How To Grow Tomatoes, homesteading and small vegetable gardens

How To Grow Tomatoes Easily

Learning how to grow tomatoes can be fun and rewarding as well as tasty. They are a versatile and delicious fruit that can be used in a variety of dishes. They are also relatively easy to grow, making them a popular choice for home gardeners. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about how to grow tomatoes, including the best time of year to grow, containers versus garden beds, nutrients, when to fertilize, equipment needed, the best time to pick them, and how to tell if they are ripe.

A Few Things to Remember When Buying Seedlings
  1. When choosing your tomato plants or seedlings, always buy from a good local nursery, who source their product from local growers.
  2. Good seedlings/plants are short and plump with mid to dark green in color. Their stems are straight and sturdy, about the size of a ballpoint pen.
  3. The tomato plants should not have yellowing leaves, spots, or stress damage, nor have flowers or fruits already sprouting. If in doubt, buy another plant that looks healthy to you.
how to grow tomatoes survival garden how to grow vegetables prepper tomatoes-5566741_1920
The Best Time of Year to Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes are warm-weather plants, so they should be grown during the warm season. The ideal time to plant tomatoes is in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. If you live in an area with a shorter growing season, you may want to start your tomatoes indoors a few weeks before the last frost date and then transplant them outside once the weather warms up.

Containers versus Garden Beds

Tomatoes can be grown in containers or garden beds. Containers are a great option for those with limited space, as they can be placed on a balcony or patio. Garden beds provide more space for the plants to grow and can be easier to maintain. If you are planting in a garden bed, make sure to choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and has well-draining soil.

Soil Preparation

Before planting your tomatoes, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or rocks and loosening the soil with a garden fork or tiller. You may also want to amend the soil with compost or other organic matter to improve the soil’s fertility.

Seed Starting

If you are starting your tomatoes from seeds, sow the seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Use seed-starting trays filled with potting soil and keep them in a warm, sunny location. Once the seedlings have developed their second set of leaves, transplant them into larger containers, good quality greenhouses, or into your garden bed.

Transplanting

Whether you are starting your tomatoes from seeds or buying seedlings, it is important to transplant them properly. Make sure to plant them at the same depth as they were in their previous container, and space them about two to three feet apart.

Watering

Tomatoes need consistent watering to thrive. Water them deeply once a week, or more often during periods of drought. Make sure to water the soil, not the leaves, as wet leaves can lead to disease.

Fertilizing

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization. You can use a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10, every two to three weeks throughout the growing season. Alternatively, you can use organic fertilizers, such as compost or fish emulsion.

Pruning

Pruning your tomato plants can help promote air circulation and prevent disease. Remove the suckers, which are the small shoots that grow between the stem and the main branch. You can also remove any leaves that are touching the ground.

Pest Control

Tomatoes can be susceptible to pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, and tomato hornworms. You can prevent these pests by keeping the garden clean and removing any debris or weeds. You can also use organic pest control methods, such as insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Harvesting

Tomatoes are ready to be harvested when they are fully ripe and have a deep, rich color. You can pick them when they are still slightly firm, and allow them to ripen fully on the counter. Be gentle when handling the tomatoes to avoid bruising or damaging them. If you have an abundance of ripe tomatoes, you can store them in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for a few days. However, keep in mind that refrigeration can affect the texture and flavor of the tomatoes.

Crop Rotation and Your Tomatoes

crop rotation is important for tomatoes to help prevent soil-borne diseases and pests. It’s recommended to rotate tomato crops every two to three years to allow the soil to recover and reduce the risk of disease build-up.

Tomatoes are susceptible to a number of soil-borne diseases, including verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and bacterial spot. These diseases can remain in the soil for several years, so rotating crops can help reduce their impact on future tomato crops.

To rotate your tomato crops, simply move them to a different area of your garden or use a different container. It’s best to avoid planting tomatoes in the same spot or container more than once every two to three years.

If you have limited space in your garden, you can try intercropping your tomato plants with other crops to help break up disease cycles. For example, you can plant tomatoes with herbs like basil or marigolds, which can help repel pests and attract beneficial insects.

How to Tell if They Are Ripe

There are a few ways to tell if your tomatoes are ripe. First, check the color – ripe tomatoes will be a deep, rich color, depending on the variety. Second, gently squeeze the tomato – if it is slightly soft to the touch, it is likely ripe. Finally, you can also check the texture and aroma – ripe tomatoes will have a sweet, fragrant aroma and a soft, juicy texture.

Tomato History

Tomatoes are native to South America and were first domesticated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America. They were introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century and quickly became a popular food crop. Today, tomatoes are one of the most widely grown and consumed crops in the world, with a wide variety of cultivars available to suit different growing conditions and culinary uses.

A Few Interesting & Weird Facts About Tomatoes.

Tomatoes are actually a fruit, not a vegetable. This is because they contain seeds and develop from the ovary of a flower.

Tomatoes were once considered poisonous in Europe. When they were first introduced to Europe in the 16th century, many people were suspicious of their bright colors and assumed they were poisonous. In fact, the leaves and stems of the tomato plant are toxic, but the fruit is perfectly safe to eat.

The largest tomato that was ever grown was reportedly weighing over 7 pounds. This monster was grown by a man named Gordon Graham from Oklahoma, USA in 1986.

Tomatoes were the first genetically modified crop to be approved for commercial sale. In 1994, the Flavr Savr tomato was approved for sale in the United States. It had been genetically modified to stay fresh longer than traditional tomatoes. And reportedly, poorer in taste.

Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Tomatoes can help protect your skin from sun damage. The lycopene in tomatoes has been shown to help protect the skin from UV damage and reduce the risk of sunburn.

There is a tomato festival in Spain called La Tomatina. It takes place in the town of Buñol, Valencia, and involves a massive tomato fight where participants throw tomatoes at each other.

Tomatoes were once known as “love apples.” In the 18th century, some people believed that tomatoes had aphrodisiac properties and referred to them as “love apples.”

These are just a few of the many interesting and weird facts about tomatoes.

To grow tomatoes, you’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment and supplies, including:

Garden bed or container

Tomatoes can be grown in the ground or in containers, depending on your space and preference. If you choose to grow them in a container, make sure it is at least 18-24 inches deep to accommodate the root system.

Soil

Tomatoes prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. You can buy a pre-made potting mix or make your own by mixing equal parts compost, peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite.

Fertilizer

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization to produce a good crop. You can use a balanced, granular fertilizer or a liquid fertilizer formulated specifically for tomatoes. Follow the instructions on the package for application rates and timing.

Watering can or hose

Tomatoes need consistent moisture to grow well, especially during hot, dry weather. Use a watering can or hose with a gentle spray attachment to water the plants deeply, avoiding foliage. An interesting idea that I have tried, and does work, is to take a water bottle, fill it with water, and stuff the opening with cotton wool. Upturn and plant the bottle opening in the soil near your tomatoes. This will release water slowly and it is a great idea for really hot weather.

Pruning shears

Tomatoes benefit from regular pruning to remove suckers and promote airflow and fruit development. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears to make clean cuts. As with all your gardening tools, give them a quick clean after use. This will help to reduce the spread of disease between plants.

Stakes or cages

Most tomato plants require support to keep them upright and prevent the fruit from touching the ground. You can use stakes or cages to support the plants as they grow. Make sure you put stakes in first before planting, If you wait and put them in once your tomatoes are established, you are in danger of disturbing their roots.

Good Quality Wheelbarrow

This is an important one. I grew up using a three-wheel wheelbarrow that constantly fell over. I was never that co-ordinated. I then found a 4-wheeled garden cart, brilliant! That changed everything. These garden workhorses can take the weight of bricks, rocks, stumps, and bags of potting mix. Make sure the one you pick has pneumatic tires, much easier to maintain.

Mulch

A layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, can help conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Are all mulches good?

There are some mulches that you should avoid using around your tomato plants, as well as many other plants you may want to grow. These include:

Walnut shells

Walnut shells contain a chemical called juglone that can be toxic to tomato plants and other plants in the nightshade family. Avoid using walnut shells as mulch around your tomato plants. Personally, I would just avoid using them in the garden as a rule.

Cedar chips

Cedar chips contain oils that can be toxic to some plants, including tomatoes. They can also interfere with the soil’s pH balance and make it more acidic, which can be harmful to tomato plants.

Fresh manure

Fresh manure, such as sheep, cow, or chicken, can contain high levels of nitrogen and other nutrients that can burn your tomato plants and promote excessive leafy growth at the expense of fruit production. If you want to use manure as a fertilizer, make sure it is well-aged and composted first. It can take between 6 weeks to a year to age the manure, and as suggested (repeatedly) by me, your local gardening store will have the perfect product.

Grass clipping

Fresh grass clippings can mat down and create a dense, oxygen-poor layer that can suffocate your tomato plants. If you want to use grass clippings as mulch, let them dry out first and mix them with other materials like leaves or straw to improve airflow. layering them in your compost will work perfectly.

So basically, it’s best to stick with organic mulches like straw, shredded leaves, or compost. These materials break down slowly over time, enriching the soil and improving its structure and fertility. Your local gardening store will usually have everything you need if you are unable to make your own compost, as it takes a lot of time and a little bit of space to create.

Growing tomatoes can be a fun and rewarding experience, whether you choose to plant them in a container or garden bed. By following these simple tips on soil preparation, seed starting, transplanting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, pest control, and harvesting, you can enjoy a bountiful crop of juicy, ripe tomatoes. Remember to choose the right variety for your climate, and to be patient as the plants grow and develop. Again, your garden store can give you good information about your local area.

Happy gardening my good friends!