A Great Resource For The Vegetable Gardener
Growing tomatoes yourself is an excellent way to start if you are new to vegetable gardening. This guide shows you step by step how to grow tomatoes; whether it is your first time trying, or if you have a large or small garden. It is entirely possible grow them both indoors and outside depending on your climate.
They originate from a fairly hot dry climate and as such do not tolerate damp, cool, cloudy conditions and will not survive a frost. They will grow in just about any reasonably rich soil, but don't worry if your soil isn't that good it is still possible to be successful with them as long as plenty of fertilizer is supplied to the plants during the their life time.
If you only have a small garden, or window box for that matter, and only need 2 or 3 plants, it is not worth trying to grow from seed as the packet will contain many more seeds than will be needed. In this case it is better to buy the plants from a nursery, this is a little more expensive and does remove one of the joys of growing your own tomatoes, in that you will not get that joy of seeing the seed germinate.
A well grown tomato plant will yield a crop of about 3.5 to 5.5 Kg of fruit over a full season. Therefore 2 or 3 plants should be sufficient for a small family
As previously stated tomatoes come from a sunny climate, so ideally choose a site with plenty of sunshine next to a wall and no excessive shading. Planting them next to a wall will give them the shelter from the wind that they need.
For the small garden either clay pots with a 12 inch diameter top or grow bags. The easiest is the grow bag which will hold three plants, and in general the soil in these bags has been formulated for cultivating tomatoes.
if you are going to grow them outside then choose a variety that has been bred for this, some examples are; Alicante which is early fruiting, Gardeners delight which has long trusses of small and very sweet tomatoes, Sub Arctic Plenty which has sweet bite sized fruit. And moneymaker good shaped medium sized fruit but can have a bland taste.
If you are using pots to grow your tomatoes in, fill the container with compost to within an inch of the top and water. If you are using growbags then you must follow the instructions on the bag. Now in both cases make a hole in the compost about the same size as the pot that the plant is in, then carefully remove the plant from its pot ensuring that the soil around the roots is not disturbed. You may find that watering the plants firsts helps keep the soil in place. Put the plant into the hole and firm the compost around the plant.
As each plant can produce 3.5 to 5.5 kg of fruit they will need supporting this is done by carefully placing a cane into the pot or bag near each plant without damaging the roots. Ideally this should be done at the time of planting, then as each plant grows gently tie the plant to the cane.
The one small downside to tomato cultivation is that they need a regular supply of water and the soil should never be let dry out but neither should the soil become saturated. When grown in containers they will require daily watering (twice a day in hot weather). They will also need a regular application of fertilizer, there are plenty of proprietary tomato fertilizers on the market, it is important that the instructions are followed carefully.
As the plants grow they will start to produce shoots between the leaf and the stem, if you are growing cordon type tomatoes these shoots need to be remove so that the plant will generate good sized fruit, this is done by pinching the out with the thumb and finger as soon as they are seen and should be done every two to three days.
To pick your tomatoes sever the stalk just above what looks like a knuckle. This should be done when the fruits are nice and red but not over ripe they should still be firm.
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