To plant tomatoes you should have already prepped your soil. (if you need some hints on this you can pop on over to my first gardening tutorial on this blog, here's the link: How to Plant Your First Garden, a step by step tutorial) I talk about how I prep my soil for planting.
Back to planting tomatoes: You will want to obtain some good looking tomato plants from a local nursery (or if you want you can start your own, either in your house with grow lights or in a green house.) When you get your plants it's important to "harden them off" this means gently expose them to sun, warm and cool temperatures before planting them in the ground. (Some nurseries may harden them off for you, but make sure and ask, nothing worse than going through the work of planting, just to have your plants get stressed and die because they aren't used to the elements!) When started in a green house under perfect conditions they haven't been exposed to the elements, like rain, wind, sun etc. so it's important to put them out in the elements then take them in and back out again for a few days to get them used to things before planting. It helps them be ready to withstand Mother Nature and get off to a good start.
I dig holes with a hoe about 6 inches deep (the depth will depend on how big your tomato plants are when you buy them) and place the holes about 3 feet apart. I like to use black plastic as a mulch around the tomato plants for 2 reasons, one: it helps generate heat (which tomatoes like, so they grow bigger, faster) and two: it cuts down on weeding. (Anything that cuts down on weeding is a good thing right?!) Here are some pictures to walk you through planting your tomatoes. Remember that tomatoes are tender and don't like cold/frost so they should be planted after the threat of frost has past. (I live in Utah, so here we generally say to plant after Mother's Day.) You can plant earlier (here) about April 10th if you use "Wall of Waters" around them. (These are like mini green houses that are made of plastic and fill with water to protect from the cold.) Tomato plants should be planted deeply. (A tomato plant will make roots out of the stem wherever it is planted so I usually cover with dirt right up to the first branches.)
Here is a row of holes dug with a hoe and a tomato plant placed in each hole.
Then I gently hold the tomato plant up while I fill the hole with water.
I like to use a watering can, because a hose running all over just makes a mess! Plus if you are 5 it's much more fun to use a watering can.
Now that the hole is filled with water, use your hands to push dirt back into the hole, burying the tomato plant all the way up to the first branches.
Now gently, but firmly push the dirt down with your hands like this.
Here is a "planted" tomato
Once you have all your tomatoes planted, it's time for the black plastic. I unroll it and place it over top of the tomatoes so they are down the middle of the plastic. Then I cut "X's" out of the plastic with a knife and gently pull the tomatoes through the plastic.
Here I am cutting the "X" (make sure not to leave the plants under the plastic too long, it gets hot under there!)
Here I am pulling the tomato plant through the "X" gently and then I fold the triangles of the "X" under so only a small amount of dirt is showing.
Once you have all your tomatoes pulled through the plastic, stretch the plastic out flat and cover the edges with dirt or large rocks. (The wind will blow it away if it's not held down in some way.)
Then when the tomato plants get bigger and need support you can just push your tomato cages through the plastic to support them. I water them daily at first, until they start to take off then taper the watering to deeply once every week to two weeks when they are producing tomatoes. I just put the hose on low (so it doesn't dig a big hole) and put the hose end in the hole in the plastic and let it slowly soak. Then I move it to the next one. (This is how I prefer to water, you could also use a soaker hose and wrap it around the plants before covering with plastic if you wanted to water that way.)
Gardening makes me happy!!
It's a family affair here on "Patch-A-Heaven" Gardening is so great for kids! Even small children can help and learn to garden. Great way to teach them where food comes from.
Many hands make light work!
And this is what these little plants will produce when they grow up....
How 'bout them tomatoes?! Canning anyone?!!
Hope you are enjoying these gardening posts, give me a shout out if you are! And hope you are bravely planting a garden this year! (It's so worth it!)