How To Grow Tomatoes
If you are interested in growing tomatoes keep in mind they are a summer fruit that enjoys the heat. You don’t have to be too fussy on the type of soil you use just ensure that it drains well but does not get too dry. The seedlings are very fragile so you will not be able plant them directly into the ground, each plant needs its own space (about 30 cm apart) and you will have to tie it to a steak to keep leaves and fruit of the ground.
Tomatoes are a popular addition to home gardens because as we all know fresher is better and it doesn’t get any fresher then being harvested form your own garden the same day you plan on eating it. There are around 7500 variety’s available the most popular are ‘slicing’ or ‘globe’ tomatoes, others variety’s include;
- Beefsteak tomatoes are large tomatoes mainly used for sandwiches and similar applications. They have a kidney-bean shape, thinner skin, and a short shelf life so they are not practical for commercial use.
- Oxheart tomatoes are sometimes as big as beefsteak and have a shape similar to large strawberries.
- Plum tomatoes, also called paste tomatoes (including pear tomatoes), have a higher solids content mainly used for tomato sauce and paste, and are normally oblong.
- Pear tomatoes are pear-shaped like the name suggests, and are used for a richer gourmet paste.
- Cherry Tomatoes are small and round, often sweet tomatoes generally eaten whole in salads. Just to name a few..
Do not plant directly In The Ground
Tomatoes are very fragile when they are seedlings so what you want to do is sow them in high quality (preferably organic) seedling mix in a punnet. Sprinkle the seeds on top then you will cover the seeds in sifted seedling mix approximately twice the depth of the size of the seed, tomato seeds are tiny so roughly 5 millimetres of soil will be sufficient. Keep them in warm conditions and don’t let them get too dry. Once they are roughly an inch to a inch and a half high you want to thin them out by replanting them in other tubs so each plant has its own room to grow. Then when they are 10 cm high (about 4-5 inches) they are ready to be planted outside, be careful not to damage the roots when transplanting them.
What Time Of Year To Grow Tomatoes?
The most important thing to know when growing any type of vegetable is when to grow, tomatoes are a summer fruit and will be killed by frost so planting them early to mid spring should ensure they bare fruit by summer. If you plan on having an early harvest you could construct a cold frame to protect your tomatoes from frost. A cold frame consists of a clear plastic cover held up by a wooden frame that covers your tomatoes and protects them from frost. You can buy it ready made or you could construct it yourself…
What Type Of Soil Do Tomato Plants Like?
When you are vegetable planting you must know your soil Loam soil is the ideal soil for growing tomatoes but it is not necessary to do so as tomatoes will grow in almost any soil except for heavy clay soils, make sure the soil is loose and well drained but not over dry. Avoid soil that is water logged you will need to find a healthy balance. If your soil as too much clay you can add saw dust or sand to improve the texture to help your tomatoes to thrive.
What Nutrients Should You Use?
First of all you want the ph of your soil to almost be neutral; if it is too acidic add some lime or if it is too alkaline you need to add sulphur to the soil. ! cup per square yard should do the trick depending on how much you need to change the ph. You should avoid fertilizers with high levels of nitrogen as this will cause the plants to become bushy and produce very little fruit. You want a healthy balance of animal manure, blood and bone meal (not too much as it is high in nitrogen), fish emulsion- can be bought or made from fish parts decomposed with sawdust. Fermenting grass clippings are a good source of nutrients and if you live near a beach use some seaweed for a good supply of trace elements. Or for the ‘secret sauce’ of fertilizers watch the video below;
Some Pests To Watch Out For
Not all insects will harm your tomato plants. In fact, many of them are of benefit or neutral.Still, there are a few key pests that you will want to watch out for;
Aphids are a thorn in the side for many gardeners. In small numbers, they won’t do much damage, but in large numbers they can kill plants. They travel via ants so growing peppermint near your plants or using a spray made form peppermint can deter these pests
Tomato Hornworms are large, green caterpillars with white stripes. They sometimes grow longer than 7 cm in length, but camouflage very well so you may not notice them. If there are only a few, you can just pluck them off.
Some species of parasitic wasps are a good example of a beneficial insect-they lay their eggs on tomato hornworms, killing them. If you see a hornworm with eggs on it, you don’t need to do anything as it is already dying.
Cutworms are a nasty nocturnal pest. They are particularly harmful to young plants, which they can destroy in a single night. If your plants fall victim to these pests you will need to place 10 cm wide collars of cardboard or aluminium foil around them, sunken two cm into the ground.
Flea beetles at the larvae and adult stage will eat your plants. The adults attck the leaves whilst the larvae go for the roots. Diatomaceous earth is helpful in controlling the adults. Mixing beneficial species of nematodes into the soil controls the larvae.
There are root-knot nematodes that are harmful to tomato plants. They live in the soil and feed on the roots, lowering their ability to absorb much needed nutrients. They are more common in warm climates. Because it takes them several seasons to really establish in the soil, you will realise you have a problem when it is too late.
Crop rotation is a good method for controlling them. Another option is to add earthworms, beneficial nematodes, and friendly bacteria to the soil, mixing well, to bring the soil back into balance.
Whiteflies present a double threat. They feed directly on the juices of tomato plants, and the sticky substance they leave behind can attract sooty mould spores.
Whiteflies are a hardy insect and resistant to most conventional pesticides.
Sticky traps can be used to capture some types of insects, such as whiteflies and flea beetles . Introducing natural predators, like ladybird beetles and lacewings, is a good way to control harmful pests.
Using chemical pesticides is can have a reverse effect. They will kill good and neutral insects as well as pests. Disrupting the natural balance of your garden may cause more problems then it solves.
Some More Helpful Tips
# Bury the plant slightly deeper then what it was when it was in the pot, this will allow more roots to grow giving it an overall stronger root system
#Put plastic on the ground, this stops weeds and heats up the soil
#Remove the bottom leaves, about 1 inch up- these are the leaves that get little sunlight and are most like likely to get fungus problems
#Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. Don’t get too carried away pruning though
#Water them regularly, should be done with any plant…
#An ideal N.P.K (nitrogen phosphorous and potassium) ratio for tomato plants is between 6:6:6 and 10:10:10
#Older plants, especially once they have started to flower, benefit from more phosphorus, such as 5:10:5.
#Growing Basil near the tomato plants will give them a more pungent flavour, there are many other useful companion plants as well..