Tomato Planting - Guidelines and Tips For Growing Heirloom Tomatoes in the Backyard
Tomatoes are one of the most popular crops to have in every home gardener's backyard. There are so many varieties of tomatoes available that you can never run out of what tomato variety to plant. The only limit will be the space in the backyard.
If you are looking for some great quality tomatoes this summer, go for the best tomato varieties that are not available from the local supermarkets. There are no good reasons as to why anyone would want to grow the same tomato varieties that are available at the markets for only $2 a kilo. Growing tomatoes can be a hobby with an obsession. Most tomato growers want their crops to turn out special and they use their gardening skills at cultivating the best tomato varieties and producing the most abundant fruits. This is what tomato gardening is all about.
The tomatoes that most tomato gardeners go for are heirloom tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes are true type tomatoes, which means the seeds of these tomatoes can be saved and then used for planting in the next season. The characteristics of these heirloom tomatoes will remain the same year after year.
Determinate and indeterminate
There are two types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate varieties (also called bush tomatoes) grow to a height of around 1.5 metres only. They are suitable for containers and their fruits usually ripen all at the same time before the plant dies off.
Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes require staking and support on a trellis or fence. Some can reach great heights of over 3 metres and usually produce fruits until the first frosts arrive. Indeterminate tomatoes must have plenty of support for the plants to climb upwards.
How to prepare the garden
A few weeks before planting out the tomato plants in the garden, you will need to prepare the tomato plot ready for planting. Choose the spot where you want to grow your tomato plants. The site needs to be able to get full sun during the day because tomatoes need plenty of sun for the fruits to ripen. Remove the weeds and loosen the soil by cultivating the plot with a spade.
Tomatoes like warm soil. If the temperature in your area has been cold all winter, the soil will take a while to warm up. If necessary, cover the area with black plastic sheets to speed up the warming process. Leave the plot covered for about two weeks.
Nutrients for the soil
Tomato plants require plenty of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to grow well. Add good organic fertilisers with sources of these nutrients and mix them in thoroughly with the soil. Next, add organic matter like compost to the soil because it improves the structure of the soil. Work the compost with the top few inches of the soil. The soil should look dark that means it is rich in organic matter. The plot is now ready for planting.
Growing from seeds
Many people prefer to buy young tomato plants from the nurseries because most of the plants are ready to flower and produce fruits. These tomato plants are ready for planting directly in the tomato plot. However, most heirloom tomatoes growers have their own supply of tomato seeds, which they collected from the previous harvests. Tomato seeds are also available from nurseries, seed suppliers and online.
If you are growing tomatoes from seeds, this is what you should do. Germinate the tomato seeds in punnets of seed raising mix. Keep the soil moist and do not allow it to dry out. Not all seeds will germinate; it also depends on how fresh the tomato seeds are. The fresher they are, the faster they will germinate. Most seeds germinate within two weeks of sowing.
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When the seedlings are in the four leaves stage, prick them out into individual pots. Transplanting helps the plants to develop better root systems and they do not have to compete for nutrients with other seedlings. Let the seedlings have full sunlight to promote growth.
Tomato plants are growing
Ready for the garden
When the last frost has gone and the seedlings are strong enough, they can be planted out in the garden. Always keep the soil moist but not soggy. Mulch the soil to prevent the soil from drying up on hot days. Provide support for the tomato plants to climb. Wire cages or stakes can provide support for the plants. Feed the tomato plants with soluble fertiliser every two weeks especially when they start to flower and bear fruits.
When to harvest
If you have planted heirloom tomatoes of different colours in the backyard, you will start to notice an exciting display of colours when the tomatoes start to ripen. When the tomatoes start to change colour, they can be left to ripen on the plant or they can be picked and allow to ripen indoors at room temperature. When the red tomatoes have turned all red, they are ready to be eaten. The same goes for the black, orange, purple, pink, yellow and white tomatoes.
All in a day's work!
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A huge and juicy heirloom tomato!
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