While we’re getting ready for the big chill here in South Australia it occurs to me that if you live in the Northern Hemisphere your days are getting longer and warmer… the spring bulbs are delighting you with glorious colors and fragrances.
So my question to you is “Have you started your veggie patch yet? And are you planning on growing tomatoes?”. Well of course you are. Some people have a bit of trouble growing those delicious, plump, juicy tomatoes, so I’ve got a few tips for you.
Tomatoes need a long, warm to hot growing season. If you live in a cooler climate you will need to start your seedlings under glass so that the fruit will have time to develop before frosts return.
Plant in well drained, fertile soil, high in organic matter. The position you choose will need to receive at least six hours of direct sunlight. Rotate your tomato crops in the garden to help control nematodes organically, as they are found in nearly all areas.
If you are planting varieties that need staking, position your stakes before planting out your seedlings about 60cm (24inches) apart. You can plant your seedlings as deep as the first true leaves – this helps strengthen the young plant and allows more root development.
*My personal tip – To stake your plants without damaging its tender stems, wrap cotton ties or strips of pantyhose around the tomato stake first, then loop it around the stem and tie it loosely with a knot or bow to the stake.*
Choose strong varieties that grow well in your area, as tomatoes are prone to several pests and diseases. Grow disease-resistant hybrids and reliable heirlooms. Did you know that most heirloom varieties will usually perform better the second season from seeds you have saved yourself?
Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Mulch around your tomato plants once the soil has warmed to keep weeds at a minimum and to keep soil temperature and water levels more even.
Feed with organic fertilizer every fortnight or so until the fruit sets, then again after each flush of fruit. Use a balanced organic fertilizer or alternate with a liquid fish emulsion in water – the steady release of nutrients makes for the consistent, vigorous growth that is needed to keep your plants healthy and productive.
Harvest tomatoes when they’re just starting to ripen, to prevent birds from pecking at them and to avoid invading insects that follow them from destroying your fruit.
Any plants that still have green tomatoes on the bush as winter approaches can be pulled up by the roots and stored in the shed. They will keep ripening over the next few months as their stems keep feeding them for some time.
Now if this isn’t quite enough information for you and you want some expert advise I can highly recommend How To Grow Juicy, Tasty Tomatoes . I own a copy of this book and although not all the recommendations are ‘organic’ options it is still well worth having. The information is detailed and covers all aspects of tomato growing, including a long list (with photographs) of varieties.
Happy Organic Gardening, Healthy Living…
Filed under: vegetables on April 11th, 2010