Tomato plants can be a great addition to your vegetable garden, as they do not require much care and maintenance, and make those red and delicious tomatoes readily available for you. You can not only raise them in your garden, but can grow them in pots or containers, and in raised beds as well. Tomatoes can be grown from seedlings and seeds.
Tomato Plant Care
For growing tomato plants, first decide whether you are going to use seeds or seedlings. In areas where the winter is really cold, seeds have to be sown in seed boxes. Within five to six weeks, the seedlings grow from the seeds. If you prefer seedlings, then select the smaller plants that have not yet started budding.
There are mainly two types of tomatoes - indeterminate and determinate tomatoes. Indeterminate tomatoes are vine or cordon plants that require limited space, and produce fruits for an extended period of time, while the determinate type takes up a larger area, but fruit production is confined within a limited time period.
Once you have decided the type of tomato plants you want to grow, choose an area that gets at least 6 to 7 hours of sunlight throughout the day, as these plants need lots of sunlight to grow rapidly. Prepare the soil by adding fertilizers, preferably compost, as organic matter is beneficial for the plants. Now test the pH of the soil, which should be within the range of 5.8 to 7. If the pH level of your soil does not fall in this range, then correct it.
As warm soil is more suitable for these plants, cover the top of the soil with simple plastic bags. At the end of the winter, plant the tomato plants in deeper holes, placed at least 18 to 20 inches apart. Winter is not an ideal time for planting tomato seedlings as they can not tolerate frost. However, this does not mean that tomatoes cannot be grown in winter. If you want to grow them in winter, then be sure to take a few additional measures for their protection. You can protect the seedlings from frost by covering them with plastic sheets or bubble wrap.
Tomatoes need lots of sunlight. So, consider to leave sufficient space among the plants. Pruning should usually involve removing the bottom leaves and some of the lower branches. Pruning should be done in such a way that all leaves get enough sunlight. This is an essential step for protecting tomato plants from the growth of fungus and other pathogens. However, shading may also be required in places, which receive excess sunlight.
Once the plants start producing fruits, they would need some shade. This means that you can reduce the frequency of pruning. However, be sure to remove the suckers or the shoots that sprout between the stalk and the branches. Tomato plants usually need support, and so, you can build tomato cages or stakes to maintain their upright position.
For watering the plants, use a garden hose, and water the plant at the base of the stem. The ideal time for watering is early morning. To protect them from a cutworm invasion, you can place protective collars around the bottom of the plants. However, many gardeners place floating row covers to protect them from pests. But floating row covers need to be removed once the plants start blooming, in order to facilitate pollination.
To protect the plants from blight, you can cover their tops. However, do not forget to check the plants, especially their leaves, once or twice in a week to detect the symptoms of plant diseases or pests. Though tomatoes need considerable water, over-watering should be avoided. Following these simple tips would help you grow large, fresh, and nutritious tomatoes in your garden.