History About Tomatoes
Before we learn how to grow tomatoes, let us walk down the tomatoes memory lane. It is the edible, often red berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum. These fruits are classified as berries and are consumed in a diverse number of ways. That is, raw or cooked in various dishes, salads, sauces as well as drinks. There are over 7500 varieties grown for various purposes and are divided into categories based on shape and size.
Different Types of Tomatoes
The popular types include:
Cherry tomatoes – often sweet are small and round.
Plum tomatoes – are usually oblong. They have a higher solid to water content ratio for using tomato sauce, pastes and for canning.
Beefsteak tomatoes – have a kidney bean shape, thinner skin and shorter shelf life compared to other varieties. This makes them impractical for commercial use. Often used for sandwiches.
Campari tomatoes – noted for their juiciness, are sweet and low in acidity. They are bigger than cherry but smaller than plum tomatoes.
Classification According to Growth Habits
Tomatoes are also classified according to their growth habits. There are:
Intedeterminate, also known as cordon types grow as a single long stem. They produce side shoots, which grow to be lateral branches. Allowing the spread of these long branches will congest the plant and result in lower yields. Control their growth by removing lateral stems. Home growers prefer these as they grow all season and they can be picked as they ripen. They are massive and heavy tomatoes.
Determinate or bush types are a good choice for growing in containers or hanging baskets. They have a low growing sprawling habit as they lack a central stem. They bear a full crop at once typically early in the year and top off at a specific height. Commercial growers prefer them so they can harvest a whole field at one time.
Dwarf varieties are small and compact and grow no more than 8 inches.
The Conditions to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes need approximately 3 to 4 months of fairly dry warm weather to produce the best yields. The optimum temperature range for growing tomatoes is between 60° to 85°F. They grow best in soil with 5% organic matter and a PH of 6.5. They require well-drained fertile soils. Select a site that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.
Before planting, mix aged manure or compost, allocating a wheelbarrow for every three square meters of land. Add bone meal to each hole. The extra phosphorous speeds up ripening. Add nitrogen only when the top leaves turn yellow and the stem purple. Too much nitrogen will give off abundant foliage but delay ripening.
Harden off the tomato seedlings or transplants for a week before planting. Set them outside for a couple of hours a day gradually increasing the amount of time the seedlings or transplants take in direct sunlight. If starting from seedlings, start indoors. Allocate plenty of space for the seedlings to branch out. Crowded conditions inhibit growth, leads the plant to develop stress and may be prone to diseases later.
Therefore, snap off weaker smaller seedlings in favour of the larger ones with higher yield chances as well survival. Facilitate the seedlings with strong direct sunlight. The plants need to move and sway in order to develop strong stems. Turn on a fan for a few minutes, twice a day or ruffle the plants up a bit.
The seedlings will not start to develop until the soil and air are warm enough. Preheat the garden soil by covering it with black plastic before planting so the tomatoes develop earlier. You can opt for deep holes or shallow trenches and lay plants sideways. It will straighten up towards the sun. Place the plants deeper than they come in the pot. All the way to the top of a few leaves. The tomatoes will develop roots all along their stem.
Preparation Before Planting
Thus giving the plant greater anchorage. Allow the soil to warm before mulching to prevent it from cooling. Red mulch increases tomato yields. Water adequately to reduce the shock to the roots. When tomatoes are 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the lowest part of the plant. They are the oldest and get the least amount of sunlight and air. They are also the most prone to fungus problems due to the water splashing on them.
Sprawling plants will survive but they are more susceptible to soil borne diseases. Staking is important to avoid breaking, tipping or snapping of stems. The plants become victims to rot and critters that feed on the plants. Grow tomatoes in containers; it require the pot to have drainage holes in the bottom. Plant one tomato per pot. Do this for bush or dwarf varieties and stake the taller varieties.
Water generously for strong root system. Especially to potted plants as they dry faster. Water in the morning to sustain the tomatoes throughout the day. Avoid watering in the evening. Mulch 5 weeks after transplanting for weed control, moisture retention and keep soil from splashing on lower leaves. When tomatoes are 1 inch in diameter, side dress with fertilizer or compost every 2 weeks.
Days to maturity depend on variety of the tomatoes grown. We have early varieties, which require 60 or less days to harvest. Mid-season varieties that take up 70 to 80 days to harvest. While late season varieties require more than 90 days to harvest.
Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases that affect tomatoes include aphids, flea beetles, late blight and mosaic virus. From year to year, practice crop rotation and destroy all infected plants.
Harvesting and Storage of Mature Tomatoes
During harvest, pick the tomatoes that are firm and have turned the correct colour. For example, red, yellow or orange. Never refrigerate ripe tomatoes as it spoils the flavour. Tomatoes have thousands of varieties to suit different tastes and climates. Research adequately beforehand on the best variety for your garden. I hope you have learn a lot. Let’s go and grow tomatoes now!