Many people agree that homegrown tomatoes are vastly superior to store-bought ones. Growing your own tomatoes isn’t a very difficult process assuming you make a few preparations and care for them regularly. A healthy tomato crop will reward you with a bountiful harvest and a distinctive aroma rich in flavor. Commercially produced tomatoes are inferior because they’re usually picked before they get fully ripe and can’t really develop that characteristic juicy taste of homegrown varieties.
If you want to create a tomato garden with a greater depth of flavor, the following guide should be a huge help. Even if you’re a total beginner just thinking of starting a little vegetable garden, growing tomatoes should be a relatively straightforward process. Tomatoes may pose a few extra problems compared to other vegetables but with good care practices, you should be able to overcome them.
1. Tomato Varieties
Before looking at various aspects of growing tomatoes, it’s important to decide on a fitting tomato variety for your particular climate and preferences. Besides standard tomatoes found in the shops, there are other popular varieties you should try if you prefer a different shape and style.
Beefsteak tomatoes are known for producing large fruits with a great flavor for salads or sandwiches. As these are larger tomatoes, they will require a fairly long season to fully ripen and they grow best in warmer climates. Plum tomatoes are traditionally cultivated in Italy and they can be considered ideal for pasta sauce. Another popular variety is the cherry tomato that’s characterized by small little fruits that pack a great punch in terms of flavor.
2. Preparing the Plant Site
Similar to other vegetables, tomatoes need full sun and tend to favor well-drained soil. They usually grow better in southern regions as long as you give then protection from the intense afternoon sun. In northern regions, it’s critical to find a planting site that gets as much sunlight as possible.
Tomatoes will grow healthier with the help of a support system that keeps them away from soil-borne diseases. For a great harvest, it’s essential to use a very fertile soil when planting tomatoes. Manure and compost can be used to boost the nutrients in the soil. Commercial fertilizer isn’t always needed but can make wonders when dealing with poor soil conditions. We recommend Jobe’s Organics tomato fertilizer from Amazon.
3. Caring for Tomatoes
Both tomato seedlings and transplants require solid irrigation initially as well as good watering throughout the growing season. It’s important to feed tomatoes generous amounts of water to encourage the plant’s root system to establish as firmly as possible. Weeds can be controlled with the help of mulching. This also helps to avoid excessive drying of your tomato plants.
When it comes to maintaining healthy tomato plants that produce a large harvest, it’s essential to consider “stopping” the plants. The process refers to encouraging existing fruits to ripen instead of letting the tomato develop more truss formations. Outdoor tomato growers should ideally keep around 4 or 5 fruit trusses, or lower depending on how cold is the season.
4. Pests and Diseases
Tomatoes aren’t plagued by lots of pests and diseases. The usual growth problems involve weather that’s too cold or wet which often causes nutrient deficiencies in the plant. Fruit splitting can appear because of irregular watering. Blossom end rot is one common disease caused by a lack of calcium. Magnesium deficiencies produce yellowing of the leaves.
When it comes to pests, tomatoes can be affected by aphids and various strains of the mosaic virus. The whitefly is one of the most popular pests which attacks tomatoes. The whitefly’s eggs grow under the leaves and can cause various problems for your plants. Late blight is a fungal disease that you should watch out for. It brings moldy and grey spots on leaves and will affect the fruits as well.
5. Harvesting and Storage
Once fruits have ripened beautifully, it’s time to harvest the tomato plants. We recommend harvesting as quickly as possible when tomatoes are ready so you can encourage further growth. When autumn comes, frost becomes a threat to tomatoes. It’s recommended to harvest all the fruits before it’s too late. The tomatoes can keep ripening on the window sill.
Tomatoes shouldn’t be stored in the fridge as they develop a mushy texture and lose their flavor. You can keep them at room temperature for around a week but you will need to freeze the tomatoes to preserve them for an extended period of time. Because they’re freshly picked, homegrown tomatoes tend to last longer on the kitchen counter compared to commercial options.
6. Helpful Tomato Growing Tips
- Never Crowd Tomato Seedlings
Seedlings need enough space to be able to branch out and develop in a healthy manner. Having too many seedlings isn’t recommended as you can easily end up with lots of weak plants. This is why we suggest eliminating the smaller seedlings to let stronger growers flourish. When you’re crowding tomato seedlings, the result is growth inhibition across the board. All the extra stress can make the plants vulnerable to diseases later on.
- Use a Fan for Indoor Growing
When grown outdoors, tomatoes sway gently in the breeze, and this process helps them grow stronger. To replicate the same natural effect for indoor growing, we recommend using a fan to boost air circulation. Just a few minutes twice a day of fan use can significantly improve the development of the plant’s stems.
- Bury the Stems
By planting tomato plants deeper, you can ensure that their roots will grow strong and healthy. This is a recommended tip for those who get their tomatoes in the pot and plan on creating an outdoor tomato garden. The deeper you bury the stems, the better for the plant as it can produce more roots.