Planting Tomatoes: How to Help Your Crop Succeed When You Set Seedlings Out in the Garden

Planting tomatoes successfully in the garden takes just 4 easy steps: timing, spacing, digging, and planting.

shovel and seedling

Time It

Date. Check your local extension or a region map for recommended planting dates. Tomatoes do best when planted about 10-14 days after the last frost date.
Temperatures. Make sure it’s consistently warm both day and night. (Tomatoes don’t like to be cold.)
Weather. The perfect planting day is cloudy or overcast. If you must plant when it’s sunny, do it early or later in the day so that seedlings aren’t as stressed by the strong light.

Space It

Plan carefully for enough space between each plant and enough space between rows.

Plants. Place tomato plants 24”-30” apart.

Indeterminates need more space than determinates since they continue to grow until frost.

Rows. Allow 5 or 6 feet between rows to allow room for plants and room for you to move to weed, water, fertilize, and pick.

Dig It

There are two best ways to make new homes for your tomatoes.
Hole. Dig a hole twice as big as the plant's root ball. Use one hole for every tomato plant.
Trench. Dig a trench 6 inches deep the length of your planting area. This is the best planting method for leggy plants (buried stems will develop additional roots), gardens in cold areas (soil will keep plants warm), or when you want your plants to get a head start on the season.

Plant It

  • About an hour before planting, water your tomatoes thoroughly. Fill hole or trench 1/3 full with topsoil. (You can use what you just dug up).
  • Add 1-2 scoops compost and a handful of bone meal or fertilizer. (Learn about best fertilizers for tomatoes.)
  • Mix everything well!
  • Add water to the hole or trench.
  • Clip off the lower set of leaves.


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