: If planting more than one tomato plant, space them 18 to 36 inches apart, or 9 to 18 inches apart in warmer climates.