This article will answer a lot of questions, such as: When to plant tomatoes? But we go much deeper than that and provide a set of guidelines and tips on growing tomatoes that you can be proud of.
The Tomato Craze!
A lot of people have got involved in the craze of growing their own tomatoes. It makes you wonder, when did this craze really start?
Almost everybody in the world loves to eat tomatoes. It doesn’t matter whether they use it in their salad or in their cooking. The story of man’s relationship with tomatoes is very interesting.
The Beginning ? When to Plant Tomatoes
The Americans in the colonial times stayed as far away from tomatoes as possible! Why? They believed that there was poison within each tomato and if you ate it, your blood would turn to acid! A folklore that scary is enough to keep people faraway from any tasty fruit.
Video | How to Plant Tomatoes — Growing Tomatoes
The fruit originally originated in South and Central Africa. Unlike their American counterparts, the natives here looked at the tomato very differently. They believed that the tomato seeds had an aphrodisiac property. The French too shared their belief and they called the fruit pomme d’amore. This translates to mean ‘the apple of love’.
That makes us wonder why the Americans thought that the fruit was dangerous. This is possibly because it resembled the deadly nightshade. The resemblance was so uncanny that people would often eat the wrong fruit. This had deadly outcomes. The poor tomato soon got banished too! At least that is what historians assume.
What makes home grown tomatoes so special?
Everyone who grows their own tomatoes will agree that tomatoes that are sun ripened, deliver the taste of summer to the palate. Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow and you will find that a few plants will still provide you with a basket full of fruit.
The real allure to planting your own tomato garden, is being able to go out and pluck fresh tomatoes. Slicing them for salads and sandwiches gives you a great deal of freshness with every bite that you take. Quite frankly, this one of the few places where you can enjoy the fruits with very little labor!
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When Should You Start Planting Your Tomato Plants?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions that any well seasoned gardener faces. The time for you start planting depends on where you live. Each part of the world has a different climate. While some countries face harsh winters, others do not. In fact, in it’s native environment the tomato plant grows throughout the year.
Planting the tomato plants early doesn’t help matters. This is simply because they will produce tomatoes early and can be exposed to the harsh late frosts. This could potentially destroy your entire crop. Remember that tomatoes will not grow in temperatures below 10 degree Celsius or 50 degree Fahrenheit.
So the ideal way to check the right time to plant is by checking the temperature of the soil. The best time is when the temperature of the soil is 60 degree Fahrenheit. So how do you check this? After all, you can’t keep pushing a thermometer into the soil every few days to find out if the temperature is right. Fortunately there is a much easier solution to this.
Thrust your finger into the soil. If you can keep your finger in the soil for a whole minute without feeling uncomfortable, then the time is right. The rule of thumb is that if it is uncomfortable for you, it’s uncomfortable for your plants too!
Video | Tips for Growing Tomatoes
Another frequent question that many people ask is, how do I know if it is too late to plant my tomato plants? The answer to this question lies in the number of days the plant has to maturity. There are various types of tomato plants that are available in the market. Each type takes a different length of time till it reaches maturity. The number of days to maturity tells us just how many days are left before the plant can start producing tomatoes. Calculating the number of days of summer that are remaining will help you understand if it is already too late to start your tomato garden.
So , how do you find out the days to maturity? When you go to buy your tomato plants you will find that every plant has a tag. The tag tells you how many days the plant has till it starts producing fruit. As long as you know that the number of days to maturity are far less than the number of days to the expected first frost, you will find that your tomato plants will do just fine!
Most tomato plants need around a hundred days to mature. Today, there are a number of different varieties that can mature in as little as 50-60 days. Check for the varieties that have a shorter number of days to maturity. This is important if you find yourself starting your tomato garden late.
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When to Plant Tomatoes?
The first hurdle for a new gardener comes with the how. How do I grow a tomato garden? To know how to grow a garden, you first need to know what the tomato plant needs. If you cater to the needs of the plant it will flourish.
A tomato plant’s basic requirement is sunlight. Tomatoes on average need at least eight hours of sunlight. So the first thing that you need to do is find a nice sunny spot that you can use to start your new tomato garden.
The next thing that you need to check is the pH of the soil. The plants take up nutrients best in a soil with a pH that ranges from 6.2 to 6.8. They also need a lot of nutrients. These nutrients can be supplemented by using fertilizers and compost.
Another important thing that you must consider when growing tomato plants is the distance that you need to keep between each plant. Too closely spaced plants leads to a lot of congestion and the plants will be less likely to produce good fruit. Space the plants too far and you will waste a lot of space. So, how do you go about understanding the distance that should be kept between the plants?
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It all depends on the variety of plant that you select to grow. Some varieties require a lot of space. They grow into long gangly vines and need to be grown at least three feet apart. Others are more stocky and can be grown two feet apart. The last type is the patio type. They can be grown in a single 18 inch wide container.
It is also important to keep these sprawling plants of the ground. For this it is essential to use some form of support. The most commonly used supports are the stake, the cages and the trellis.
STAKES: A stake is a simple support. It requires that you hammer a stake or a pole into the ground. The plant is then tied to it. This method is good for varieties of plants that grow to be very tall.
CAGES: Cages don’t require the plant to be tied to it. In fact the cage supports the whole weight of the plant. Another good point about cages is the fact that they last for years.
TRELLIS: A trellis serves as a supporting structure for the plant to climb. The initial stages may require you to tie the plant to the trellis but as time goes by the plant will make its way upwards. You may have to tuck a few stray shoots into the trellis every now and then.
How to Plant Tomatoes | Growing Tomatoes
The actual process of placing the plant into the ground is also very important. If you want your tomato plant to be really strong, then it is important that you bury two thirds of its stem in the soil. The rationale for this is quite sound. Burying the stem in the soil promotes the sprouting of roots from the stem. This means that the plant will be much stronger and will find water more easily.
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The next phase is to prevent weeds. While most commercial fields use pesticides, we prefer to keep our tomatoes pesticide free. It is after all, one of the most striking bonuses of eating home grown tomatoes. The age old option of weeding the soil around the plant is one option but this is time consuming and boring.
Instead, take a lot of mulch and cover the surrounding area with it. Ensure that the mulch is about two to four inches thick. This will prevent the weeds from sprouting. How do you make mulch? It is a very simple process. The best mulch is made of shredded leaves and straw. So all you have to do is collect some straw and a few dried leaves. Then you are all set!
Mulch also helps in another way. It helps retain the moisture content of the ground. It does this by blocking the sun rays so that it cannot heat the surface of the ground. This is especially useful in drought stricken areas. It also helps ensure that the fruit do not suffer from cracks and blossom end rot.
Sometimes you will find that the tomato plants are not bearing fruit. This usually happens when the summers get very hot. Be patient! You will soon notice small green fruits appearing in the nights. This happens once the temperature drops a little.
Another thing that can be done to help the stressed plant, is to pluck the tomatoes as soon as they are ripe. This relieves the plant of some of the burden that it has to carry. Some places have summers in which the summer temperature can soar to the 90’s. Not all tomato plants can withstand such high temperatures. So, if you are planning a tomato garden, then it will be wise to choose varieties of the tomato plants that are more heat tolerant.
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As summer progresses, you will soon begin to notice that the plants that produced the earliest fruit have started to fade. This is because the plant has started getting exhausted. A little tender loving care can help revive these plants. You can start by pruning away the leaves that look withered. Add in some more nutrients to the soil around it. You can do this by using liquid fertilizer. Also, don’t forget to check for insects on the leaves.
Troubleshooting | Avoiding Common Problems
Growing a tomato garden may be easy but you need to be prepared for a few hurdles that may come in the way. Like all living creatures, tomato plants also have their fair share of ailments.
One of your greatest enemies will always be excess humidity. Humidity makes the environment ripe for fungus to grow. One of the most common fungal diseases in tomato plants is blight. This causes dark spots to form on the leaves. It first appears on the lowest leaves of the plant and then gradually spreads upward.
The only way to control the spread of blight is to spray the leaves of the plant. The spray should contain approved fungicidal properties. The commonly used sprays are Chlorothalonil and copper. At such a point, remember to keep your garden free from potato and tomato debris. This is because these debris can contain the very fungus that you are trying to eliminate.
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The disease occurrence differs from country to country. This is largely due to the variety of different kinds of climates. Some varieties of hybrid plants have been designed to be resistant to some forms of infection. You need to do a little research when you choose your tomato plants. That way you are forewarned about the different diseases that can occur.
Another problem that you are likely to face is the occurrence of caterpillars and other worms. The foliage of the tomato plants forms a very tasty snack for them. Some worms can even strip the entire plant of its leaves. The tomato hornworm is just one example.
The best way to deal with worms is to find them and manually remove them from the tree. Try to use as little pesticide as you can.
After all the work you put into raising your tomato plants, the joy at seeing the tomatoes turn from light green to yellow is something that you will continue to enjoy throughout the tomato season. The garden will beckon you every morning and the tomatoes will soon grace your table at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The tomatoes that you enjoy through summer will make you an ardent believer that home grown produce tastes the best. Who knows? Maybe next summer you will become more adventurous and try to grow some other kinds of vegetables too!