Grow: Healthy Tomatoes
Growing Tomatoes - Facts
6-8 after last frost
June – August
¼ inch seed – 2/3 of plant
2 feet apart
6-8 hours per day
North to south
6 – 6.8
Amaranth, asparagus, basil, borage, carrots, chives, garlic, peppers, sage
Vitamins A, C, E, potassium, folate
Seven Steps to Growing Tomatoes
How to grow healthy tomatoes as they are an excellent staple for any garden, the reward for growing the perfect tomato is high. There is nothing quite like a home-grown tomato – juicy, flavorsome and that beautiful red color. However, there are a number of things to consider when you are planning to grow your own tomatoes, as we will go through in this article.
Tomatoes are highly versatile as they can be planted and grown in almost all types of soil. However, some soils are better than others for the optimum growth of your tomatoes. As a rule of thumb, the more organic matter in the earth, the better.
Arguably the best type of soil for planting tomatoes is loam. Loam is a mix of sand, silt and clay and is perfect for tomato growing as it can both retain and drain water quickly. Manure is a great addition to loam, as it provides nutrients to the plants while also benefiting the soil composition. The best type of manure for tomato growth is composted manure, as it is lower in nitrogen, which is an element known for burning tomato roots. Clay is another soil that tomatoes can be grown in. However, clay is trickier than other soils as it tends to hold water and be more alkaline than other soils.
Tomatoes thrive in a slightly acidic environment (exactly 6 to 6.8 pH level), and so growing them in clay is not ideal. If you do choose to grow your tomatoes in clay, it is suggested to grow them in raised beds or containers, so they are less affected by the negative side-effects of clay soil.
Silt soil is another base for growing tomatoes, but it has similar downsides to clay soil due to its water-retaining nature. Adding organic matter to your silt soil can counteract the lack of drainage.
Seeding Tomato seeding is best began indoors and then transported to beds once plant develops. Ensure you start seeding 6 to 8 weeks after the expected last frost in your area, as when you transport your tomato plant outside, the ground needs to be warm enough for them to survive.
Temperature to plant
Freshly planted tomato seeds need to be kept at a temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate, and by keeping them inside, this can be better controlled. It’s best to begin the journey of your tomatoes in a small pot, no more than 4 inches high.
Fill the pot with soil and sprinkle the seeds in the center, then cover with another layer of soil and press down with your fingers. Only sprinkle a tiny bit of water on the top layer when the soil appears dry to avoid dampening. It is also helpful to ensure the tomatoes receive good air circulation, so mold does not begin to form.
Keep an eye on the growth of your tomato plant. It will need to be transported into its final position when they are around 15cm high. If you plan to plant them outside, ensure you acclimatize them to the differing temperature by keeping them outside during the day when it’s warmer, and bringing them inside at night when it’s cooler.
Planting First, you will need to choose the optimal spot for your tomatoes. Tomatoes need a lot of sunlight (around 6 hours per day), so ensure the place you select is in a mainly sunny area of your garden. Having a support system for your tomatoes is also essential, as it means the tomatoes are kept off the ground.
Stake Your Plants
Ensure you put your stake in before you plant your tomatoes to ensure the roots aren’t damaged or impeded. To plant, begin by digging a hole which is approximately 5cm deeper than the pot it currently resides in. Slowly prise the tomato plant out of the pot, trying to protect the root ball. Then, put it in the hole you have dug and fill with soil. Then, water the plant well.
If you are planting multiple tomato plants, ensure they are spaced at least 2 feet apart. You can also plant your tomatoes in pots or containers. If you intend to go down this route, ensure you select a decent sized pot with drainage holes on the base. Ensure you are only planting one tomato per pot, and that the type of variety you use is either dwarf or bush. The pot will need to be exposed to sunlight at least 6 to 8 hours of the day.
Tomato plants can also be improved by companion plants. Amaranth is excellent to deter insects; basil is great to repel diseases, and it also can enhance the flavor and quality of the tomato plant, and borage can improve the health of the tomato plant by preventing tomato worms.
Tomatoes require a lot of water, but how much is dependent on the climate and how they are planted. It is vital to ensure that the water supply is given evenly as irregular watering can cause problems for the plants.
An Inch of Water
As a rule of thumb, tomatoes need around an inch of water per week for continued growth. If your tomato plant lives in a warmer environment, then this can go up to two inches per week. If your tomato plant is in a pot, it may need more water as potted tomato plants tend to dry out faster than those in the ground.
There are several threats to tomato plants, but with basic care, these can be avoided. Make sure you are placing fertilizer/compost around the tomato plants every two weeks to encourage healthy soil. It is essential to keep a very close eye on your tomato plant, ensuring to remove any disease-ridden leaves or debris. You will be able to tell if it has a disease by discoloration.
Rotate Your Tomato Plants
It is also encouraged to rotate your crops each year to dissuade pathogen growth. Ensure you don’t work with your tomatoes when it is wet, to avoid the spreading of disease or pathogens. Keeping your foliage dry is important.
You can consider mulching your plants at the start of the season to help aid dryness. If you are growing your tomatoes in containers, ensure you are disinfecting the empty pots and placing new pot mix in each season.
When it comes to harvesting, note that you should leave your tomatoes on the vine as long as you can. You will know when it is time to pick your tomatoes when they are firm and bright red (there can be a touch of yellow at the stem).
Pick Your Tomatoes
To harvest, grip the tomato by the fruit itself and twist it away from the stem. If you are having trouble pulling it off the stem, you can use garden scissors. If you need to harvest before a frost, ensure you are pulling up by the root.
Once picked, it is best to store your tomatoes out in the open in a fruit bowl in a moderate temperature. Avoid refrigerating freshly picked tomatoes as it ruins the flavor.
If you wish to freeze your tomatoes, you can simply put them in a sealed bag or container and place them straight in the freezer. Note that as the tomato freezes, the skin will start to remove itself.
Companion Planting: Grouping Vegetables in Your Garden A Guide to Grouping Plants in Your Garden