Food Garden: Tomatoes

November 01, 2019

Food Garden: Tomatoes - Leafy Souls Vegan Blog Post

Growing tomatoes is simple, fun and rewarding. With just a little bit of care, you can grow ripe tomatoes with flavors miles apart from what's available in the supermarket. Follow this guide on how to grow tomatoes to get the most out of your seedlings.

Before you take out a shovel to dig a hole for planting your starter tomato plant, consider when and where you are going to plant it. Little pre-planning now will reward you with a healthy and productive tomato plant later.

Environment

Tomatoes are sub-tropical plants. They require the average daytime temperature above 55degree  Fahrenheit and nighttime temperature above 45degree Fahrenheit. Don’t just go by the last frost date of your area. Wait at least a week or two before planting the tomatoes outside in the garden. Planting the tomatoes too early in the spring will stun the growth of the tomato plants and will delay the maturity.

Tomatoes need about 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight. They grow best in full sun location, but some varieties may survive little shady area or afternoon sun. Since the tomato plant can grow as tall as 7 feet tall, plant the tomatoes on the Northside of the garden bed, so they don’t shade out other smaller plants.

Tomato plant likes loose, well-drained soil which is high in nutrients. Also, make sure the soil is well-drained and leveled. The roots of a tomato plant go deeper than other vegetables, so ideally 8 to 12 inches of a garden bed depth or raised bed height is recommended.

If planting a tomato plant in a pot, make sure the container is at least 12 inches wide and 16 inches deep. Use the best available potting mix for growing tomatoes.

Tomatoes like soil PH between 5.8 and 7. Before planting, do a soil pH test of your raised bed, garden bed or potting mix. Based on the pH test result, amend the soil to adjust the soil pH between 5.8 and 7.

The indeterminate variety of tomatoes grow tall and wide. Make sure to give them plenty of space to grow.  The leaves of two adjacent plants shouldn’t be touching each other. This should provide ample airflow between the plants and leaves which will help eliminate many airborne diseases on the tomato plants.

Some gardening techniques suggest 12” of spacing between the tomato plants, but in my experience, that causes many pests and disease-related problems. I recommend planting tomatoes 18 inches to 2 feet apart in a raised bed or a garden bed.

Sowing

Although you can sow tomato seeds directly into the soil outdoors, it’s advised you sow them inside first to increase the success of your plants. Evenly distribute your seeds amongst either small pots or a propagator filled with soil, then place them on a sunny windowsill. Keep the seedlings at a constant temperature of around 18°C, and make sure the soil remains moist, but not too wet!

Taking care of tomatoes

Just like us humans, tomatoes also need feeding. Fertilizer not only promotes healthy plant growth but also helps develop flavorsome fruit. Apply a granular long term fertilizer to the soil a week after planting your tomatoes outside. Then, every 10 - 14 days add some liquid fertilizer whilst watering to get the best results.

Speaking of watering your plants - make sure you do so regularly to keep the soil moist. It’s important to never let the soil dry out completely with tomatoes. That being said, make sure not to overwater the plants either! Irregular watering can lead to tomatoes splitting, or even worse - pests and disease. 

Tall growing, indeterminate tomatoes will require extra pruning attention. There are several benefits to pruning your tomato plants, including maximizing the plant's production of fruit as well as improving air circulation and therefore minimizing the risk of pests and diseases developing. Begin by removing shoots that grow where developed branches meet the stem, these are known as suckers.

Harvesting Tomatoes

Harvest tomatoes when the fruits change color from green to red or pink, and they are a little bouncy when lightly squeezed.

If You’re expecting a storm or a frost,  it’s a good idea to harvest the tomatoes that have changed color, even if it’s not entirely red or pink yet. Just put them in a paper bag and place the bag on your kitchen counter. They will ripe in a few days.

Tomatoes store well for a while in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

If you follow the above steps, you are on your way to growing amazing tasting homegrown tomatoes. If you still have any questions or concerns, please leave me a comment below, and I will try to answer as soon as possible.


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