Today all the vegetables in our stores looks like if it is made out of plastic and it tastes like plastic too. It is very hard to buy organic tasty vegetables and unfortunately many product with organic label doesn’t have anything in common with vegetables from true organic garden. Growing your own organic garden isn’t that hard and you need only a few square feet of land or even a balcony and you can grow your own vegetables.
Tomatoes are perfect for growing on small pieces of land and even in small pots and in this article we will give you all the tips on how to grow perfect tomatoes easily. All the tips and procedures are intended for organic cultivation of tomatoes.
Facts about tomatoes
Tomato is a vegetable that belongs to the nightshade family and it is originally from South America. It was firstly used as a spice, and it was also used as a remedy by herbalists. During the last 200 years tomato found its place in the cuisines around the world. From the botanical standpoint, tomato is a fruit, but is mostly treated as vegetable around the world. Tomato has many different varieties that differ in height, color (red, pink, white, black, green, yellow, orange etc.) and shape (round, oval, pear-like, elongated, wrinkled etc.). Tomatoes also differ in leaf appearance, flowers and fruit distribution. If you cultivate several different tomato varieties, you will notice that they differ in taste, some are sweeter, some are saltier, while others are more watery.
Tomatoes are rich in Lycopene, an antioxidant that provides the red color to tomatoes, that protects against heart attack, cardiovascular diseases, dementia and even cancer, and has a beneficial effects on the prostate. Tomato helps excretion of excess water from our organism and it is recommended against rheum, gout, kidney stones, bladder stones and gallstones. Furthermore, it is proven that people who eat tomatoes every day, have higher resistance to the harmful effects of sun rays. Also, it is scientifically proven that flavonoid content is 97% higher in organically cultivated tomatoes in comparison with conventionally cultivated tomatoes. Tomato pulp has many uses also and it is good for greasy skin care. Sliced fruits can be used as first aid in a form of wraps for treating burns. The best thing is that tomato has low energetic value, only 2 kcal on 100 grams, which makes it a great food for weight loss. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, vitamins K, B1, B6, B3, niacin, folic acid, vitamin C and carotene (provitamin A).
Seeds or seedlings?
Tomato seedling is a live plant grown from seed in a controlled environment with steady temperature and a lot of light, mostly in greenhouses. Growing your tomatoes from seeds is a tricky task if you don’t have a greenhouse and we certainly don’t recommend it to beginners or hobby gardeners. Furthermore, tomato seedlings are very cheap and you get a developed live plant in a pot which is easily replanted in your garden.
If you still want to plant your tomatoes from seeds than that is a process which will be explained in one of our articles in the future. You can easily buy tomato seeds but some people like some type of tomato so much and they collect the seeds for next year. For collecting seeds, choose fruits on the healthiest plants. If your tomato fruits are of poor quality, it makes no sense to collect these tomato seeds, as they will produce fruits of same low quality. Take the seeds from fully ripe tomatoes, but again, not too mature. Seeds of overripe tomatoes could already be in the process of germination or rotting. Wash tomato seeds with water, place them in a colander to drain, put them on paper and leave them to dry thoroughly.
Growing tomatoes in the garden
Tomatoes are self-pollinated plants that like sun and moisture. They are cultivated, as previously mentioned, from seeds or seedlings produced in the heated and protected environment. Good seedlings are 9-10 inches high and from 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick at the base. When purchasing seedlings for your garden, use healthy green plants with thick stalks without fruits and, if possible, without flowers.
Tomatoes can be planted in garden in rows when there is no danger from frost and usually that is in the second half of april. The most important thing is that the plant is planted when is warm outside and in the places that it receives enough sunlight and be sure that you water it regularly. It is best to plant tomatoes in the soil that has been fertilized using natural fertilizer. If you want to know more about producing organic compost, check out our article Composting leads to a healthful ground.
Tomato seedlings have quite big roots so plant them in pre dug pits. The span between rows should be 23-31 inches and you should leave 11-20 inches between plants.
The tomato plant is very demanding in terms of light and it needs at least 12 hours of light a day. Otherwise, the plant is poorly developed, ripening is late and yield is low. If tomato seedlings become tall and weak, it means that they lack the light and probably they were not planted in a good place.
Tomato is also demanding when it comes to humidity. When planting on bigger part of land, you must plan the possibility of land irrigation, to ensure crops in case of possible drought. If tomato plant loses enough moisture, it will lose leaves, flower and fruit will not ripen. Tomatoes are best watered with rainwater. You can easily collect rainwater with plastic barrels and that will save you money on your water bill.
In order to get a lot of big and healthy tomatoes it is not enough to plant tomatoes in quality soil with high-quality compost, you also have to fertilize it several times. Fertilize tomatoes with organic fertilizer for the first time when they start developing fruits, and the second time when the first fruits begin to ripen.
Tomato plants are usually placed alongside stakes or trellis or cages, to which they are connected to maintain stability and balance of the plant.
At harvest, it is best to cut the tomato stem with scissors, so you don’t damage the adjacent unripe fruit. The appropriate time for harvesting tomatoes are early morning hours or evening hours because at that time, the fruits will not be dewy or warm. The highest quality tomatoes are those that are dark red but they can be pale around the stalk. Tomatoes are best when they are used immediately after harvesting. At the end of the harvesting season, even green fruit can be harvested, which are then stored in a cool and dark place.
Growing tomatoes on the balcony
People often say: “I do not have a garden, so I can not grow tomatoes”. That actually isn’t true. In order to be proud owners of your own tomatoes you do not need a garden. The only prerequisite is that you have a balcony that receives a lot of sunlight and you can have tomatoes all summer long!
Before you start growing tomatoes on your balcony, research which varieties are good for such form of cultivation. Grow varieties that grows to 30 inches in height because it is hard to grow big tomato plants 60 inches tall on the balcony.
Pick a good pot for tomato cultivation. The best pots are those made of plastic or fiberglass but you can now plant tomatoes in special tomato bags also. Plastic pots are a good choice because of their low price and practicality. Clay pots are not good because they quickly absorb the water that is meant for tomatoes. Make sure that the pot is at least 3 inches deep, that is an absolute minimum, while the best choice is pot that is 5 or even 7 inches deep. After you have picked your pot, you have to take of drainage. Tomatoes will soon rot if they are constantly in wet soil but most commercial pots already have little holes at their bottom for liquid drainage and if your pot does not have holes, make a few holes yourself.
Fill the pot with quality organic fertilizer and soil and plant tomatoes inside it. When the plant starts to grow, put a stake into the soil and tie tomato to it. That stake will help the plant to maintain stability and balance. There are also ready made pots with stakes, trellis or cages already mounted on the pot.
You have to water the tomatoes regularly. How will you know when it is time for watering? Place your finger in the soil and if the first inch of soil is dry, then it is time for watering.
Occasional fertilization is required in order to get better yield. Every time you water the plants, you will wash away a part of nutrients and that is why you have to fertilize tomatoes once a month for best results.
By growing tomatoes in a pot you will avoid many diseases that struck tomatoes from the soil. If you cultivate tomatoes in a pot, plant them at the end of february and keep them in a warm environment with the mandatory acclimatization period during which the plant will grow accustomed to the conditions outside.
Pots should be taken out on the balcony once or twice a day when the temperatures increase and be brought back inside during the night. That way a plant can slowly get accustomed to conditions on your balcony. Normally. when frost danger has passed and night temperatures go over 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), you can permanently move tomatoes to your balcony.
Protecting your tomatoes
There are several diseases and pests which usually struck tomatoes. The most common disease that affects the tomato is blight. Blight is a fungal disease and it is spread when there is too much moisture in the soil and air, so plants are affected mostly after rain. Blight mainly affects tomatoes and potatoes.
After blight, the most common thing that struck tomatoes is the spider. This often happens during severe droughts. Whitish spots appear on the face of the leaves and their reverse contains visible grayish-white fine yarns containing spiders, their larvae and eggs. Leafs first look like marble and later become whitish and dry up. From dried leaves, spider moves to the top of the young leaves of the plant and fruits remain small and change shape. If we act in time, in the initial stage of the disease, the plant can be saved. Once you discover that plant is infected, it is necessary to immediately remove all the diseased portions of plants and burn them. Even small columns for which the plant was linked should not be used next year, they should also be burned.
We can prevent infection by nurturing the soil, because it is the basis for healthy growth. If the plant is planted in healthy soil, it will be durable and less likely to become infected. Water tomatoes using liquid fertilizer made of nettles once a week and you will achieve good results. Spray them regularly with horsetail tea. Horsetail herb contains a lot of silica and acts as a preemptive remedy against fungal diseases.
Another thing you should know is that tomatoes are often attacked by potato beetles. Due to the common pests and diseases, it is not recommended to plant tomatoes and potatoes near each other. Potato beetles will still first attack potatoes but at and at the end of summer they will begin to attack tomatoes and eggplants. The easiest way to remove these pests is to pick them up with your hands. When they sense danger, they stiffen, fall from the plant to the ground and pretend to be dead. Then you have the chance to pick them up and take them to another place where they will not do harm.
Tomatoes can also be attacked by aphids and various types of insects and caterpillars. Aphids can be removed from the plants with water but this procedure should be carried out in the morning so that plants can soon become dry in the sun. If that does not help, you can use some of the natural products for protection. For prevention against aphids, rust mites, caterpillars and ants, soak 300g of fresh leaves and flowers of wormwood or 30g of dried wormwood in 10 liters of water (preferably rainwater). Leave wormwood to soak in water for 2-3 days, then use this liquid for regularly spraying tomatoes.