Light requirements: Full sun.
Planting: Space 18 to 36 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.) Plant deeply, burying 2/3 of the stem.
Soil requirements: Tomatoes need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.2 to 6.8.
Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Moisture is critical to prevent cracked fruits and blossom end rot. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation.
Frost-fighting plan: Tomato is a warm-weather crop—even a light frost will damage plants (28º F to 32º F). Protect newly planted seedlings by covering plants with a frost blanket.
Common issues: Pest-wise, watch out for tomato hornworms (big green caterpillars), slugs, pill bugs, rodents. In addition, humid weather invites fungal diseases like early blight and late blight. Plants may stop setting fruit when temperatures dip below 55˚ F or climb above 90˚ F. Blossom end rot can be a problem, as can misshapen fruit.
Harvesting: In general, perfectly ripe tomatoes show deep color but still feel firm when gently squeezed. Look up your specific variety for more details. Tomatoes do continue to ripen after being picked. Gently grab and twist until the tomato pulls free from the stem, or use a pair of clippers. Cut stems close to fruits.
Storage: Store picked tomatoes at room temperature indoors, or in a shady place outside. Never refrigerate tomatoes, because temperatures below 55° F cause flavor compounds to break down. Tomatoes will store longer if you allow stems and caps to remain in place until you’re ready to eat them. For peak flavor and nutrition, use within a week, although keeping time depends on how ripe fruit is when you pick it.
For more information, visit the Tomatoes page in our How to Grow section.