The best reason for learning how to plant tomatoes is that vine-ripened tomatoes taste better than the commercial varieties found in supermarkets. And with over 300 varieties to choose from, there is a tomato for every taste and purpose.
When you are learning how to plant tomatoes it is important to first determine which variety should you plant? It depends how much space you have, the amount of sun that space receives daily (six hours is ideal), when you want your tomatoes – early, mid, or late season, and what you will use them for: salads, sandwiches, canning, or cooking.
Seed catalogs and seedling tags provide descriptions of each variety. Characteristics to look for include: Indeterminate or determinate
Indeterminate plants grow and produce fruit until the first frost and are larger than determinate plants, which grow to a specific length. Indeterminate plants must be staked. Their abundant foliage protects fruit from sun scalding and temperature extremes. It also lets fruit ripen more slowly, producing sweeter tomatoes.
Determinate varieties do not require staking and produce all their fruit within a short (two-three weeks) time. They are good for canning, container gardening and for gardeners with limited space.
The taste and texture of tomatoes depends on the proportion of walls, or meat, to seeds and gel. Thick-walled, plum tomatoes are ideal for canning and cooking. Slicing tomatoes, for sandwiches, must also be fairly thick-walled and not too juicy. Cherry tomatoes, with more gel and thin skins, are good for salads. Early, main crop or late season
Tomato plants produce fruit from 50 to 85 days after seedlings are planted. Some gardeners plant each variety and pick fruit from early summer to early fall.
One of the most important aspects of learning how to plant tomatoes revolves around knowing how much space you must allow for each plant. When plotting your garden, allow four square feet of soil for each plant. Staked plants can be planted two to three feet apart, with four to five feet between rows. Unstaked plants require slightly more space. Once lines are drawn and the ground is workable, usually in mid-April, begin cultivating the soil.
Seedlings can be planted from late May to mid-June, in cultivated soil. One and a half to two inches of the stem should be covered.
To avoid damaging the mature root system, indeterminate varieties should be staked when you plant them. Bamboo or metal poles, wire cages, and trellises make good stakes; they support heavy vines, keep fruit off the ground, where it is likely to rot and be attacked by insects, and raise tomatoes closer to the sun. Seven-foot stakes should be sunk one foot deep and tied to the plant with soft material, such as cotton cloth or string, which won’t cut the plant stem.
Getting the right amount of water is important when you are learning how to plant tomatoes. New seedlings should be watered daily to prevent wilting. As the plant matures, mulched plants need watering every 10-14 days; unmulched plants, every five-six days. If there has been little rain, water more frequently.
Tomato plants need deep-root watering. To save time, place a flat sprinkler hose parallel to the tomatoes. Turn the faucet until a slow trickle of water comes out next to each plant stem, and water for three to four hours. Or punch holes in the bottom of 46-ounce can, remove the top, sink the can into the soil next to each seedling and fill the can with water.