Tomato - though now found all over the world - originated in South America. It is a juicy, tangy, bright red edible fruit that adds taste and color to your food. Apart from that, tomatoes also have several health benefits - they are a rich source of lycopene (a type of carotene) that act as natural antioxidants. They are also rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A. So if you have decided to grow tomatoes in your house, you have made a healthy choice! So how do you go about setting up a tomato garden? Here are some helpful tips...
Pot or Plot
Tomato plants usually grow up to 1 to 3 meters tall. But they have a weak stem and need support. Tomatoes can hence be grown in a garden, in your backyard, or in pots as well. While growing tomatoes in a garden, make sure to plant the seeds deep into the soil; alternatively in a trench. Tomato stems develop roots all the way. Also, plant the seeds in a windy patch in the garden - tomato plants tend to grow stronger in the wind! On the other hand, while growing tomatoes indoors, make sure the pot is large enough. Also potted plants need to be watered more frequently than garden plants.
Several types of 'soil' can be used in case of potted plants. Peat, compost, sand, vermiculite, and even charcoal maybe added to the pot. You can design your own optimum mix that gives you the right amount of porosity. Tomato plants need a well-drained rooting medium. Lightweight soil works best and allows enough air to reach the roots.
Tomato plants love the sun! An ample amount of sunlight can give you good healthy plants that produce yummy tomatoes! Make sure to plant tomato in the sunniest patch in your garden. In case of potted plants, place them in the window that receives maximum amount of sunlight for the longest period of the day.
Tomato plants need a lot of water. However, excess of water can cause damage as well! As a thumb rule, potted plants need more water than garden plants. A good idea would be to check how wet the soil is before you actually water your plant. The trick here is to keep the plant hydrated throughout the day. Watering frequency will hence vary according to the weather.
Tomatoes are delicate plants and so fertilizing could be a good way to boost plant growth. Mulching can be done to retain the right amount of moisture and to avoid the plant from drying up! Organic tomato gardening is the best way to grow tomatoes. Organic fertilizers provide with trace elements and micro-nutrients as well - something chemical fertilizers fail to do. One important tip is to avoid an excess of nitrogen supply - it tends to make the plants grow tall without bearing many fruits!
Pruning of tomatoes may not be necessary - but it is very important. The 2 main things to bear in mind are - to remove suckers, and to remove dead leaves and leaves to close to the ground. The plant grows just fine even if you don't prune it. However, pruning protects the plant from diseases, and hence is highly recommended.
Fungi are the main culprits of tomato diseases, since tomatoes are acidic and have a high water content - both being prerequisites for fungal growth! Fungicide sprays maybe used to control fungi. A great alternative is to use compost tea. Make sure no leaves or fruits of the plant touch the ground - this is the most common way in which tomato plants develop diseases.
Tomatoes enrich your food and health in more ways than one. Tomato gardening supplies are easily available in the market; there is nothing you need to grow tomatoes that is hard to acquire. Plus home-grown tomatoes undoubtedly taste better! You can always be sure there are no chemicals on the tomatoes you're using in your food if they come from your own garden! They can go into a variety of recipes and really pamper your taste-buds! Hopefully these tips will keep your tomato garden green and growing! (Except the tomatoes of course - hope they turn out to be bright red!)