Among the many fruits and vegetables that you can plant at home, tomatoes are probably the most popular. It’s because when you keep tomato plants at home or in a shared garden, aside from getting the satisfaction of having raised your own food, you will also get the freshest tomatoes possible. This is why many people who decide to approach gardening at home choose to plant tomatoes as their first crop.
Tomatoes are also quite easy to grow. That’s why it’s easy to understand why more and more people choose to grow their own tomatoes. However, even if growing tomatoes is not complicated, those who have never experienced growing tomatoes before would perhaps appreciate some guidance. If you are one of them, read on as we’re giving you the ultimate guide to growing tomatoes.
How to Choose the Right Tomato Plants
Many vegetable gardeners opt to buy tomato plants from a garden center instead of starting them from seed. This is actually a great way to start tomato production in your garden. Tomato plants are relatively adaptive, making them great for transplanting. However, when choosing a tomato plant, there are things you need to consider. Here they are:
Choose whether you want determinate, indeterminate, or heirloom tomatoes.
Tomato plants that are determinate grow a certain height and then stop growing to produce fruit all at once. Most of the time, determinate tomato plants produce cherry tomatoes and roma tomato types, which are perfect for salads and sauces.
Tomato plants that are indeterminate are those that keep on growing and producing fruit periodically over a longer period. These include better boy and beefsteak varieties that are commonly used in sandwiches.
Lastly, heirloom tomatoes are those that are passed down from generation to generation. There are times when these are more colorful and flavorful. However, heirloom tomatoes are also more vulnerable to diseases.
Try to pick tomato plants that are smaller.
For tomato plants, the smaller, the better. But this does not mean you should buy the smallest one that you can find. Try to choose plants that are about 4 to 8 inches tall. Also, ensure that it is as wide as it is tall to avoid getting a skinny and scrawny-looking plant. Smaller plants are great as they are easier to transplant and do not need to dig a deeper hole. A smaller plant also has a better chance to build a sturdier root system and a stronger stem.
Always check the leaves of the plant.
It is also essential to take a good look at the leaves of the tomato plant. Ensure that they are nice, even, and deep green in color. It’s because the deepness of the green in the plant can depend on the tomato plant, as some tomatoes are naturally darker in color compared to others. You just need to ensure that the leaves have an even color throughout the plant. Also, check if there’s any yellowing or spots on the leaves or any wilting or curling and avoid them. The leaves should also not be torn or broken.
Check the stem of the tomato plant.
You also need to check the stem of the plant for any signs of brown streaks or brown tint. This might be a sign of a weak stem or a rotten root. Therefore, you need to ensure that the stem is sturdy and the plant is not falling over.
Examine the soil in the container.
Aside from the plant itself, you also need to check the soil of the pot that it is planted in. Ensure that it is not dried out. To check for moisture, dab your finger into the soil. Avoid choosing tomato plants which soil is dried out as it is a sign that it has not been watered well.
Don’t be shy to ask for help.
If you are in doubt about a particular plant, ask an employee at the garden center. Most of the time, they can assist you in choosing the best tomato plant for transplanting. Let them know about your goals and ask for their recommendations.
Different Requirements for Planting Tomatoes
Aside from getting the right tomato plant, there are also important requirements that you need to learn about to be able to grow your tomatoes successfully. Here are some of them:
Tomatoes require a terrain that is full of nutrients, fast-draining, and loamy. Aside from that, they also like terrains that are acidic with a pH between 5.5 and 6.8. To improve the characteristics of the soil and its texture, you can add 3 to 4 inches of well-rotted compost and blend it well with the top 10 inches of soil. This will help improve the draining features of the soil and add many nutrients to it.
Tomato plants can adapt well to different conditions. However, you need to maintain an optimal distance to let them grow well. When the tomato plants are too close to each other, they will compete for light, nutrients, and water. When this happens, your plant will be less strong, and it might also diminish your yield.
Aside from that, planting tomatoes at adequate distances is needed so that it will be easier to cure them. Pests usually thrive in a shady environment. Therefore, with the right spacing, you can maintain the plants under control.
The spacing requirement between two tomato plants is 24 inches, with at least 2 feet between the rows. Preferably, you need to leave no less than 36 inches of space between two tomato plants.
Keep in mind that tomatoes are summer crops. This means that they flourish in warm, sunny environments. For planting tomatoes, the ideal temperature is between 65°F to 75°F. They can also do well at warmer temperatures, but you need to water them more frequently.
Important Steps in Growing Tomatoes
Here are the important steps that you need to learn on how to plant and grow tomatoes:
1. Planting a Tomato
When the outside temperatures are constantly above 60°F during daytime and above 50° at night, your plants are ready to be transferred into the garden. All you need are the tomato plant or seedlings, tomato sticks or cages, and a shovel.
You need to pick a sunny spot to plant the tomatoes. Remember that they need to have at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. After choosing a good spot, add about 6 pounds of compost per square meter and blend it with the existing soil. Keep in mind that tomatoes are heavy eaters, and they will require a lot of nutrients. Ensure that you blend the compost with the first 10 inches of soil.
After that, transplant the seedlings or tomato plant by burying about 50% of it. You shouldn’t worry if some of the leaves are buried as new ones will develop soon. After planting, water the plants immediately with about a gallon of water per plant. You need to use warm water that is about 80°F, and it should be done within the first 10 minutes after transplanting to prevent the shock.
When you are done watering the plants, place the sticks or the tomato cages above the plants. After one week, start watering your tomatoes regularly and take care of them as you would usually do for a fully grown tomato plant.
2. Watering the Tomato Plants
If you want your tomatoes to flourish and produce tasty fruits, ensure that they have constant moist. Make sure that you give them at least 1 inch of water each week, depending on the soil characteristics and temperature. As a universal rule, you need to water it to about 1 to 1.5 inches deep each time the soil dries.
3. Fertilizing and Mulching Tomatoes
If you like the soil to maintain its moisture, mulching is a great option. To do this, add a layer of about an inch of mulch around the tomato plants. Any type of mulch can be used. You also need to fertilize the tomato plants with ammonium nitrate when they begin to produce fruits. Give about a tablespoon of fertilizer to each plant every month.
4. Pruning Tomato Plants
Pruning depends on the type of tomatoes you are growing. If you choose a determinate tomato, then it will not benefit from pruning. For indeterminate tomatoes, many gardeners believe that pruning is a good practice.
If you wish to prune your tomato plants, ensure that they are more than 2 feet tall. Find spots where two branches meet and from where additional branches are growing. Using a sharp pruner, cut off the smaller branches that develop from the two branches. It is also advisable to prune tomatoes early in the morning on a sunny day as it can help the plant heal faster. After pruning the plant, you need to use a soil-level watering system like a soaker hose.
5. Harvesting and Storing Tomatoes
After approximately 60 to 85 days after transplanting, tomato fruits are usually ripe. You can see if they are ripe by looking at their color. When they are red, orange, or yellow, then they are ready to harvest. Aside from color, another sign of maturity is their firmness. A fully ripe tomato should be almost firm when they are ready.
It is easy to pick tomatoes, and you can do it by hand. Pull them off carefully off the vines and pay attention not to damage the plant. You can also use a garden shear to cut the stems safely. You can store tomato fruits for up to a week in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. You can also dry them, can them, or pickle them if you wish to store them for a longer period.
Growing Tomatoes in Pots
Tomatoes can also grow well in pots. In fact, many gardeners prefer this method of growing tomatoes. Here are some of the steps needed to grow tomatoes in pots:
- Find a sunny place where you can place the pots.
- Pick the right type of containers. The pots you should use need to be 18 inches in diameter for determinate tomatoes and 24 inches for indeterminate tomatoes. It should have a capacity of at least 20 gallons. You need to ensure that it has drainage holes, and the pot’s color should be light.
- Place high-quality potting soil in the pots. Do not use garden soil mixed with compost as it will settle very compact in the pots. You need to achieve fluffy and light soil that will enable proper airflow and maintain moisture for a longer period.
- Plant the tomato seedlings in the pots by following the steps we’ve given above. Keep in mind the temperature requirements and plant one seedling per pot.
- Use tomato cages or insert a stick in each pot to provide support to your plants.
- Put a generous amount of organic mulch to cover the soil as this will maintain the moisture of the soil.
- Water the plants similarly as how you will water those that are growing in the garden. You can also place saucers under the pots so that the plants can reabsorb the excess water when needed.
- When fruits start to grow, you can add some fertilizer just like how you would for the tomatoes planted in the garden. You can also harvest the fruits the same way.
- At the end of the season, when the tomatoes dry, remove the remaining plants and throw the soil into the compost pile. You can start your next tomato crop or other crops using fresh soil.
If you are searching for more information about growing tomatoes, you can read the following articles:
- Growing Tomatoes
- Growing Tomatoes Upside Down
- How to Grow Tomatoes in Abundance
- Best Way to Grow Tomatoes in a Container
- Growing Upside Down Tomatoes Using a Self-Watering Planter
- Five Great Tomato Growing Tips
Growing tomatoes is fairly easy, especially for beginners in gardening. They are also versatile as you have the option to grow them outdoors or indoors. Once you become successful in growing tomatoes at home, you no longer need to buy them in grocery stores. You can simply pick them up from your garden and add them to the dish that you are preparing. This guarantees you fresh tomatoes all the time. We hope this guide helped you in learning more about growing tomatoes.