How to Grow Tomatos
Tomatoes are a wonderful food plant to grow from your porch, window box, or garden. They are versatile, adaptable and low maintenance. Growing tomatoes is simple.
When you decide to grow your own tomatoes, take their needs into consideration, so you can choose your growing method and style:
- Lots of sunlight
- Plenty of moisture
- Warm conditions
- Rich soil
Choose a growing style first, based on what the tomato needs and what you can provide. If you are an urban gardener growing on a porch, if you have very sandy or salty soil, if your plot has pests such as snails, or if you live in an area that has cold snaps, container planting is probably right for you.
If you are planning to use a container method, you will want to choose the container when you first begin. Tomatoes are quite flexible about their containers, but there are some interesting pots sold just for this purpose, including a self watering model that hangs from a ceiling hook.
Find out what climate zone applies. Seed packages and information in tomato start pots will indicate which zones each varietal prefers. As a rule of thumb, if you live in an area with seasonal changes, you should plant tomatoes shortly before the last frost. If you chose to grow indoors, this does not apply.
Choose a sunny spot for your tomatoes, unless you are in a position to build a little greenhouse for them, which can be as simple as some UV lighting and perhaps some plastic for warmth and humidity.
There are thousands of tomato cultivars available to order in seed form. Wikipedia has a page of tomato cultivars and their properties. When thinking about what type of tomato you want to grow, consider your weather conditions, the size of plant you want, and what sort of tomato you like to eat.
There are many mail order companies that sell and ship seeds for every taste. Whether you prefer cherry, beefsteak, roma, or heirloom tomatos, there is bound to be a specific seed that will match your climate and growing conditions.
Growing from seed
Tomatoes are quite easy to grow from seed. All that is needed is some rich soil in some small pots. Make a hole in the soil with your index finger, about up to the first joint, add the seeds, and water. Many gardeners like to add a few seed to each hole, as not all seeds will be viable.
When the seeds are a few inches high, you must thin them. When the seeds are about four inches high, it is time to carefully plant them in the containers you have for the purpose.
Growing from Starts
This is an easy, time saving alternative to growing tomatoes from seed, and also gives you access to professionals who can answer any questions you have. Pick a reputable vendor from whom to purchase your starts. Check the seedlings for any signs of bugs, discolored leaves, and general health.
Transplant your starts to their permanent place when they are four to
five inches high.
Make sure that your tomato plants are planted deeply, and prune side stems, stems below the blossoming area, and trim any yellow leaves to save the strength of the tomato for fruiting.
Tomatoes like to be fertilized about twice a season, and there are specifically formulated tomato fertilizers on the market. Tomatoes also like fish oil.
‘Failure to set’ is a term for tomatoes failing to fruit due to exposure to cold temperatures. There are a number of ways to keep your plants warm. One can invert the bottom half of a plastic container over the plant, cover the mulch with plastic to keep the soil warm. Bring the tomatoes inside on particularly cold nights if possible.
If your tomatoes are planted outdoors, they are vulnerable to pests of various sorts. Container planting provides a certain amount of protection, but is not foolproof. Snails and slugs like tomato leaves, as do aphids and nematodes, For many pests, even nematodes, a mix of dish soap and water, sprayed onto the leaves, is effective.
Lack of sun causes a failure to thrive. If your plant is indoors, consider getting an ultraviolet light for the tomato. If it is outdoors, but in a container, try moving it to a different spot.
A Lack of nutrients causes a stunted condition and failure to fruit: when the tomato fruits, the fruit is of poor quality.
Both over watering and under watering cause a tomato plant to droop and discolor. Check the soil for dryness, and check the area underneath the container for pooled water. This does not apply to outdoor plants.
Every part of the tomato growing process is pleasurable. Enjoy seeing your own plants bear fruit.
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