Gardening 101: How to Plant Tomatoes - Learn how to plant a tomato plant in your garden and keep it happy and healthy

Basket with fresh herbs, tomatoes and peppers from the garden - learn how to grow your own vegetables from Creative Green Living

There are few things I enjoy more during the summer that eating the bounty of fresh organic tomatoes I grow in my garden. 

Last year, I grew about 140 pounds of tomatoes and even though I had to give a lot of them away, I was still able to can enough to last my family through the winter so that we didn't need to buy BPA-containing metal cans of tomatoes. 

Important: Know when the right time to plant is! 

Don't plant your tomatoes until all danger of frost has passed. 

Where I live, that's about mother's day weekend BUT the weather this week is supposed to be in the 70's and 80's so I'm planting a week early this year. 

Use this tool to check when your average last frost date is.


  • Tomato plants
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Dried egg shells
  • Epsom Salt (do NOT use table salt. it will kill your plant)
  • Measuring spoon
  • Water
  • Weather-appropriate work clothes (thanks to Duluth, I'm wearing the UPF 50 Crusher Sun Hat in raspberry and long sleeve Armachillo shirt in Raspberry Plaid)

How to Plant Tomatoes Plants in Your Garden

How to plant tomatoes from Creative Green Living

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 1: Pick the right spot

In addition to making sure you have the right timing for planting, make sure you pick the right spot to put tomatoes. 

Tomatoes like as much sun as possible. 

I have grown tomatoes in the past in a spot that was sunny for half the day and shady for half and while I got a few tomatoes, I got about 4 times the yield when I got a community garden plot and started growing in full sun. 

You also want to try and avoid planting tomatoes in the same dirt that grew tomatoes in the last last 2 previous years. 

(Brand new to gardening? Be sure to read these tips and more in Gardening 101: 10 Things Beginning Gardeners Need to Know)

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 2: Dig a hole

Dig a hole that is large enough to accommodate the pot your tomato is in and then make it 1-2 inches deeper.
How to plant tomato plants in your garden - dig a hole deeper than the pot

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 3: Add an egg shell & epsom salt

Crush the egg shell and add it along with 1 teaspoon of epsom salt to the bottom of the hole you dug for your tomato plant. 

The egg shells provide calcium which help prevent blossom end rot. 

Unlike table salt, epsom salt's primary ingredient is magnesium. 

Magnesium strengthens plant cell walls and improves their ability to take in nutrients.
Add crushed egg shell and epsom salt to the hole you dog for tomatoes

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 4: Pinch off bottom branches & leaves

Use your fingers to pinch off the bottom 1-2 sets of branches and leaves from the tomato plants. 

Be especially sure to remove anything that will be below the ground or will be touching the ground once the plant is in the hole.
How to pinch off branches from tomato plants

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 5: Plant it!

Squish the sides of the pots to loosen the soil and gently pull up on the plant by the base of the stem to remove it from the pot. 
How to remove tomato plants from their pots

If the plant has been in the pot for a long time, you'll see white roots wrapping around the edges. 

If you have root-wrap issues, squish the root ball a bit to loosen them. 

If they are very tight, use a knife or shears to cut off the very bottom of the root ball before planting. 

Place your plant in the hole you prepared and slide the dirt back in. 

Create a low spot in the dirt near the stem to help water pool up at the base of the plant when watering.

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 6: Support it (optional)

Tomatoes all do better with support (and really, don't we all?). 

If you are planning to use cages to support your tomatoes, they are WAY easier to install when you plants are little. 

If you're already outside working, it's easy to just install them at the same time. 

Most tomato cages come with the spikes pointing in toward the center. This is to help them pack and ship easier. 

If you are using tomato cages, before sticking them in the ground, pull their legs out to be straight down or angled out (see arrows). 
How to set up tomato cages

Want a really great tomato support system? How to set up my favorite tomato support system is described in this article: Tomato Growing Secrets to Help You Get The Most, Biggest, and Best Homegrown Tomatoes
How to set up that best tomato support system

Continue following steps 1-6 for each tomato plant, giving plants about 18 or more inches between plants (I also like to stagger them down the bed)

How to Plant Tomatoes Step 7: Water

Make sure you water your plants once you're done planting them. 

If you are watering mid-day, ESPECIALLY if it is sunny, it's important to not drench the leaves or they will get sunburnt and unhappy. 

Use a watering can or a hose wand that distributes a soft stream of water and water at the base of the plant.

 Allow the well to fill but then move on before soil starts running or washing away. 

It's better to visit a plant 2-3 times to give it adequate water than it is to hold the hose on it too long the first time.
How to plant tomatoes in your garden - how to water tomato plants

That's it! Remember to continue watering your tomato plants once the top inch of soil dries out. How long this takes will very by climate but in the Portland area, that's once every 2-3 days.

Want to become a tomato growing expert?

Get all my best tips and tricks for growing tomatoes from how to prevent blossom end rot to how to set up the best tomato support system I've ever used.
How to grow the best tomatos from Creative Green Living

About the Author:

Carissa is a lifelong crafter and mom of two creative boys. Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects and healthier choices that are beautiful and delicious! 

The owner and lead writer at Creative Green Living, she is an award-winning writer and most recently won the ShiftCon Media "Best Green Lifestyle Blogger" award in 2019.

Article originally published in May 2013. Updated Aptil 2022.


  1. You had so many great tips I can't wait to try! Took forever for my tomatoes to just get to "okay" last year. Then...those blasted aphids invaded and I tried everything to get rid of them. Nothing worked. I'll be a nut case if they show up this year.

    1. Basil, chives & nastutiums all repel aphids and make great companion plants for tomatoes. If aphids do show up, you can treat with ladybugs

  2. Great tips on planting tomatoes, Carissa! I've got to get on that! Will definitely plant some basil along side them (had aphids last year too).

  3. Love the bad ass photo of you with the hat on!

  4. I LOVE home grown tomatoes!!!

  5. Fresh tomatoes are so yummy! Great tips!

  6. I really need this post!
    I love home grown tomatoes and haven't had any since my wonderful FIL passed away a few years ago. (He was the family gardener!) I've tried planting some in the past, with miserable results.
    Hopefully this will help me!
    I've pinned this to my Home and Garden Board to remember!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Lisa H.


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