Grow organic tomatoes for your table or the market
Did you know, the word tomato was drawn from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tomatl? Somewhere in the 17th century, the word tomato came into being, likely into Spanish or Portuguese as tomate. Tomatoes were native to the Americas. Another interesting fact - in the mid-nineteenth century instead of eating tomatoes people used them as decorations. Tomatoes weren't consumed at the time, because most flatware was made out of pewter, which contains high lead content. Acid-rich foods like tomatoes caused the lead to leach out into the food, resulting in lead poisoning.
If you like or are considering growing your own plants and vegetables, you might already know a bit about growing tomatoes. Many people who grow herbs, vegetables, and plants for daily consumption or for the market know that growing vegetables is often not as easy as it might seem. You have to take care of tomatoes while planting and nurture them till the plants are grown. You have to be patient with the plants, you must recognize all the important things to look out for, and also know the plants’ requirements as they grow.
- Species: Fruit
- Genus: Solanum Lycopersicon
- Family: Nightshade
- Variety: Cocktail Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Green Beefsteak Tomatoes, Red Beefsteak Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes.
- Type: Plant
- Height: 2 to 4 ft (0.6 to 1.2 mtrs)
- Width: 8 to 12 in (20 to 30 cm)
- Leaves: Compound - rugose (deeply grooved) or angora (multiple colors)
- Cotyledon: Embryo
- Propagation: Seeds
- Water Requirement: 1 to 2 in (2.5 to 5 cm) water per week per plant
- Harvest Time: Approximately 65 to 70 days
Benefits of Growing Tomatoes
Tomatoes are considered by many as both fruit and vegetable and are an essential part of food all across the world. Particularly in the Mediterranean region. Tomatoes are easy to cultivate and grow very rapidly. Which is one of the reasons tomatoes are a staple food for many nations. If you regularly have tomatoes, you’ll be ingesting a steady stream of vital essentials. Being a nutrient-dense superfood, tomatoes offer benefits to a host of bodily systems.
Here are a few of the known health benefits of tomatoes:
Good for diabetes
- Tomatoes are low in carbohydrates. Suitable in moderation food for diabetic patients.
- Aids in body weight control.
- Tomatoes are effective in controlling sugar
- Reduces cardiovascular risk associated with type-2 diabetes
Helps mitigate depression
- The folic acid in tomatoes may help with depression by preventing the formation of excessive homocysteine in the body.
- Tomatoes contain vitamin A which helps improve vision.
- Tomatoes contain beta-carotene compounds that protect the surface of your cornea to prevent damage and loss of vision.
- Eating tomatoes also reduces the risk of macular degeneration and damage to blood vessels in the retina amongst diabetics.
- Tomatoes contain a host of potent antioxidants that benefit skin.
- Antioxidants properties present in Tomatoes also destroy free radicals in the body which are associated with wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity.
Cleanses the system
- Tomatoes also help detox the body. To put it simply, tomatoes help eliminate toxins and waste material from the body and aids body hydration.
Prevents hair loss
- Tomato juice improves blood circulation on your scalp to strengthen your hair follicles and nourish them from within.
- It is also rich in iron, which is important for the well-being of your hair.
- Massaging hair with tomato juice can repair the damage of your hair roots and make them strong and help them grow faster.
Things to know before planting
Now that we’ve covered the wonderful reasons to regularly grow a crop of tomatoes, lets get into how to grow them. There are a few things to keep in mind before diving in.
- Heirloom varieties may be tough to grow: If you are a novice farmer (growing tomatoes) it is prudent to select hardy organic varieties. They are less likely to suffer from diseases and are more productive than heirloom tomatoes. Although heirlooms tomatoes are rich in taste they require attention and considerable care. Many hardy organic tomato cultivars also come with an amazing flavor.
- Planting site: Tomato plants should be grown in in a warm location with ample air circulation and with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Your tomato plants might be unproductive if you select an overly shaded planting site. Lack of sunlight and/or continuously shaded spots might result in a lackluster harvest.
- Transplants: Always remove the buds or flowers of tomato seedlings before transplanting them. Removing these, helps to strengthen the plants’ rooting-system.
- Removing tomato suckers: Suckers are tiny shoots that grow at the point where branches join the stem. Removing suckers aids the plant in directing energy towards fruiting (growing tomatoes).
- Don’t over-fertilize/compost tomato plants: Over-fertilizing plants with large amounts of nitrogen rich compost or teas, can damage them. If the soil has high nitrogen use an equivalent of a 5-10-5 mix compost. A 10-10-10 balanced compost mix equivalent will be needed if if the amount of soil nitrogen is low.
- Preventing plant diseases: Learn how to prepare (or procure) natural/organic pesticides and fungicides. Applying these occasionally will help prevent plant disease.
- Mulching the soil: It is important to help the soil retain moisture. Mulching soil evenly with shredded leaves or peat-moss immediately after planting will extend continuous availability of moisture to your crop.
- Proper spacing: If you want a large crop, then make sure you leave 24 to 35 in (60 to 88 cm) of space between plants. For dwarf varieties 12 in (30 cm) of space will suffice.
- Provide adequate support: If you are growing indeterminate varieties of tomatoes like Early Girl or Rutgers, you’ll have to provide proper support like caging and staking around the plants.
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How to plant your Tomatoes
Seeds are normally sown between June and July for Autumn-winter crops, and for Spring-summer crops (often sheltered), seeds are sown in September. In hills regions, seeds may be sown between March and April. How to plant tomatoes:
- Take some fresh tomatoes, cut them into slices or use fresh seeds from the market.
- Mix organic compost into the the soil a few days earlier, for better and healthier growth.
- Sow seeds about 3 inches deep and cover them with compost mixed soil.
- Water well and steadily without too much water all at once.
- Seeds should be germinated in an area with good air circulation and sunlight.
After 10-15 days, seeds should start germinating.
Transplant the young seedlings once they’re about 6 in (15 cm) tall, being careful to remove any buds and early sucker (to encourage the plant to grow healthy roots. Construct wood/bamboo trellises and hang twine between these. Wind the ends of the twine (just above the soil) around the young plant, and then wind the plants around the twine as they grow.
You can either bush them out or you can prune and stake them. If you don’t have too large a plantation, hand plucking them might be the way to go.
- Determinate tomatoes can be bountiful and you may want to brush the tomatoes out.
- Dwarf tomatoes might require the entire plant being uprooted for convenient access to tomatoes.
- Indeterminate tomatoes may require to be pruned at a convenient height, to prevent them from continuously growing.
Store your tomatoes at room temperature instead of in the refrigerator if temperatures allow. The best temperatures to keep your tomatoes safe and to retain their delicious flavor is between 55 to 77°F (13 to 21°C). They’re best stored in a cool and dry environment away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
There you have it. Growing tomatoes can be very rewarding. They’re delicious with any meal and can contribute to an income.