The federal government has sponsored research that has produced a tomato that is perfect in every respect, except that you can't eat it. We should make every effort to make sure this disease, often referred to as 'progress', doesn't spread.
Mr Rooney knew it, but progress doesn't have to be all bad. Selective cross breeding of heritage tomatoes can also be considered progress, one that I feel comfortable eating.
Some of you have said some things to me that make me wonder if I am being too preachy. Yes, I think that you should plant heritage tomatoes rather then GMO's, but that doesn't mean I am going to look down on you if you buy your tomato plants from a popular store. The point is your trying your hand at something. And that's what I enjoy seeing. So run out, now is a great time in the Midwest to get those tomatoes plants into the ground, and buy your tomato plants. Once you find that growing your own is enjoyable and taste so much better than store bought fruits, you'll be hooked and want to try different fruits. And nothing beats the flavors that come with the different types of heritage tomatoes.
Before you buy your plants, you need to take a moment to think about what you want them for. Snacking, slicing and dicing, canning whole, making ketchup? This is important because different tomatoes are better for certain things. Once you have that figured out, it is just a matter of reading the tags on the plants, most the time they will say what the produced fruits are best used for. Even the names will clue you in on what they should be used for. Roma's are my favorite for sauces.
Soil prepping will not take most of you 10 hours to do. I have a large variety of tomato plants, because we need to have enough canned sauces, stewed and cut tomatoes to last a year. Most of you will only eat your tomatoes seasonally. One or two plants will be enough, so prepping soil will be simple. You will want lots of hummus in your soil, it needs to be porous and fairly light. If you, like me, have too much clay in your soil, add peat moss or compost to lighten it up. I live by the Garden Claw, have had it for years. This thing has out lasted all my potato forks, and I do suggest using one to break up and mix your ground soil with. If your soil is poor, it is important to feed them with compost.
Your location is also important, you do not want an area that is poorly drained, this will promote disease. You will also need full sun and an airy area.
Staking seems to be the most popular way to train the tomato plant. I trellis mine on field fences. Training your plants will produce larger fruits than allowing them to grow naturally. If training them, the plants should be about 2 feet apart. You will need to drive a 5 foot stake into the ground next to the plant, tie a piece of soft yarn or cotton cloth tightly around the stake and loosely loop it around the stalk. This will help reduce any damage to the rapidly growing plant. Pinch off all but two of the stems, these will be the main stems. This will help keep your plants off the ground.
I cheated this year, and placed a weed barrier around my plants. And have filled the path with straw. If using straw to insulate or as weed barrier, you need to be warned that you will have a carpet of green on top of the straw. Not to worry. It grows only on the straw and will not compete with your plants for food and water. The green grass will die before reaching maturity.
If allowing your tomatoes to spread out naturally, you need to give them about 4 feet from each other. Here you will need to use straw or dried grass to keep the fruits from coming into contact with the ground.
Cutworms are your enemy. To help prevent them from damaging your crop, place a thinly messed wire or a paper cuff around the base of the stem.
Cut worm damge and weeds grown too close
You need to mulch around your plants well. This is important to help keep moisture in and weeds out. Be careful when weeding, you do not want to weed up against your stalks. Pulling the weeds that grow right against your plants can cause root damage.
Harvest is simple, most the time the fruit will pull away cleaning from the plant. Either eat or preserve your harvest.
I do hope that answers all your questions, if not, feel free to ask away. If you have a suggestion that makes tomatoes grow better/easier, please, I am always open to ideas.