What would a vegetable garden be without the lovely tomato? Once, considered poisonous, the tomato now is regarded as the food of the gods. There are many different varieties, they come in many different colors, grow in different shapes and sizes, and have many different flavors.
This article gives step-by-step information on planting tomatoes from seed, transplanting them in the garden, additives to make them grow well, and deterring insects.
The best method to use when starting tomatoes from seed is to begin seeds about six weeks before you would transplant them in your garden. Plant them in peat pots or plugs so that they do not have to be disturbed too much when planting.
Seeds need a lot of water but try not to let them be soaked at all times. They also need a good deal of sunlight. If you don’t have a greenhouse it is best to keep them under a grow light.
When choosing a location for planting, find a spot in full sun. The soil needs a pH level of about 6.2 and 6.8. Stems should be about the size of a pencil and have two to four leaves and no blossoms. Each plant will need 3 sqft of space in your garden.
Plant your tomatoes in a hole 2 inches deeper than the pot your plant is in. If you have used a plug or peat pot, rip it open a little so the roots can escape into the earth. If your garden is not well-drained, set your plants in a 4-6 inch mound to prevent them from getting soggy. If your garden tends to be a bit dry, plant in a depression so that water will collect around the plants.
After planting, water the plant well and remove the 2 to 3 bottom leaves. A trick that will prevent tomato worms from getting to your plants is to wrap the bottom of the stem with a folded half of a page of newspaper burying part of it in the earth. The worm won’t find the paper appetizing and will leave your plants alone.
Pruning tomatoes is a controversial subject. Some say tomatoes should not be pruned at all. Others say that if you don’t remove small branches, the plant will never be strong enough to bear fruit and the sun will not be able to ripen the fruits. They wait until the fruit sets and then take most of the leaves off the plant. This will produce less fruit but what does come from the plants usually ripens faster and gets larger because all the strength goes to the fruit, not the leaves.
If your tomato plants seem to be yellowing after blossoms appear and fruit sets, you may have to add a little dressing of nitrogen. Be aware that nitrogen will not affect your fruit, only the leaves. Many people make the mistake of adding too much nitrogen and all they get are lush bushy plants and no fruit. Lime added to the soil around the plants will prevent fruit deformities. Calcium added to the soil will prevent blossom end rot. Make manure tea, which will benefit both the leaves and the fruits, by combining 1/3 part manure with 2/3 parts water. Pour around the base of the plant. Don’t get it on the leaves or it will burn them.
Plant your tomatoes with cabbage, carrots, celery, and mint. Planting it near basil can actually enhance the flavor of the tomatoes. Plant them near calendula or borage and the tomato worm will never come near. Never plant it near corn or fennel.
With any luck you will have a garden full of tomatoes to bring to your dinner table all summer.