Preparing Soil

I have several methods of preparing the soil. In places with great topsoil, less preparation is needed. If you will be adding steer manure, it's best to do so at least a month before planting. This also depends on how fresh the manure is. The fresher it is, the longer it should sit in the dirt ahead of time. If you buy bags of manure from the store, it will be more ready to go than fresh manure from a nearby farm. I’ve found people who pile horse manure near their houses alongside the road, free for others to take. I used to fill my pickup on the way to where I was gardening.

Use a shovel to dig up the area where you will be planting. If the dirt is in large clumps, break them apart. If you have a power tiller, use it, but tillers often don't go down deep enough. Tomatoes are deep-rooted plants, so the easier the roots can work their waydown the better.

Using Compost

The soil should already be prepared as mentioned in the section on soil. The main thing is the soil should be slightly moist all around where it's sprouting. If the sprout drys out, it will not survive, so make sure to keep it well watered or plant during a time of the year when the ground stays generally moist all day. In my yard, where the dirt turns rock-like by June, I like to dig a hole, throw the dirt to the side, and fill it with a good planting mix, for the most part completely removing the soil that was there. It's good to put back some of the dirt, though, because it will have the active microbes that help get the nutrients to the root.


One of the most common deficiencies in soil is calcium. Apparently it leaches out of the soil pretty easily. So I like to stir in some ahead of time if possible, and definitely put some in the hole at planting time. It can take a while for microbial activity to break the calcium down, so once the plant is in, it's too late to add any more, other than what might be in a foliant feeding. In the past, I have dug up all the dirt in a row about one and a half feet deep and put a lot of calcium at the bottom. By the time the roots get down to it, the microbes will have begun processing it so the plant can absorb it.

    Soil Preparation Checklist

  • shovel
  • bone meal
  • compost
  • manure
  • "tomatoes alive" by Gardens Alive