Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and they can be used so many ways, try and grow your own with the help of this guide!
Many dishes need tomatoes to taste great, and they are used to prepare meals in many communities around the world. They are so ubiquitous because they can grow in many different climates.
One of the best things about tomatoes is the fact that they are rich in vitamins and minerals, because of this, they provide many health and wellbeing benefits.
You can eat tomatoes as fruit on their own or use them to make delicious tomato soup to go with your favourite bread, grilled cheese, salad, fried fish, or steak.
How To Plant Tomatoes
Tomatoes are best grown from seeds. To plant tomatoes, you need to buy seeds from a reputable gardener or seed shop. If you attempt to grow tomatoes from tomato seeds you extract yourself from a random tomato, the resulting plants will not be very impressive.
Once you get tomato seeds, start them indoors about eight weeks away from the last frost date in spring. Do this by sowing two seeds per 0.5-inch hole with about an inch between each hole in a small pot with planting soil, then set the pot under growing lights to increase the temperature for germination.
After about one week, your seeds will germinate. You are then supposed to cut off the weaker seedling from each planting hole to allow the other to grow better. You should continue watering the seedlings and exposing them to growing lights every day or so.
Once they become big enough, transfer each seedling to a bigger pot, making sure not to disturb the root ball. About two weeks after the last frost date in your area, your tomato seedlings will be big enough to transplant and the ground will be warm enough to support them.
To transplant tomato seedlings, prepare the planting sites by mixing the soil with compost and then digging holes big enough to accommodate the root balls of your tomato plants. After this, set your tomato plants in the holes, bury and water them, but at this size, make sure your tomato plants are about 24 inches apart.
How To Care For Tomato Plants
After transplanting tomatoes, the most important thing to do is to water them consistently. If you fail to do this, they will die quickly or have a disappointing yield if they manage to survive. You should only add enough water to make the root systems moist, but not wet.
The second most important thing to do is protect them with some sort of netting when the sun is too hot. This will prevent them from losing too much water to evaporation and allow them to grow quicker.
Many people apply mulch to the base of their tomato plants too to help with the reduction of moisture loss. Tomatoes are essentially herbs, therefore, they require support in the form of stakes, especially when their fruits start growing big and becoming heavy.
How to Harvest Tomatoes
You will know your tomatoes are ready when they reach full size and change colour from green to reddish. You will also know they are ready when they give a little when you press them.
Tomatoes start to ripen from mid-summer, depending on the variety, weather conditions and fruit size. To harvest a tomato, hold it gently and twist it to detach it from your tomato plant.
At the end of the growing season, lift outdoor plants with unripe fruit and either lay them on straw under cloches or pick the fruits and place somewhere warm and dark to ripen.
You should be taking in quite a significant yield, this gives you enough to try some adventurous recipes, like the ones found here!
Tips & Common Problems
Pruning your tomato crops can ensure they come up to full strength and produce bigger fruit. Staking them when the fruits start to grow supports the stems and allows the plants to keep growing too.
Tomato splitting is a very common problem. While it doesn’t affect the taste, split fruit left on the plant will often be infected by fungus. Control temperature and sunlight levels, feed regularly and water to maintain moisture levels to prevent this.
Tomato leaf mould can develop rapidly and yellow blotches develop on the upper leaf and pale, greyish-brown mould growth is found on the corresponding lower surface. Select resistant cultivars and provide ample ventilation to indoor crops.
Feed every 10–14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash feed once the first fruits start to form.