Nothing quite compares to the taste of a freshly plucked tomato from your own garden. Such a tomato is the epitome of every tomato enthusiast’s aspiration. Besides, tomatoes are very nutritious for you, providing vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K, according to Healthline.com. Here’s a guide to help you nurture tomatoes right from the seed.
Diversity of Tomatoes
It’s astonishing that over 15,000 known tomato varieties exist globally, with 3,000 heirloom varieties actively cultivated. Common varieties include beefsteak, cherry, grape, paste (like Roma), and salad tomatoes. These come in a plethora of sizes and shades, catering to every preference.
Tomatoes exhibit two growth habits: determinate and indeterminate.
- Determinate tomatoes are compact, bushy plants, roughly 3 feet tall. Their growth culminates in a brief flower set, yielding tomatoes that ripen within a fortnight before the plant’s lifecycle ends. Ideal for pot culture, they are great for canning due to simultaneous ripening.
- In contrast, indeterminate tomatoes grow as vines, demanding support through stakes or cages. They can soar up to 10 feet, bearing fruit over 2-3 months, ensuring a steady summer supply.
Cultivating Tomatoes from Seeds
Starting tomatoes from seeds is straightforward. With a plethora of seed options, growing tomatoes offers variety and cost efficiency. Initiating the process in January means September harvests. To begin your seed-growing adventure, you will want to gather the following:
- Plant germination trays
- Peat Pots
- Seed starting mix (e.g., Black Gold)
- Labels (like T-type tags)
- Plastic wrap or tray dome covers
Now you’re ready to plant the seeds! Moisten the seedling mix before filling the trays. Plant two seeds per cell and cover them with a dome. Keep the tray warm (between 65-75 °F) until germination. As they sprout, ensure they receive sufficient light and air circulation to foster robust stems. Regular moisture checks and a balanced fertilizer (1-2-1 ratio) will further boost growth. Upon spotting true leaves, thin out weaker seedlings.
When seedlings reach 6-10” and the soil warms to 55-60° F, it’s transplant time. If it’s still chilly, consider a larger interim pot. Ensure a sunny garden spot, as tomatoes crave over 8 hours of sunlight. Preparing the soil with organic matter and maintaining crop rotation will create a conducive environment. When planting, decide between the trench or vertical method, keeping in mind the variety’s growth pattern. Regular maintenance, like removing lower leaves and pinching off suckers, will ensure a healthy plant.
Aim to water the roots and avoid wet leaves, as this can trigger diseases and cause fruit splitting. Here are some watering tips: Provide 1” water weekly during regular weather or 2” during hotter periods. Always water early in the day. Use trench or drip methods, not overhead sprinklers. Reduce watering in August for faster ripening.
From Seed or Store-Bought Plants
If seed starting doesn’t appeal to you or if your seedlings don’t fare well, store-bought plants are a convenient alternative. With various options and sizes available at competitive prices, it’s a hassle-free route to a lush tomato harvest.
To dive deeper into starting a vegetable garden, check out our detailed post here.