How To Plant a Tomato

How To Plant a Tomato

Plant in a good loose soil, rich in organic matter. If you have poor, sandy or clay soil, remove some, and mix in some compost. You’ll get excellent results if you add a bag of Coast of Maine Garden Soil or Mahoney’s Premium Composted or Dehydrated Cow Manure.

Dig a hole about three times the size of plant pot.

Pour in a few handfuls of a slow-release granular fertilizer. We like Espoma Tomato-tone or Osmocote.

Mix the soil and fertilizer well.

Remove the plant from the plastic cup.

“Tease” the roots loose to encourage faster establishing.

Place the plant so all the roots are below the soil surface.

Cover the roots with more soil and water well.

If you are planting more than one tomato plant, space each plant 24 to 36 inches apart.

Add mulch around the plant to reduce weeds and conserve moisture.

Give the plant a stake or cage to keep the plant growing upright and the tomatoes off the ground.

If Planting in a Container

Many tomatoes grow compact making them perfect to grow in a container as well as in the ground. Plant only one in a 12” wide or larger container – the larger the better. Your plant is small now but it will grow! First make sure your container has drainage holes – otherwise your tomato plant will drown. Then fill the container with a potting mix. Only use a mix specified for a container. We recommend Mahoney’s Organic Potting Mix – a special mix that retains moisture, but any good quality mix will work. Dig the hole in the middle, remove the plant from the plastic cup, and place the plant so all the roots are below the soil surface. Cover the roots with more mix and water well. Give the plant a stake or cage to keep the plant growing upright and the tomatoes off the ground.

Light Requirements

Tomatoes need 8 hours of full sun to produce delicious tomatoes – the more sun the better! The plant will survive with less light but will produce significantly fewer tomatoes.

Fertilizer Requirement

Tomato plants are called “heavy feeders” – this means they need lots of fertilizer to produce plenty of delicious tomatoes. We suggest 2 popular types of organic fertilizer: Espoma Tomato-tone or Osmocote – both are granular slow-release fertilizers, or Neptune’s Harvest – a water-soluble fertilizer. Tomato-tone or Osmocote should be mixed in at time of planting and then more sprinkled on the soil every month. Neptune’s Harvest should be used when watering once a week.

Water Requirements

Watering is very important. You never want to allow your tomatoes dry out, so plan on watering about once a day. Your tomato will need more water as the summer progresses so plan on watering more in July and August than you do in May. 8 hours of sun will cause your tomato potting mix to dry out quickly – so container tomatoes may need extra attention. To help maintain moisture, cover the ground with 2 to 4 inches of mulch. Straw and shredded leaves make great mulches for tomatoes.


If you follow these directions you should be rewarded with the best tasting home-grown tomatoes. As tomatoes begin to ripen, their color changes from green to red. Tomato flavors become more complex as the fruits ripen, so be patient. Ripe tomatoes have a deep red color, yet are still firm when gently squeezed. Always harvest ripe tomatoes promptly. You can even harvest as they begin to change color and let them ripen indoors off the vine on a windowsill – at this point they will ripen anywhere indoors at room temperature. Keep picked tomatoes at room temperature indoors – never refrigerate.


Visit the Mahoney’s Garden Center near you. We have all the herb and vegetable growing supplies you need, plus we’re happy to help gardeners of all levels.

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