SIMPLEST WAY TO GROW TOMATOES OF ALL TYPES
· An over ripe tomato of any type that was bought from the store or
seeds from your local nursery
· Organic potting soil to mix with your yard soil (optional)
· 3-4 inch pot for the first transplant (optional)
· six gallon pot (optional) for one plant that has good drainage or
an inexpensive five gallon bucket (with drilled holes for good drainage)
Select a few over ripened grape or cherry tomatoes (or any variety tomatoes of your choice) that you bought from the store. The grape or cherry tomato (the smaller varieties) are less prone to many of the problems or diseases that plague larger-fruited varieties and they often produce fruit early and have a habit of producing fruit in long trusses.
Pick an area in your yard or porch that is sunny at least ten hours a day. Simply throw it into your yard where the soil is loose and rich or in a pot with good, organic potting soil. ‘Partially’ cover it with the soil if you feel you must in order to give the tomato seeds a chance to dry and germinate.
Water it once planted. Soak your tomato bed once a week, or every five days at the height of summer. Water directly on the soil rather than the leaves in order to prevent rot. Potted plants usually need to be watered more frequently. Plastic or fiberglass pots (rather than clay) are best so the plant will not dry out as quickly. While tomatoes love heat, they definitely do not like being dry, and dry soil is a huge detriment to fruit production.
Growth progress of the young grape tomato plant:
about day 7 days
(This grape tomato was thrown directly into yard soil and did not make as good a progress of those thrown in organic potting soil)
about day 15 days
about day 30 days
about day 40 days
When the stem is about 1-2 inches long, it is time to separate and transplant each plant either into your garden or into an individual 3”-4” diameter pot that is filled with good quality, well moistened organic potting mix. Make a hole in it to receive the seedling. Crowded conditions inhibit their growth.
A single tomato plant can grow as tall as 5 feet though I’ve heard some growing to 10 feet (depending on the variety) so it needs the space. When transferring the tomato plant to the 6 gallon pot or to the garden, bury the stem to just below the lowest set of leaves as well as the roots themselves.
New roots will grow along the buried section of stem, making it a healthier plant.
If the tomato plant is in a pot, put soil within an inch below the rim of the pot to allow room for watering and then place it on a sunny windowsill or sunny part of your porch or yard.
Tomatoes love sun – the more sun the better. Direct sunlight helps maintain stocky, robust plants and avoids spindly plants. Once in place, water thoroughly.
Once your tomato plants reach about 3 ft. tall, remove the leaves from the bottom 1 ft. of stem. These are the oldest leaves and they are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. As the plants fill out, the bottom leaves get the least amount of sun and air circulation. And being close to the ground, soil borne pathogens can easily splash up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.
Pruning tomato suckers is sometimes recommended because the resulting new stem is competing for nutrients with the original plant. You may be setting more fruits if you leave the suckers to grow, but the fruits will be smaller and the plant will be more cumbersome. Pruning tomato suckers is really just thinning the plants.
Here is a picture of a large variety tomato plant approximately three months old planted from seed in early November 2014 supported with wooded stakes.
Depending on the variety of tomato, it can take from 70-81 days from seed to fruit or even 100 days for the hybrid. The bigger the variety, the longer it takes to fruit. The smaller varieties take approximately 45 -70 days.
In colder climates you can sow your tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors. Planting your seedlings outdoors should be scheduled around 2 weeks following the average last frost date for your growing zone.
Plant herbs like cilantro and dill near tomato plants and let them go to flower. They attract beneficial insects that keep pests such as hornworms under control.
Give your plant frequent, light watering and keep it in a sunny place to encourage growth.
When watering, it is best to soak the root system well, and then allow the surface to dry out somewhat before watering again. Depending on the weather this may mean watering once a day or once every two weeks. Test it by sticking your finger into the soil. If the first two inches are dry, it’s time to water.
Watering the soil rather than the leaves and mulching the ground with a material such as straw will keep the water from splashing onto the lower leaves and stems. This can help prevent diseases from spreading.
Some gardeners even remove the lower leaves of tomato plants once they are well established to prevent them from picking up diseases from the ground. Red plastic mulch is said to keep nematode populations down. There are, however, diseases for which there are no resistant varieties.
Please note that every time you water a potted tomato plant, you are washing nutrients out of the soil and since tomatoes are heavy feeders, you need to fertilize regularly preferably with either fish emulsion or seaweed extract. Once a month is good, but every other week is better and apply the fertilizer at half-strength. This will provide a constant source of nutrients for the tomato tree’s needs.
Irregular watering, (missing a week and trying to make up for it), leads to blossom end rot and cracking. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least 1 inch of water per week, but during hot, dry spells, they may need more. If your plants start to look wilted for most of the day, give them a drink.
Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They will take energy away from the rest of the plant. But go easy on pruning the rest of the plant. You can thin out a few leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.
Once the fruit begins to ripen, you can ease up on watering. Lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, for better flavor. Use your judgement. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants continually wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.
Support for the tomato plants are important in aftercare because:
1. It helps to avoid diseases
2. It makes it easier to harvest
3. It keeps the fruit clean
4. It makes it easier to spray and monitor problems
All varieties of tomatoes benefit from some support. There are many ways to support your tomato plants. Wood stakes are a simple and inexpensive solution. You will need to tie off the plant to the stakes. Be sure to use several to support your plant well. Another way is creating a real focal point in the garden by making a tall tepee trellis using extra-long pieces of bamboo.
Mulching, while less important in a container than in a garden bed, is still a good idea. It will keep weeds from growing in your tomato pot and retain moisture, so you won’t have to water quite as often. The best mulches are pebbles, bark mulch and straw. Another choice is using the black or red plastic. Simply lay it over the soil before you plant your tomato, cut a slit large enough to put the plant in, and hold it down with metal stakes.
Growing fresh tomatoes is one of the true joys of the vegetable gardener. But tomatoes can suffer from all kinds of diseases and pests. Problems growing tomatoes are often the result of weather conditions. This is something that is out of the gardeners’ control. However if you know your area is prone to a certain disease, you should look for tomato varieties that are listed as resistant.