Accredited nurseryman Scott Reil of www.safelawns.org says that planting a tomato plant is different from planting any other plant he knows. In this 2:46 he shows how to go about it.
First, you need to make sure that the tomato plant you get from the garden center is strong and healthy. The subtext here is that tomatoes are disease-prone. He says to look on the label to make sure you are buying a disease-resistant variety. Also the plant must look healthy, otherwise you will be transferring nursery issues to your garden. Make sure the plant has a well-developed root system. You do that by taking the plant out of its plastic pot. I wonder if garden centers allow this? If a plant one or two feet high hasn’t a well developed root ball, it is unlikely that it will develop it in future.
Second, when you get home you do something really surprising. You trim off all the lower branches. Some growers advise stripping off just the leaves, but Scott says take it down to the stem. The reason for this is that apart from the top branches, the rest of the stem should be planted within the soil because the stem will put out new roots.
Third, once the plant is buried up to its neck in your vegetable garden, be sure to cage it. This supports the plant (tomato plants can be rangy) and will also support the fruit clusters. You can look forward to tomatoes all year round if you follow these instructions, says Scott.