A Guide to Growing Your Own Tomatoes


Tomatoes are a healthy and delicious addition to any diet. They are well-known for their versatility in cooking and their juicy goodness straight off the vine. They are also one of the most commonly homegrown producing plants according to a study conducted in 2017 by the National Gardening Association, one in three households in the United States enjoy fresh tomatoes straight from a home or community garden.

Apart from the health benefits associated with a diet rich in potassium such as tomatoes and bananas, growing your own tomatoes can be an easy and fun way to save money, boost your veggie intake, and learn a thing or two about your green thumb. Growing your own vegetables can not only boost our nutritional health but also our mental health: there is a sense of responsibility for its fruition from beginning to end. 

The necessary steps to take before growing your own tomatoes are numerous, but most amateur farmers find the process not only easy but rewarding. The following breaks it down for you.

How Do I Get Started Growing Tomatoes?

The first thing to decide on is what type of tomato you'd like to grow. A visit to any farmer's market demonstrates the long and scrawny to the fat and squat. Each variety differs from the next in terms of flowering time, soil requirements and so on.

Are you looking for a nice addition to a spring mix salad? A hearty base flavor for a homemade salsa? Maybe just a healthy afternoon snack with a little salt and pepper?

Here are some of the most common tomatoes available today.

Cherry Tomatoes

One of the most popular varieties, this is a broad subcategory with many variations. However, the basic features are usually the same: small, sweet and firm. These are excellent for snacks and salads due to their bite-sized natures and include the infamous grape tomatoes which come in both red and yellow varieties with subtle flavor differences in each.

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Ever had a pico de gallo that blew your mind or a restaurant BLT that was Yelp-worthy? That was probably a beefsteak! These tomatoes are large, succulent and famously juicy, making them the perfect addition to any sauce. Their firm, meaty texture makes them perfect for raw consumption.

Cocktail Tomatoes

These tomatoes reign king of the bloody Mary, the BBQ garnish and the chili stew; grown in collections on community vines, cocktail tomatoes are known for their fruity flavors, their affable, herb-like aroma and their notable lack of seeds, which can make them a versatile addition to recipes.

Roma Tomatoes

When you're sitting at a fancy Italian restaurant and a big, steaming plate of shrimp scampi linguine gets set down in front of you, it's highly likely you're about to enjoy some Roma tomatoes. These are the quintessential pasta tomatoes, known for their meaty texture and a savory flavor, which pairs excellently with spice and seafood.

Heirloom Tomatoes

With its large size and lumpy, asymmetrical shape, the heirloom is the Quasimodo of the tomato world. But don't let appearances deceive you; the heirloom is one of the most delectable and versatile tomatoes out there. With a broad spectrum of colors ranging from light green to cherry red to deep purple, the heirloom features an equally diverse array of flavors, from meaty and rich to light and crunchy.

How Do I Grow Tomatoes?

Now that you know what kind of tomato you want to add to your repertoire, it's time to delve into the methods behind making them grow. Look into some gardening tips and note that there are a few essentials you'll need before the process is begun.

Equipment

  • Seeds (or a young plant, depending on your preference)
  • containers
  • garden gloves
  • garden trowel
  • watering can
  • irrigation equipment
  • spade
  • support systems
  • pruners
  • spray pump or bottle
  • greenhouse
  • hydroponic irrigation system

Planting the Tomatoes

 

  • Buy your plants. You can find tomato plants at nurseries, garden centers, and even at farmers’ markets. Choose healthy-looking plants and make sure to buy the tomato plants close to when you plan on planting them

 

  • Add lots of compost to the garden soil. Tomatoes demand a growing medium rich in organic matter. If you don't make your own compost, use store-bought compost that includes granite dust and topsoil. You'll need about 5 to 8 pounds per square foot (25 to 40 kilograms per square meter). Turn compost into the top 3 inches (6 to 8 cm).

 

  • Monitor your compost pH. Tomatoes thrive in mildly acidic soil. Highly acidic soil can leach calcium from the plant and lead to blossom end rot. Keep the soil pH between 6.0 and 6.8. If your soil tests above 6.8, water your tomatoes with a mixture of equal parts cold coffee and water. You could also add a mulch pf pine needles. If your soil tests below 6.0, use either dolomite lime or calcium sources like crushed eggshells or calcite

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  • Choose a sunny spot. Place tomato plants in full sun. If you live in a cooler growing zone, aim for at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. If you live in a warm to the hot zone, pick a spot that gets some shade in the afternoon.

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  • Space the plants 18 to 36 inches (45 to 90 cm) apart. This is usually enough space to allow you to get in between the plants to water, weed, and harvest. If you live in a hot climate, space plants 9 to 18 inches (23 to 46 cm) apart. This distance allows plants in cages to shade each other’s fruit, preventing burn.

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  • Transplant the plant deeply. Bury about 50 to 80 percent of the plant. Pack the soil firmly around the roots. Make sure the roots are completely covered. Make sure to trim off the lower leaves of the plant and do not bury them. If you bury them then they will rot.
Gardening

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