There are two ways to plant tomatoes. The first way is to buy healthy, stocky transplants or start your own seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before planting time. The second way is to plant seeds directly in the garden.
There are pluses and minuses with each method. If you buy transplants you are limited to the varieties the garden centers have. If you start your seeds indoors you have an unlimited selection of varieties, but there is a little work to be done. And if you plant seeds directly in the garden, you have an unlimited selection and hardly any work but you have to wait a little longer for harvest.
Whichever method you choose you should be ready to plant about two weeks after the last frost of the spring. Make sure your soil temperature is at least 55 degrees F and the night time temperatures stay above 45 degrees F.
For direct seeding use a hoe and make a trench about one inch deep the entire length of your row. Place about three or four seeds each at the proper spacing for your variety along the row. Cover the seeds with one quarter to one half inch of soil and gently firm it down with the end of your hoe. Water in well with a watering can or the mist setting on a water hose, being careful not to blast the seeds out of the ground with a hard stream of water.
For transplants you either buy or start indoors, the time to plant is the same as with direct seeding. About two weeks after the last frost of the spring, set your transplants in the ground. At the proper spacing for your variety, dig a hole one foot deep and one foot in diameter. Mix 5-10-5 fertilizer and agricultural lime in your hand and drop it in the planting hole and put soil on top of it. Plant your tomato in the hole up to a couple of inches of the bottom set of leaves and firm up the soil around the plant.
To cut down on chances of a disease called Early blight, mulch around the new transplant with grass clippings, hay, wheat straw or even newspapers. Do this before you water the transplants in to keep soil from splashing onto the leaves, which is a big cause of early blight.
Instead of dropping fertilizer and lime in your planting hole, you can just drop lime in the hole before planting and water the transplants in with liquid fertilizer.