Plant tomatoes are very easy and productive. Tomatoes are the red berries of the Solanum Lycopersicon plant, also commonly known as the tomato plant.
Tomatoes are a widely cultivated fruit all around the world, and their organic, nutritious nature makes them an important crop. Even though tomatoes are fruits, they are labelled as vegetables because of this healthy and rich-in-nutrition nature.
Tomatoes are warm-season plants that grow best in the Sun and cannot tolerate the cold. After the winter has passed and the temperature has risen above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the tomato seeds can be sown. Most gardeners prefer growing tomato transplants rather than directly sowing the seeds since they are easy to grow, and the growth is more successful.
It is best to plant tomatoes six to eight weeks before the last date of frost and transplant the seedlings when the soil is warm. Before the transplant, make sure to dig 1 foot deep into the ground and mix in manure. A fertilizer of around 2 to 3 pounds should be added to the soil to help in the healthy growth of the tomatoes. Caged tomatoes should be planted three feet apart while staking requires two feet distance between the plants. Four feet distance should be allowed between the rows.
The unique part of tomato transplants is that they are sown very deep as compared to other vegetable plants since they grow out roots along with stems for the uptake of nutrients and water. For better growth, cut off the bottom leaves of the plants so that after planting, only top leaves are shown. If the tomato transplants have long stems, then bury ⅔ of the plant deep into the soil.
Regular watering is crucial for tomatoes for a strong root system. Water generously for the first few weeks. In the growing season, water about 2 gallons per week. However, you can ease up towards harvest. It’s preferable to water in the morning to keep moisture throughout the day.
Fertilizers can be mixed with water and given to the plants for a good start. Phosphoric acid and ammonium nitrate are preferable; however, a huge amount of nitrogen fertilizer should not be used.
Use herbicides to kill weeds if no mulch is used. It’s best to remove the weeds when they are small.
Once the tomatoes are ½ green and ⅓ pink (breaker stage), the harvest can begin. The tomatoes should be left to grow on the vines till they ripen; however, if they fall, then pick them up, store in a paper bag in a dark place. The tomatoes can be harvested after the periods listed below:
Early season: 40 to 60 days after the transplant.
Midseason: 60 to 80 days after the transplant. Late season: 80 or more days from the transplant.
If the frost is near and the tomatoes have not ripened yet, then pull out the plant and hang it upside down in a shed or a garage.
Do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes as it will affect their taste. When freezing tomatoes, put them in a container or a bag and seal it tight.
- Preheat the soil to speed things up.
- If grown inside, make sure to provide healthy, direct light and breeze so that the plants can sway and move.
- After the soil is warm, mulch the tomatoes to prevent soil-borne diseases.
- If suckers are seen growing in the crotches of the stems, then pinch and prune them out for healthy growth.
- If the nights are cold; then this might affect the ability of the plant to produce fruits. To prevent this from happening, cover the plants from a plastic tunnel or floating row cover.
While tomatoes are most comfortable to grow and the most popular homegrown plants, there are some problems faced by gardeners. The most common problems can be diseases and pests.
There are three main types of diseases:
- Fungal diseases
- Bacterial diseases
- Viral diseases
- Fungal diseases such as Verticillium and fusarium cause the plants to wilt, turn brown, and suddenly die. They are caused by wet weather or too much watering. Wilt Early blight and Late blight cause yellowing of leaves or discolouration of stems.
- Bacterial diseases such as bacterial canker leave plants yellow, bacterial speck leave plants brown and bacterial spots leave plants black, all creating holes in leaves, which eventually leads to death of the plant.
- Viral diseases such as the Mosaic virus or herbicide injury cause the leaves to grow distorted, twisted and stunted and have thin plates.
Often pests attack the tomato plant. Such pests are:
- Tomato Hornworms
- Aphids leave the plants weak by sucking the juice out of them. Use a strong spray of water with a high pressure to knock them off.
- Cutworms live in the soil and attack the seedlings. Use collars to protect the seedling.
- Whiteflies. Use a spray with insecticidal soap to kill them.
- Tomato Hornworms: a type of caterpillar that defoliates the plants. Use Spinosad spray or handpick them.
Types of Tomatoes
- YELLOW TOMATOES
Several tomato varieties like Hybrid and Heirloom produce yellow tomatoes. These are high in Folate, less acidic than their red counterparts, and also have a lesser amount of Vitamin C.
- HEIRLOOM TOMATOES
Heirloom tomatoes are unique because of their exquisite taste and texture. They come in a variety of colours like orange, red and purple.
- CHERRY TOMATOES
They are small in size but have a delightful taste and can be found in colour red, yellow, green, and black.
- GREEN TOMATOES
Green tomatoes are un-ripened red tomatoes harvested earlier for breading, pickling, and frying.
They are types of beefsteak tomatoes with a decadent flavour. They are large and mostly pink in colour and preferred to eat while fresh.
Tomato fruits are a great source of vitamins and have immense health benefits. Here is a list of few health benefits provided by tomatoes:
- Vision improving
- Protection against cancer
- Strong digestive system
- Help with diabetes problems
Tomatoes are used in every house on daily bases in many different ways. They are used for food purposes like soup, salad, sauces, sandwiches, etc. Along with this, tomatoes are used for other purposes, too, like skincare.
As tomatoes are extremely easy to grow and high in demand for their beneficial properties, they prove to be economically advantageous to the farmers. Tomatoes can be grown year-round in greenhouses. One plant of tomato produces many fruits, which adds to its economic benefits.
An easy crop to grow which does not happen to require any extreme conditions or high starting cost and is widely cultivated because of its extensive usage is always a great option to plant.