Tips on how to grow winter tomatoes successfully
Through my travels and experience in Africa, my open minded observation from Cape Town to Cairo is that prices of tomatoes in Africa sky rocket in winter. The reason for this is that the demand for tomatoes is always high but the supply of tomatoes tend to dwindle in winter. The cause of the reduction of the supply of tomatoes is that tomatoes are difficult to grow in Africa in winter due to frost. It is my humble belief that fresh tomatoes test better than canned tomatoes for those who enjoy a salad of cucumbers, spices, onions, and fresh tomatoes you may know what I am talking of - the fresher the tomatoes the better.
A focused farmer who knows the economics of supply and demand, scarcity and availability may come to my rescue and agree with me that growing tomatoes in abundance in winter fetches you a fortune. Many farmers in Africa are reluctant to venture into winter tomato farming because with little knowledge on how to prevent the tomatoes from frost bite the winter tomato growing usually end up in a shambolic failure. I share the same sentiments with those farmers who say tomatoes need warm temperatures and doesn't do well in cold weather. That might be very correct but let me assure you that our world has come of age, and is getting better and better with age like wine.
Those interested in venturing in winter tomato production don't be put off by the toothless bull dog - in the name of winter frost. If you are a farmer who wants to make a fortune out of your tomatoes make sure they are in abundance in winter, prices soar in winter. Growing tomatoes in winter can be a challenge but with proper planning and dedication all things are possible. Here are some of the tips to grow a successful tomato crop in winter in Africa.
Plant your tomatoes in raised beds, ridges or furrows. Maintain reasonable distance from one plant to another. Collect as many empty bottles as you can. They should be enough to cover the area you planted your tomatoes. Fill the bottles with water, don't close the bottles, place them in between two tomato plants - continue doing this till you cover the planted area. The cold water in these bottles will act as an insulator to the plants. This is what happens, water in the bottles would prevent the tomato plants from freezing at night and early in the morning. When temperature drops at night the water in the bottles would freeze instead of the tomatoes. The bottled water acts as body guards to the tomato plants as follows, when the water freezes it releases heat and in turn this heat released keeps the plants warmer.
Farmers may also venture into winter tomato production successfully by planting their tomato crop on a sloppy land. Those good at science and geography say, the higher you go the cooler it becomes. They also goes further to say that when warm air rises it warms the air on the slope land. Translating this into growing tomatoes on slope land, it means that tomatoes grown on a slope land would not be affected by frost because the rising warm air would keep the area free from frost. The ideal slope land to grow tomatoes should be if possible face the direction of the rising sun.
A farmer may also protect the tomatoes from frost by covering the plants with dried leaves, grass or saw dusts. The covering should be changed occasionally to allow aeration and heat from the sun to penetrate the soil. Watering plants in the evening and early in the morning melt the ice from the plants and prevent frost bite. Some farmers are of the opinion that if one burns grass around the planted area the smoke emitted by the burning grass rise above the planted field trapping warm air in the field which helps to keep the cold air away from the plants.
Planting tomatoes in green house is another tried and tested method of preventing tomato plants succumbing to frost. Growing tomatoes in winter in Africa is a lucrative business for serious farmers who want to make a substantial amount of money from the growing of tomatoes in winter.