Loosen the soil in the sunniest area of the garden with a garden fork to a depth of 6 to 8 inches two weeks prior to planting. This will allow the soil to warm up and encourage healthier tomato plant growth.
Distribute a 1- to 2-inch layer of GreenBlenz Compost onto the soil’s surface and work it into the soil thoroughly with a trowel.
Dig a hole deep enough to bury the stem of the tomato plant up to its second true set of leaves.
Remove the tomato plant from the nursery pot, retaining as much of the soil as you can, then set it into the hole. Be careful not to damage the root system or the stem.
Backfill the hole with the amended garden soil, then tamp the soil gently with your hand to eliminate air pockets. New roots will grow along the buried stem, which will help stabilize the tomato plant.
A plastic cloche will allow slightly earlier planting, but only a week or two at most. The real benefit will be that the extra warmth under the plastic will make the plant grow better and set fruit earlier. Peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and squash also benefit from this kind of protection in spring. For more about ways to grow heat-loving crops in our cool climate, see Enhancing Heat.
Make sure you are growing a “short season” or “early” variety of tomato. Many of the big, beefsteak types, that are popular elsewhere, will not mature in our area. ‘Early Girl,’ ‘Stupice’ and ‘IPB’ are three reliable, short-season varieties. For more about choosing the right tomato, see Tomato Varieties.