How to plant tomatoes

All About Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable for the home garden. Rich in Vitamins A, B and C, tomato varieties are available to produce fruit from early season to frost. Tomatoes are easy to grow. Even a few plants will produce plenty of fruit for eating fresh, canning, and freezing.

Three Ways to Grow Tomatoes

  1. Free-growing: Free-growing tomatoes are given no support, but are allowed to sprawl on the ground. Mulch is essential for this system of growing. Space plants 3-4’ apart.
  2. Staked: When plants have been growing about two weeks, place 4’ stakes 6” away from each plant. Set the stakes 10” deep in the soil. Use string to secure the plant to the stake. Space the plants 2’ apart in rows 3-4’ apart.
  3. Caged: Cages are wire frames that form a three foot high confinement for each plant. Space the plants 3’ apart.

Choose the Method Best for You

Staked and caged tomatoes require less growing space. Fruit is kept off the ground, tends to be larger and is easier to pick. Plants are easier to work around. Staked and caged plants require more water because they are exposed upright to sun and wind. They develop more foliage to shade the ripening fruit. Free-growing tomatoes often have a larger crop because plants bush out. Extra tomatoes will form on the side stems. This method requires a lot of space, and mulch is essential.

Cutworm Protection

Cutworms can chew through a tender young stem overnight. Place a 2-3” newspaper collar around the stem of new transplants, leaving one inch above the soil line and an inch or more below.


To keep energy of the plant directed to two or three main stems, pinch off shoots (suckers) that grow from the stem above a leaf branch. To control growth, pinch off the tip of the main stem above the top blossom. Toward the end of the season, pinching out the top will direct energy toward ripening the tomatoes.