Tomatoes are the main ingredient in the cooking traditions of many countries. They are versatile, can be used raw or cooked and are a favourite of many people. Luckily, it is also relatively easy to grow tomatoes yourself at home and in your garden.
Many people also believe that homegrown tomatoes tend to be tastier and more delicious than traditional, store-bought tomatoes. Tomatoes that are grown to be sold in supermarkets are made for longer shelf life and robustness to withstand travel. This, along with other factors, can make them less fresh and enjoyable. In short, nothing beats the taste and pride of a tomato picked fresh from your garden.
Tomatoes are easy to grow, however, require certain conditions to achieve the right colour and taste. Tomatoes require full sun along with warm, rich and properly drained soil. As a vegetable, tomatoes are a warm-season vegetable, and cannot grow if the weather is very cold or if frost is present. That is one of the reasons why it grows so well and plentiful in many Mediterranean gardens and fields.
Seasoned gardeners know that tomatoes take long to grow and mature, and therefore any seeds are ideally not planted directly into the ground. A good alternative would be to start growing the seeds in a safe, indoor environment, which will give the tomato plant a greater chance of success. These might need around 6 to 8 weeks to start the growth process and be ready for planting outside. You may wish to build your seedlings resistance by setting them increasingly outdoors for a few days before planting them into the ground. You may set them in the shade for some time and gradually add more hours of sunlight. The tomato seedling should in this way become further used to the climate and sunlight found outside in its new home.
Another important element needed for tomatoes is support. Some sort of cage or sticks can be used to provide vertical support to the tomato plant in your garden. This small but important detail might very well be the difference between failure and strong, healthy tomato plants.
When the seed is ready to move outside into a garden, directly into the soil, you may proceed and select a spot with good sunlight and water drainage. Dig a hole using a gardening trowel which is twice the size of the plant’s root ball. Make sure that the plant is planted deep enough so that it is even with the soil level. Tomatoes will normally root at any point of the stem which is below soil level.
At this stage, you can fill the hole and the empty spaces around your plant. Make sure that the root ball is well covered and in contact from all sides with the soil. Gently steady the soil around the uncovered part of the plant and the stem. Once this is ready, you can start planning the support structure that will hold your tomatoes. If the support is put next to or around the tomato plant, it will normally grow and support itself with the structure you have provided it.
If you have enough space, make sure to distance different tomato plants from each other. These can grow pretty big and relatively quickly, and therefore they will need a larger area later on. Water generously when planting. During the growth phase, if you notice that the soil around the plant is too dry, or you notice signs of dryness in the plant, make sure to water it properly to support its growth. However, very frequent watering is not required unless dictated by your climate. It is of utmost importance to be very careful against pests and diseases, as this vegetable can be vulnerable to both.
It is important to mention that there is more than one type of tomato. The tomatoes described above are called Cordon, which grows tall and needs a support structure. There are however also bush type tomatoes, which are planted in pots with stems that grow outside of the pot and around the edge.
A common question by many gardening enthusiasts is how long it takes for the tomatoes to grow and be ready for harvest. This will depend on many things, but in general, it can take in between 60 to 100 days.
A short note, before closing, if you wish to grow tomatoes in containers. In this case, use a larger container with appropriate drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. The soil used needs to be loose and well-draining to provide the right environment. You may also wish to opt for the bush or dwarf kinds of tomatoes. These will not necessarily need to be staked and might grow well in pots. Ideally, the soil needs to be kept moist as containers dry quicker than garden soil. During very hot days, you will have to provide higher than usual volumes of water. Furthermore, try and limit yourself to one tomato plant per container. Again, full sunlight is needed for at least 6 to 8 hours per day.
Thank you for reading this post, and feel free to share your tomato setup with other readers on my Facebook page. Happy tomato growing!
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