This article answers all tomato questions while providing useful tips and tricks on growing the best tomatoes.
The Tomato Craze!
People all over the world are in the craze of growing tomatoes for their use. When and why did this craze start?
The majority of people love to eat tomatoes, whether it is in their salad or cooking. The attachment between man and tomatoes is quite impressive.
The Beginning? When to Plant Tomatoes
Back in the colonial times, Americans used to avoid tomatoes because they believed that they were poisonous and would turn their blood to acid if eaten – a myth that was scary enough to make people avoid this delicacy.
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South and Central Africa are the origins of this fruit. Natives from these areas had a different view on tomatoes; they believe that tomato seeds have aphrodisiac value. Unlike the Americans, the French had a different belief in the fruit: pomme d’amore (the apple of love).
Americans believed the fruit was dangerous, possibly because it resembled the deadly nightshade. People would often eat the wrong fruit that resembles tomatoes causing deadly outcomes. This led to the banishing of tomatoes, as historians assume.
What Makes Homegrown Tomatoes so Unique?
Sun-ripened tomatoes offer the taste of summer on the plate. Growing tomatoes is easy as even having a few of these plants yield a basket full of fruit.
A satisfaction comes with being able to pluck fresh tomatoes from your garden. The freshness they offer when sliced in salads and sandwiches is delightful. Planting tomatoes is one of the few things you can do to enjoy the fruits with very little hustle.
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When Should You Start Planting Your Tomato Plants?
This is a frequent question mostly asked by new home farmers looking to grow tomatoes. Planting time varies from place to place because of the difference in the climate. Some countries experience winter seasons while others, like its native environment, do not allow the plant to grow.
Planting early will not do you any good because tomatoes will sprout early in frost that would destroy the entire plant. Keep in mind tomatoes do not grow in temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).
The best way to know the opportune time to plant is by checking the soil’s temperature, which should be around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, you cannot dip a thermometer in the soil every day to check for temperature, but there is an easier solution.
Dip a finger into the soil, and if you can keep it there for a whole minute, then the time is right. The ultimate rule of thumb is that as long as it is uncomfortable to you, it is also to the plant.
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How would you know if it is too late to plant tomatoes? The accurate answer depends on the number of days the tomato plant takes to mature. There is a variety of tomato plants, each taking a different duration to reach maturity. Knowing this duration helps you determine the number of days left before the tomatoes bear fruits. This, plus comparing it to the number of days of summer remaining, will give you a better understanding if it is already too late to start planting.
Tomato plants bought from vendors come with a tag that highlights the plant’s details, like the number of days to reach maturity. Provided the days are fewer than the number of days to an expected frost, you should be safe to have a successful planting and harvesting.
There are currently varieties of tomato plants that mature at around 50 to 60 days, but most of the plants need around 100 days to mature. If you are stating a tomato garden late, I suggest looking for varieties that take a shorter time to mature.
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When to Plant Tomatoes?
The first question you need to ask yourself is how to grow a tomato garden. You need to know what a specific tomato plant needs and catering for these needs will produce the best results.
All plants need sunlight to grow. On average, Tomato plants need at least 8 hours of sunlight, which means that your garden should be facing the direction of the sun.
Check the pH of the soil you intend to grow the tomato plant. The best pH for tomato plants is 6.2 to 6.8. Nutrients are essential in their growth, so add fertilizers and compost to supplement.
It would be best if you considered the distance that you keep between each tomato plant. If you plant them closely spaced, they will grow with a lot of congestion that generally reduces the number of tomatoes they will produce. Spacing them too far apart and is wasting space. How will you determine the distance you need to keep them apart?
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The different varieties of tomato plants need different amounts of space. Some grow into long stringy vines that need at least 3-feet of space, while others are stocky and need only 2-feet space. The patio type can grow in an 18-inch wide container.
It is vital to support these stringy plants off the ground using stakes, cages, and trellis.
STAKES: A simple support pole or stake that you hammer into the ground and tie plant to it. This is preferable for the varieties that grow very tall.
CAGE: This supports the entire weight of the plant without the need to tie it. They can last for many years.
TRELLIS: A support structure that allows tomato plants to climb. At first, you need to tie the plants, but they spread on the trellis on their own as they grow. You still have to retract a few stray shoots into the trellis now and then.
How to Plant Tomatoes | Growing Tomatoes
Placing the tomato plant into the soil is a fundamental process. Healthy tomato plants need at least two-thirds of their stem buried in the soil. The whole section of the stem sprouts roots that support the plant stronger and dig deeper to find water.
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Next, you need to control weeds. Most commercial growers of tomatoes use pesticides and weedicides to control pests and weeds, but we prefer to keep out tomatoes free from these chemicals. This is one of the significant advantages of eating homegrown tomatoes. You could weed the soil manually the old-fashioned way, but it is time-consuming and cumbersome.
A better option is to cover the surrounding area with a lot of mulch that is 2 to 4 inches thick. This prevents weeds from growing. Making mulch is quite simple. It works best when made of shredded leaves and straw.
Mulch also retains the moisture content in the soil by blocking sunrays from heating the ground surface. This is good for areas that experience drought while ensuring that the fruit does not suffer from cracks.
Sometimes the tomato plants do not bear fruits, usually when the summers are hot. Do not worry and be patient. You will notice small green fruit sprouts appearing in the night once the temperature drops.
You can pluck tomatoes as soon as they ripen to release stress from the plant. This reduces the weight the plant has to carry. Places that experience up to 90 degrees in temperature require that you choose tomato plants to withstand such amount of heat.
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The plants that produced the earliest fruit fade off first as the summer progresses. Providing some tenderness and care can revive these plants. Prune away leaves that look withered and dry and supplement the soil with some nutrients through fertilizer. Make sure you check for insects on the leaves.
Troubleshooting | Avoiding Common Problems
Just like doing anything else, growing a tomato plant has a few problems that you may experience. Tomato plants are getting sick, just like living creatures.
Excess humidity is one of your greatest enemies because it creates the best environment for fungus to grow. Blight is a common fungal disease that affects tomato plants. It first forms dork spots on the lower leaves of the plant, then gradually spreading upwards.
The best way to control blight is by spraying a fungicidal compound on the leaves of the plant. Chlorothalonil and copper are examples of these compounds. Remember to extract tomato debris from your garden because they contain fungus as well.
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This disease differs from country to country because of the difference in the climate. However, there are hybrid tomato plants that are resistant to some forms of infection. It is essential to research before deciding on a tomato plant to be aware of diseases.
Caterpillars and worms can be a problem. Tomato plants make a delicious snack for them, and worms like hornworms can strip all the leaves off the plant.
You can control worms by manually removing them from the plants. I advise you to use as little pesticide as you can.
There is joy and satisfaction in watching the tomatoes turn from light green to yellow after all the work you put in. Your garden will look lovely in the morning and soon you will have delicious tomatoes any time you want.
The first time you try your homegrown tomatoes, you will believe that the best comes from the home garden. Maybe it will touch your soul and make you want to try out other vegetables too!