Tomatoes are one of the most quintessential crops one can think of when it comes to farming. Known for its high productivity and fast growth rate, tomatoes are a hot favorite among farmers. If you’re keen on dabbling in the field (no pun intended) of tomato-farming, then keep on reading.
The Fundamentals of Tomato Farming
It’s common sense that every living thing requires tender love and care, regardless of how long they take to grow and fully mature. The same logic applies to farming too. However, when it comes to farming, many veterans in the field often wish to research for the most effective and efficient methods to maximize their crop growth and harvest yield. Their fixation is always to achieve the best crop outcome, and who’s to blame them? Their livelihood is directly dependent on their crop’s quality and quantity.
In general, there are four major components that contribute to successful farming: choosing profitable vegetables (let’s focus on tomatoes here), appropriate potting and planting preparations, soil management, and fertilization and lastly, pest control. We’ll address these components in different sections of this article.
A Comprehensive Guide to Tomato Farming
1. Preparing a New Home for Your Tomatoes
Before growing can even begin, it’s important to prepare a proper and nurturing environment for your new seeds. You have to prepare good seedbeds. The recommended temperature for the optimal germination of your tomato seeds is at least 12°C. If this is maintained, you can expect them to germinate under a week. The converse is true if you fail to upkeep this temperature — your seeds will take longer to germinate. You might think that’d it be easy to achieve with no problem but you’d be surprised. As night falls, so does the temperature. You’ll need to take extra precautions like using a cover or a heater to ensure your seeds stay warm and cozy in their seedbeds. Along with maintaining the humidity of the surroundings, your seeds should germinate in no time.
After your seeds have sprouted, continue to keep a watchful eye over them until they reach about 15 to 20cm in height. Once they’ve achieved this height, you can proceed to transfer them to larger pots to continue facilitating growth, especially since tomatoes are vertical plants in nature. Place them in a space with ample ceiling space for them to grow nice and strong upwards along with plenty of sunlight. If you’re growing your tomatoes outdoors in a field, you might want to implant planting frames of about 40cm to 70cm between each plant and 80cm to one meter between each row.
2. Soil Management
When you’ve decided on a spot for your tomato plant (whether indoors or outdoors), prepare a seedbed consisting of a good mixture of compost and fertilizer. If you’re outdoors, you might need to use a hoe to manually dig and space out each seedbed while aligning drip lines along the ridges. For the best water retention in the soil, inject about a liter of water into the hole and cover it up as you wait for it to be absorbed. This will ensure that the soil remains warm and moist; optimal for seed germination.
If you’re indoors and using a pot instead, try using a soilless mix of peat, sphagnum moss and vermiculite. This alternative combination can help reduce the chances of your tomatoes contracting soil-borne diseases and pests attacking its roots. Since using soil is unavoidable in outdoor farming, your seedlings will naturally be more susceptible to such hazards.
3. Planting Your Tomato Seeds/Seedlings
Tomatoes like sunny, warm climates. In order to ensure maximum growth, it’s recommended to set them in the sunniest area within your vicinity. According to this vein of thought, it’d seem most logical to plant your tomato seeds during summer right? Well, while that might be true, some experts actually advise planting your seeds nearing the middle or end of winter but on one condition — only if you’re able to provide them with a constant light source or germinator to keep them warm.
Assuming that you’re able to satisfy the above condition, your seeds would be able to germinate just in time for spring and summer to roll around which would be the optimum time for maximum growth. As your seedling grows taller, it’s also essential for you to continually pruning their branches because yellowish leaves tend to appear upon maturation. Dutifully abiding by this habit would reward you with ripened tomatoes in about 65 to 70 days.
You may also choose to plant seedlings if seeds aren’t up your alley. Remove the polythene of your seedling before transferring it from the nursery to its new bed. Remember the planting frames mentioned previously? You can also utilize them at this stage by tying the seedlings to individual frames with a polypropylene thread to support it to grow vertically. After 15 days, you can then start pruning their first lateral buds. Diligent pruning helps facilitate the healthy blooming of up to seven or eight flowers of your tomato plants.
4. The Right TLC for your Tomato Seedlings
- When it comes to irrigation, there’s a delicate balance to maintain. You need to be careful not to overwater them and neither should you underwater them. We wouldn’t want your seedlings to start decomposing or wilting. You can use padding to reduce water waste and the loss of any fertile soil. The recommended frequency for watering tomatoes would be every few days.
- If the quality of your soil is affecting your seedling’s health, don’t hesitate to extract them immediately from the seedbed and transfer them to a new tray bed.
- Sunlight for your seedlings is a no-brainer. However, too much of a good thing can still be bad. Take note of the weather if it gets too hot to provide appropriate shade for your seedlings during noontime. If you opted for indoor farming, ensure your seedlings get about 14 to 18 hours of light every day.
- Explore the world of crop rotation — the practice of growing dissimilar or different types of crops in close proximity according to sequenced seasons. Studies have shown that crop rotation is a beneficial method of promoting crop growth, reducing disease rates and preventing soil erosion because the used soil is not solely exposed to only one set of nutrients.
- Use adequate amounts of fertilizer and mulching. It’s advised to fertilize your plants once every week for effective growth. Use the appropriate applicator to spray said fertilizer onto your tomatoes’ leaves rather than towards the soil. Nitrogen and potassium are the best nutrients to use for this. As a complementary measure, you can also surround the seedbed with organic mulch.
- If you encounter any pest problems, try this remedy out: Use a mixture of garlic diluted using 20% potassium soap or a maceration of nettle (longer than 24 hours) as a good refresher for your plant. If you can afford it, rotate your crop arrangement every harvest cycle.
5. Harvest Season
When your tomatoes have turned red and ripe, you’ll know it’s harvesting time. Simply grip the tomato firmly in one hand and twist them until the tomato stem detaches. Remember to be delicate so as to not damage the tomato stems in the process. You might also want to collect the tomatoes in a basket of a mixture consisting of earthworm, hummus and coconut fiber (with a concentration of about 60% and 40% respectively) to retain the essence of the harvested tomatoes — and voila! Enjoy your tomato harvest!
Tomatoes are one of the most commercialized and profitable vegetables in the current market. It’d be wasted if farmers didn’t try to capitalize on this lucrative vegetable. Additionally, tomatoes are constantly in high demand all around the world due to their versatility as an ingredient in many food recipes. Where there is high demand, there will be an equally high supply. Hence, what are you waiting for? Get started on your tomato farming journey today!