There’s a reason why tomatoes are popular among homesteaders and anyone who likes to try edible gardening at home. For one, it’s basically easy to grow tomatoes. It’s also a great source of lycopene, a pretty important antioxidant. Plus, tomatoes have lots of other health benefits that help in dealing with cancer and heart diseases. If you wish to learn how to grow tomatoes, read on.
Choosing and Germinating Tomato Seeds
The first thing you have to do to grow tomatoes is to decide on what kinds of tomato you want in your spring garden. You can purchase different types of tomatoes online or from grocery stores. The easiest way to choose, however, is to simply gather the seeds of the tomatoes that you have in your kitchen. Yep, you can grow tomatoes from the ones you usually buy from the grocery store.
To do that, you just need to cut the tomato in half and collect the seeds by simply squishing them out. Make sure you have a paper towel to catch the seeds. Cover them with another paper towel then gently pat. Set aside for three days in a place away from direct sunlight. Once the flesh dries up, collect the seeds and store them in a piece of newspaper. Place the pack somewhere dry and dark.
Once it’s time to start planting your tomato seeds, just take the pack of seeds out and prepare your seedling trays or the bottom part of a large jug of milk. If you’re using the latter, simply fill it up with soil and poke holes about a couple of millimeters deep. For seedling trays, fill each cup with soil and then poke or dig out small holes. In both cases, place a few tomato seeds in the holes then cover with soil.
Water the pots every day. Place the pots near the window to make sure they get enough sunlight. You should see sprouts in four days. For the tomatoes in the huge milk jug, wait until the seedlings are at least a couple of inches high before transplanting each one of them into a large drinking cup or a similar container.
When to Plant Tomatoes
Spring is the perfect season to plant and grow tomatoes. To be a bit more specific, the best time to grow tomatoes from seeds is six to eight weeks before the last frost of spring. You need to know the average date when this happens so you get an idea when to start planting your seeds indoors. If you prefer to start your spring garden with tomato seedlings, transplant them after the last spring frost. At this time, the soil should be warm enough.
As for your tomato seedlings you grew from your packed seeds, wait until they’re about seven inches tall before transplanting them outside.
Where to Grow Tomatoes
Choose an area in your garden that receives full sun. Make sure the site gets sunlight for at least six hours each day. The soil should also be well-draining. Your tomatoes will need some light shade in the afternoon to help them grow and thrive, especially if you live in the southern region. If you don’t have a yard that’s suitable for planting, you can grow tomatoes in raised beds instead.
Add compost to your soil to make it healthier and more suitable to grow tomatoes. You can make your own compost from kitchen scraps and leaves from your yard. There’s also the option of buying compost from specialty stores.
Transplanting Your Tomato Seeds Outdoors
Some homesteaders prefer to harden the tomato seedlings first before transplanting them outside. To do this, take the seedlings out and place them under a shade. For the first day, leave them outside for about two hours. Increase the hours gradually each day until they’re ready to be transplanted.
One of the basic rules of planting tomatoes in your garden is to transplant them two feet apart. When transplanting, there are two methods adopted by the farmers – the deep hole and the trench methods.
Deep Hole Method
Prepare the soil by digging at least one foot deep. Ideally, you should go as deep as possible since roots grow from all the buried parts of the stem. If a tomato plant develops more roots, it can access more water and nutrients from the soil. Simply put, the deeper you plant the tomatoes the healthier they will be. Add compost or manure to the soil to help your tomatoes even more.
The trench technique is preferred by some because it’s easier to dig a trench than a deep hole. It’s also easier to grow tomatoes in a six-inch deep trench because the topsoil is warmer than that of a hole.
Caring for the Tomato Plants
Make sure to water the plants generously during its first few days outdoors. As summer comes, give them around two inches of water each week. You should do this in the morning so they have enough moisture to help make it through the hot day. Don’t water in the late afternoon or evening.
Weeds will eventually be a problem unless you deal with them diligently. Aside from pulling them out, you should also do mulching around five weeks after transplanting your seedlings. This will also help in retaining moisture and protecting the leaves at the bottom from getting splashed on.
Trim the leaves at the bottom twelve inches of the plant. Some diseases are in the soil and if you let the lower leaves grow, you’re risking the spread of the said diseases to your plants. In case some of your plants get a disease, get rid of them immediately.
If all goes well, you’ll soon have some fresh tomatoes on your table. Allow the tomato fruits to enjoy their time on their vines. If they fall before it’s time to harvest, just gather them and place in a paper bag. Make sure their stems are up and that you keep the bag in a cool, dark area. Wait for the tomatoes to become red and firm before harvesting them.
There are lots of things you can do with a tomato other than pelting someone with it. When you grow tomatoes on your own backyard, you can eventually make your own canned tomatoes, sauces, pastes, and other tomato products.
If you have other tips on how to grow tomatoes, please share them in the comment section. Please visit The Gentleman Pirate, as well. There are more information there about home gardening that you may find useful.
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