Tomatoes are by far the most popular homegrown vegetable. Actually tomatoes are a fruit. But for the sake of this comparison it has been termed a ‘vegetable’ and gardeners just love to grow these plants which bear fruit in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Many aspiring gardeners have been disappointed with their efforts to grow tomatoes successfully so here are some tips to help you succeed with tomato growing.
Growing tomatoes is basically quite easy, but it is watching those pests and blights that cause the most problems during the growing cycle. In saying that, the planting of the tomato is also critical. In your home environment it is quite easy to produce organically grown tomatoes and this type of growing is gaining popularity all the time.
There are more than 3,000 varieties of heirloom tomatoes or heritage tomatoes in active cultivation worldwide and more than 15,000 known varieties. When looking for a tomato type to grow, firstly consider the following as this will help you come up with a short list of varieties to research for your home garden:
- the climate that you live in as tomatoes like warm climates but will grow in cooler climates and that may affect the variety that you choose and also the timing of the planting
- the time you have to maintain your plants during the growing period as some plants require more attention than others
- how much fruit you want to harvest and for what length of time you want to harvest the fruit
- whether you want tall plants or smaller plants as each will require a different method of care
When planting tomatoes take into consideration that the outdoor temperature needs to be between 65°F to 85°F during the day and no cooler than 60°F at night before you put the first plants in the ground. In most areas, this means that it is mid summer before seedlings can be planted in the garden.
Seedlings should be planted about 18 inches apart so that they have air flow around them when they are mature. Some of the very large bushes may need to even be planted 36 inches apart. Air flow is important for strong tomato plant growth and this is why the space is needed between plants.
When growing in containers, use one large container for the larger varieties, but the smaller varieties could share a container with 2 or 3 in the one pot.
Growing Tomatoes Indoors
Your tomato plants should have sufficient light indoors. Outdoor door variety of tomato plants will need at least 8 hours of sunlight every day. The same is said for the indoor variety. However, during the winter months, where it gets dark and cold outside, choose a location where plants get a little bit brighter and supplement your lighting with fluorescent or grow lights. Expose your plants to a minimum of 12 hours of light every day. Your light should be attached to adjustable chains so you can place them at least 2 inches above the plants.
Another thing to consider when growing tomatoes indoors is providing your plant the right temperature. Place your plants in a warm or heated location in your home. If you are growing indoor variety of tomato plants, the garage or shed is an ideal place to put your plant. But during the cold months, you will need to provide the right temperature that is similar to the natural outdoors conditions. Keep your temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit to give your tomatoes the opportunity to grow strong and healthy.
A regular watering schedule is needed for indoor tomato plants to grow properly. However, be careful not to over water the plants. Make sure that your plant container has holes in the bottom to provide drainage. Stagnant water at the bottom causes the root to rot. Water your plants about twice every week while maintaining a moist, yet slightly dry soil.
The advantage of indoor tomato plants is that they are not as vulnerable to pests and diseases compared to the outdoor tomatoes. So, it is right to say that indoor tomatoes do not require the special attention outdoor need. Regular potting soil is enough to keep your plant healthy. It is recommended tomatoes you introduce nutrients to the soil if you want to yield plenty of crops and remain healthy during the winter months. Give your tomato plants a mixture of growth promotion soil ingredients such as sphagnum peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. Once the tomato plants start to fruit it will thrive with these extra nutrients.
Supporting Tomato Plants During Growth
Tomatoes need support from the very early days. Leaves on the young plants grow quite fast so it is advisable to gently support the tomato stem as early as possible or they will bend and break. When the plants are initially planted, it is advisable to decide on the style of tomato plant support that is intended for them. Most popular types are:
- A tee-pee
- A cage
- A trellis
- A stake, or some other form of support
Knowing how you are going to support them will also influence how far apart you will plant them.
Tomato plants love and do require, a minimum of 6 hours sunshine a day and they need to have a consistent supply of water. A good system for the watering is to have an automated system set up so that you can be assured that they will get watered each and every day and early in the morning which is the best time to water.
Plants can be pruned, but it is best to remove the bottom branches and any foliage that touches the ground. The branches at the bottom of the plant are the oldest and usually the first to show signs of disease if the plant becomes stressed. Also, trimming suckers that grow in the joint of the branches helps keep the plant sending vital nutrients to the fruit.
Harvesting the fruit from your own plants is a rewarding experience. There is no sweeter taste than fruit that is grown by your own hand. When you research how to grow tomatoes successfully and take the steps suggested you have a very good chance of harvesting the sweetest tomatoes around.