Introducing Your Tomato to its New Home

What kind of container does your new tomato plant need? How much sun, how much water? We have the answers.

On Arrival
Your tomato may arrive thirsty. If the soil is dried out, put the pot on a plate and gently soak the soil.

If it’s still cold where you live, keep the plant warm, putting it out in the sun for a few hours each day. Don’t plant until the air temperature is consistently above 50° Fahrenheit, day and night.

Tomatoes love sun—put yours in the sunniest place you’ve got (unless you live in Death Valley).

Less than six hours of sun per day means a rangy plant with no fruit. No soil in the sunny place? Consider putting your tomato in a container (see page [X]), then you can move it to wherever you want.

Soil and Situation
Use proper potting soil for containers. If your outdoor soil is not rich in nutrients and organic matter, add compost—the best soil improver.

Your tomato is a vine that grows up to ten feet tall, but can fit in as little as one to three square feet of ground space. Stake, cage, or twine your tomato around a string, or plant near a chain link fence.

Don’t plant in the same spot year after year—hungry tomatoes will deplete the soil, and pests will know where to find a tasty meal. High school chemistry bonus: ideal pH is from 5.8–7. Lower pH with organic materials such as peat moss, pine needles, and oak leaves; raise pH with wood ashes or powdered limestone.

Containers—The Portable Tomato
Find exactly the right spot—and don’t be afraid to change your mind about it later. Containers should hold at least 3 gallons, and must drain well. Clean 5-gallon paint cans or buckets are good as long as you punch drainage holes in them. And of course, you should feel free to decorate them as inspiration strikes.

Moving Day—Planting Your Tomato
Dig a large planting hole to loosen the soil around the root ball and ease the way for questing roots. Ideally, the hole should be big enough to bury a basketball.

Prepare the soil by filling the hole with water the day before. Let the water soak in— your tomato will dig it. Fill the hole part way with compost. Add a fistful of fertilizer and/or a few eggshells.

Break off all but the top 3 or 4 branches and bury the plant deeply, so the soil covers those former branch sites—they will form roots, giving your tomato an extra solid foundation. If you live someplace with long, cold winters, where the soil is still chilly even though the nights are not that cold anymore, put the plant on its side so it will be near the surface, and only has a few branches sticking out.

Once the tomato is in the ground, soak the surrounding soil, but try to keep your plant’s leaves dry.

Paper Work and Advanced Planning
Right now, your plants all look the same, but when you are eating the fruit, remembering which variety is which will be very important to you—trust us!
• Stick plant labels into the back of this book.
• Draw a simple map of your garden, noting which varieties went where.
• Take notes on choices you make regarding plant care—by this time next year, you’ll be an expert.

Read ahead to the “support” section and decide on your strategy. Your plant will grow quickly, so you should install a cage or start tying it within the first three weeks.