Everything about growing tomatoes
Tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum) is the most popular vegetable for amateur cultivation and belongs to the family of solanoids along with eggplant and peppers. It originates from South America, and is biennial, but due to different climates, in Greece it is cultivated as an annual plant. It came to Greece in 1918 and is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet both fresh and in the form of sauce, while its nutritional value makes it stand out, offering a number of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and antioxidants (we all know the lycopene – ingredient from which it gets the red color the tomato).
There are countless varieties of tomatoes, traditional, hybrids, large or small, even different colors. It depends on the climate, and how it is planted. For example, the ideal varieties for growing in pots are cherry tomatoes. They have a long production life, they can withstand pots and you can keep them all year round under suitable conditions.
First of all, we choose local varieties that are tested in our climate, such as the Vravronas tomato and the Santorini tomato which becomes very tasty as a sun-dried tomato (for Greece). If you want a tomato to make your own pulp every year, it is worth planting pomodoro which has a thin skin and a nice, full flesh with a few spores, ideal for pulp. There are climbing varieties and also in the form of a bush.
You can get ready-made tomato plants directly, or try to start your own bed. We will analyze all the steps you will need to take. Planting tomatoes is not very demanding. Even if it is your first time planting, if you follow a simple rule, you will manage to have your own tomatoes!
Starting from the basics, if you want to have tomatoes of your own for a long time, you should make successive plantings with a difference of 2 weeks to 1 month, with first plants in March, always of course provided the plant is protected from low temperatures that March hides! This way you will have your own tomatoes from the end of June or the beginning of July until September.
If you start from seed, the first sowing should take place around the end of January so that you can start transplanting in late March to early April. Prefer sowing in a bed and not directly in the ground so you can see if they have sprouted, if they need thinning and of course protect the plants from frost. If you insist on sowing directly in the soil, it is good to wait until April to stabilize the spring temperatures.
To start your tomatoes from seed, you need a bed and special soil for seedlings which is not heavy and allows the unhindered growth of the plant. You will find both at very reasonable prices in a nursery. In each place we put soil, 3 seeds, cover them with soil and wet lightly. Stable temperature, sunshine and relative humidity will bring the best results. Tomatoes thrive ideally at 25 ° C. It will take at least 3 weeks for them to germinate. After they grow a little, we choose the strongest shoots if all three seeds have been thrown, and we remove the rest. Once they reach about 12 cm in height and have at least 2 leaves, we transplant. At this stage, we have reached the same point as buying a plant directly from a nursery.
For the transplant we choose a place with rich sunshine and good ventilation. Tomatoes need sun and air. When we plant our tomato, we add rich compost and a little extra potassium, below the point where we are going to place the root. Then, cover the plant up to 2-3 cm below the lower leaf to create a strong root system and strong trunk.
The tomatoes want their space, so we plant the shrubs at distances from 80 cm to 1 meter with corridors of 1.50 meters, while the climbing ones at distances of half to 1 meter as they grow vertically. After diligent efforts to avoid weeds that grow stronger, we recommend ground cover fabric to avoid annoying weeds.
If you want to have the tomatoes in a pot, choose a deep pot at least 30 cm wide and follow the same procedure with humus for vegetables.
The most common way of support is on a pole, rod, stake. Prefer not to be metallic so that high temperatures do not cause burns to the plant. Nail the stake to the ground before planting. And plant your plant next to it. As it grows remove the lower shoots, tie the central stem to the stake. The use of a cage, ie the fencing of the tomato with a grid, is not so good for the cultivation of the tomato, so we do not recommend it.
There is of course the option not to support the tomato and let it lie down from the weight of the fruit and continue to grow sideways. Of course, fruits that will be close to the ground are at risk of insect attacks and fungal infections.
Watering the tomato
The tomato needs proper and good watering. If you can have automatic drip irrigation, this is the best solution. If not follow a regular watering schedule as much as you can. Irregular watering shocks the plants. During the growth and flowering we water less, about twice a week, while in the summer months, which is the period of fruit set and fruit development, it needs watering day by day.
Fertilizing and caring for tomatoes
When the tomato finds rich soil, it will give its best production in flowers, fruit and fruit quality. A vegetable fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and potassium will give you the desired results. A compost rich in nitrogen and phosphorus is enough, while the addition of potassium during flowering will help in fruit set and the creation of juicy, uniform fruits.
The next fertilization of the tomato is done about 2-3 weeks after planting and we repeat the application of the fertilizer once a month.
Pruning is essential for support and the creation of healthy fruits. We start by removing the leaves when the plants grow and the first taxa begin to mature. Manually remove the leaves below it. Every week we check and clean the tomato from leaves.
It is good when creating plants with one stem, to remove the lateral shoots that grow and at the same time to support the tomato trunk (in case it is a climbing variety). The shrub varieties do not need pruning, only cleaning so that the fruits can breathe and receive enough light.
We also dilute the fruits carefully when they have a large fruiting, as it is not so much the quantity of fruits that a home tomato crop will produce, but the quality.
Tomato harvest begins about 90 days after sowing or 60 days after transplanting young plants. The plant continues to bear fruit for about 2 months, while climbing tomatoes bear fruit for at least 3 months. It needs attention in August when the sun burns, as if the plant burns, it is difficult to recover. In fact, during the months with very high temperatures, the tomato does not manage to blush as the synthesis of lycopene is inhibited.
The tomato, in addition to being eaten fresh, can be sun-dried to be kept all year round for salads and cooked dishes, while you can make an excellent pulp for the whole family!
– Tomato tan from below: known as dry peak, or peak rot, is due to a lack of calcium. We add organic calcium fertilizer to deal with the problem. Avoid the addition of undigested manure and irregular watering.
– Local burns on the fruits that cause permanent white marks: Due to exposure to the intense summer sun. Cover with dry grass or net to protect the fruits!
– Downy mildew or powdery mildew: dust the leaves with sulfur or sulfur with copper.
– To avoid insects, spray with a natural solution of water with garlic, thyme essential oil, or green soap and repeat every 1 to 2 weeks.
And some last Tips:
– Tomatoes like to have their own space, so keep distances between plants!
– Choose a place that will be sunny as they love the sun very much.
– Tomatoes are planted with garlic, onion, parsley, oregano, basil, marigolds and carrots.
– Tomatoes do not do well when grown with dill corn, potatoes and beets.
– Even if you plant tomatoes in March, the roots that will be planted in late April will have faster growth due to heat!
– As with all plants and trees, when transplanting your tomato, be sure to place it deeper to better support it and develop a root system.
– The air helps the tomato to acquire a stronger stem but also a root system.
– Many during the summer months cover the roots with pine needles or dry grass so that the roots retain their heat but also do not evaporate the necessary moisture.
– If you have found a good variety, keep seeds for next year by drying seeds from a large ripe tomato in August!