Planting and Supports
Tomatoes can be seeded directly or transplanted into the garden. They are best planted on raised beds made by adding large amounts of sifted compost or other soil amendments so that a bed is established above the previous level of soil.
UC recommends transplanting in the late afternoon or on a cool day to minimize stress to the transplant.
For transplants, use young plants, 3 weeks old with 4 to 6 true leaves, wider than tall, stocky, succulent, and slightly hardened to outdoor conditions. Make sure the planting site is level and smooth. Spread and mix organic matter and a high-phosphorus fertilizer over the area.
Mark where you want each plant and make the hole deep enough to bury the stem as far as the first leaf. Tip the plant out of a plastic pot to remove it. If it's in a peat pot, tear the top edge off so it can't act as a wick. Place the plant deep into the hole. Place plants about 2 feet apart in 4- to 5-feet rows. Press the soil firmly around the plant and water thoroughly to remove any air pockets. If transplanting in the summer, shade the plants in the middle of the day for the first week or use floating row cover.
Home gardeners should place or construct the support system FIVE MINUTES AFTER PLANTING! Have a look at three systems. The first one shows a very sturdy metal cage that can be used year after year. Its sturdiness is an indication that it will support even a sprawling heirloom plant. These are available in several heights—heirlooms need the tallest ones.
The next one is a home-constructed support system using very sturdy stakes and substantial twine connecting the stakes, and providing lateral support for a growing plant.
The last one shows the kinds of cages we have all used for years, but which prove unable to support the rambling heirlooms we tend to grow. If you have these and want to use them, pound three heavy stakes outside the cage. Attach them with twine or nursery tape to cage.
Many home gardeners find that tying up growing branches regularly helps keep the plant upright, and producing for a longer time.
Tomatoes in containers need support, too. Place it in the pot right after you place the tomato plant there!