Tomatoes are among the popularly grown crops in home vegetable gardens. Tomatoes are loved by many because they have versatile uses such as cooking, eating as a fruit and make tomato paste among others. When all the basic planting instructions are adhered to, tomatoes produce large healthy fruits. However, they require extra care as compared to other vegetables because they are more prone to diseases.
How to plant tomatoes
Soil and climate
Tomatoes thrive in warm areas with at least 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. The soil should be fertile, well drained, deep, rich in organic matter and have a pH of between 5.5 and 6.8. The best soil for growing tomatoes is one that holds water evenly. Thus, if your garden soil stays soggy, consider using a raised bed. Too much water in soil causes blossom end rot, fruit splitting and flower drop. To get rid of organisms that cause tomato diseases and to build soil nutrients, rotate tomatoes with unrelated plants like lettuce. Vicia villosa is a legume that fixes soil nitrogen; plant it in fall, cut and till its residue in soil during spring.
Seeds or seedlings
Depending on your areas climatic conditions and time you have, you can choose to plant seedlings or grow your own from seeds. When using seeds, they can be grown direct from the ground especially in long season areas. However, most people prefer to start seeds indoors for about 5 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost after which the now grown seedlings are transferred to the garden. The main benefit of growing tomatoes from seeds is that, you get to choose many varieties unlike seedlings where you have to grow what your local garden nursery has in stock.
If you but seedlings from your local garden nursery, ensure they are clean, green and healthy. Watch out for yellowish or brownish bottom leaves and seedlings whose flowers are already showing. These two are signs the seedling is stressed and may not thrive. Remember to inspect the leaves thoroughly for signs of pest invasion like aphids and chew marks. The seedlings should be planted after the last frost day. Cold soils affect the foliage and phosphorous uptake negatively.
Tomatoes should be planted on their side and deep into the soil. Thus, you start by digging trenches, remove the lower seedling branches and stems to leave only the top green leaves. Lay the seedlings down on its side; in the trench and cover them with soil. Leave only the top leaves showing. Planting seedlings on their sides gives the plant a strong foundation since the buried stem forms large roots that can absorb water and nutrients better. When planting in the garden, they should be at least 25 to 35 inches apart to provide room for sprawling. If you plan on caging the tomatoes, 15 inches apart will be fine.
For the best results, it is advisable to put down a reasonable amount of organic fertilizer before planting. You give the plant a healthy and good start. The next time you use organic fertilizer will be after the flowers start showing. At this stage, it is important to spray a kelp solution to ward off potential pests and diseases. Repeat the spraying two more times before the plants are fully grown.
We all enjoy using tomatoes for cooking and making salads. That is the same way you should enjoy planting and growing tomatoes in your garden. They are easy to cultivate and maintain. All you have to do is watch out for pests and diseases since tomatoes are prone to many garden diseases and pests.