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Planting When to Plant Tomatoes If you’re planting seeds (versus transplants), you’ll want to start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average last spring frost date .. See our post on “ Tomatoes From Seed the Easy Way .” Select a site with full sun and well-drained soil. For northern regions, it is VERY important that your site receives at least 6 hours of daily sunlight. For southern regions, light afternoon shade will help tomatoes survive and thrive. Two weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors, dig soil to about 1 foot deep and mix in aged manure or compost. Learn more about preparing soil for planting . Harden off transplants for a week before planting in the garden. Set transplants outdoors in the shade for a couple of hours the first day. Gradually increase the amount of time your plants are outside each day to include some direct sunlight. Learn more about hardening off seedlings . Transplant after last spring frost when the soil is warm. See our Planting Calendar for Transplants for your region. Place tomato stakes or cages in the soil at the time of planting. Staking keeps developing tomato fruit off the ground, while caging lets the plant hold itself upright. Learn how to build stakes and other tomato supports with this video. Some sort of support system is recommended, but sprawling can also produce fine crops if you have the space, and if the weather cooperates. Plant transplants about 2 feet apart. Pinch off a few of the lower branches on transplants, and plant the root ball deep enough so that the remaining lowest leaves are just above the surface of the soil. If your transplants are leggy you can remedy this by burying up to ⅔ of the plant including the lower sets of leaves. Tomato stems have the ability to grow roots from the buried stems. Water well to reduce shock to the roots. Growing Tomatoes in Pots Use a large pot or container with drainage holes in the bottom. Use loose well-draining soil. We recommend a good potting mix with added organic matter. Plant one tomato plant per pot. Choose from bush or dwarf varieties. Many cherry tomatoes grow well in pots. Taller varieties may need to be staked. Place the pot in a sunny spot with 6 to 8 hours of full sun a day. Keep soil moist. Check daily and water extra during a heat wave.
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