We are going to keep this post as short and simple as possible. After all, you just want to get those tomatoes in the ground so you can kick back and think about the tastes of summer. Hold on a second tomato lovers!
First, wait until it is truly warm, not just during the day, but at night too. Tomatoes hate the cold. We cannot give blanket advise because our readers live all around the world. So, be patient and trust in your tomatoes ability to grow. Once the weather heats up they grow fast! Here in the Northeastern USA tomato plants are usually planted in mid-May. A few really chilly nights or God forbid, a frost will kill or stunt the growth of tomato plants. It is not worth rushing them into the ground.
Next, try to plant on a more overcast day or even during a light rain or mist. We find most plants do best when not planted on dry, hot days. If the weather is hot and dry then plant early in the AM or later in the day. It also helps to dunk the potted seedling into a bucket of water to saturate the roots. Just do not submerge the entire plant.
By now you probably have worked your soil well. However, if you have not then be sure the soil is loose to allow root development. Good roots mean a healthy plant. Healthy plants usually yield more tomatoes. On that topic, you can encourage strong root development by planting the plants up to 2/3 of the way into the soil. Yes, 2/3 of the plant can be buried in the ground. The plant will send out roots from the stem. We plant ours up to or just past the first set of leaves.
Before covering the plant with soil you may want to add an organic tomato fertilizer like Jobe’s Vegetable & Tomato Organic Granular Fertilizer. Follow the instructions on whatever fertilizer product you may choose to use. With the Jobe’s product above we just use a very small handful sprinkled and mixed into the hole we are planting our tomato plant in. Remember, more is not always better! We also prefer using our own compost to build balanced nutrients instead of using commercial fertilizers. A good compost will build long-term soil quality. In contrast, most commercial fertilizers are like plant candy. They provide short-term “pop” to the soil, but do little for long-term soil quality.
Do not pack the soil too tightly around the plant. You do not want air pockets around the roots, but you also do not want to compact the soil so much that roots have trouble growing. Then give your plant enough water to saturate the soil, but do not flood it. You can always water it more later on. Again, more is not necessarily better.
Lastly, now is the time to stake or cage your tomato plant. Doing so now will reduce the chance of injuring the roots of a mature plant later on. Happy planting!