So my dears today I am posting something for My University on here. The assignment was to create a learning activity and write a blog about it. Well we know I am all about self sustainability and what is more self sustainable then growing your own food? So today’s post will be how to grow tomatoes!
Why the Tomato because they are very healthy and good for you (are thought to ward off cancer, prevent DNA damage, reduce the risk of heart disease, protect against thrombosis and ward off inflammation )and because Tim and I discussed actually doing a second planting of them in our garden this year because our summers are so long.
Tomatoes are commonly thought to be a vegetable but they are actuality a citrus fruit. It is hard to believe that before the mid 1800’s they were almost unknown in the U.S and only then became the staple food we know today. The tomato’s botanical name is Lycopersicon esculentum, although it needs a lot of warmth and sun to grow it is versatile enough to grow at least one planting seasons in USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 through 10. Tomatoes need full sun exposure loamy (Soil composed of a mixture of sand, clay, silt, and organic matter) acidic soil is best for them.
So you want to grow and plant tomatoes- there are two routes you can take you can grow them from seeds or buy a young plant from your local farmers market or garden outlet. You can either buy seeds or harvest them yourself. Now if you are harvesting your tomato seeds yourself you first need to make sure that the tomato you are getting them from is not a hybrid otherwise you will have no idea what kind of tomato you will grow from the seed they will not look like the parent. Also My aunt Marie Helen the garden Queen told me never to plant different types of tomatoes together because they will cross pollinate and if you want seeds you will once again receive hybrids.
So you want to get your own seed- that is actually really simple you cut your tomato in half then you pit out the pulp and seed and put them in a strainer; then you use clear water to wash off the pulp from the seeds till only they remain. Once you have your seeds you lay them on paper to dry et voila next year’s crop is right there waiting for you.
So now its late winter early spring about 6 to 8 weeks before springs last frost date now is the time to plant your little seeds. In an article on the subject I googled today the author Doreen Howard recommends using setting seed flats or pots on a heat mat to accelerate germination. Once the baby plants peek out their little heads she then removes the pads then uses gowlights two inches from the plant tops to complete the job. She recommends using a small oscillating fan directed at the plants for cooling, to check on the baby plants every day and to adjust the height of the lamp if needed to prevent them from being burnt.
Before you little green babies are ready for the big world you should prepare your soil for them. For best results you need to dote on them like a Jewish mother and plan your every move. Two weeks before transplanting your seedlings till your soil to about 1 foot and mix in aged manure and compost.
So now 6- 8 weeks later your babies are about a hand length long and are ready to graduate to moving outdoors. Make sure the last frost has passed and your soil is warm, then choose a spot with full sun and well-drained soil where your plant receives at least 6 hours sunny goodness. If you live in a warmer climate as in Americas south you either have to water you plants a lot or choose a spot where they have a bit of afternoon shade so they won’t shrivel and die.
Plan where you want them to grow you will need stakes or cages later on to support them unless you have a lot of room and just want to let them spread out (Support systems really help prevent rot if you live in a humid climate). Plant your baby plants two feet apart from each other. Cut off a branch or two from the bottom leaves then plant the root ball deep enough so that the remaining lowest leaves are just above the surface of the soil. Then water generously tomatoes need a lot of water and keep watering generously for the first week. Keep watering your plants consistently they will repay your with yummy fruit. Five weeks after transplanting Mulch the soil around you tomato children to retain moisture. If you are limited on space you can plant your tomatoes in large planters and they will thrive just as well follow the above steps just in your little containers.
Tomatoes are susceptible to a verity of plant illness and pests. The most common are tomato hornworms and whiteflies. But there are a lot of other nasty little monsters that will go after your plants such as aphids, flea beetles and late blight, a nasty fungal disease that not only ruins your crops but also can contaminate your soil. You will recognize it if you see grey, moldy spots on the leaves and fruit of your plant which later turn brown. Sadly the only way to keep it contained is to destroy and throw away the affected plants. But do not put them in your compost of the fungus will contaminate you next crops all over again.
There is so much more to say about tomatoes but because this was just supposed to be a piece on how to plant them I will leave you with the two following videos as good bye note. The first is on planting the second on planting and a little insight on some of the varieties of tomatoes out there.
Sources: My aunt Marie Helen, Myself and Doreen Howard and her blog Tomatoes From Seed the Easy Way. http://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening-blog/tomatoes-seed-easy-way