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Do you remember the tomatoes of your childhood? I do! Tomatoes used to be well ripen, juicy, tasty and most of them organically grown. Looking at the spectacularly looking but not very tasty tomatoes I find today on the selves of the majority of fruit and vegetable stores I wonder what went astray. Aren’t today’s producers and food chain stores ever inventive?
Eating fresh, well ripen, juicy and tasty organically grown tomatoes free of pesticide and herbicide has its own distinctive health benefits, especially for children. Moreover, planting and growing your own organic tomatoes is not that hard!
Selecting your Plants
Tomatoes plants are either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes flower and set all their fruit within a relatively short period of time as opposed to the indeterminate tomatoes which grow, flower, and set fruit over a long period. Choose a determinate variety if you want a large crop for canning or an indeterminate variety if you like to eat your tomatoes fresh.
The easiest way is to buy tomatoes plants from a nursery and transplant them into your garden. Alternately you can nurse you own tomatoes plants.
Where and When to Plant?
Choose a sunny spot to place the plants and, to prevent certain diseases, do not plant tomatoes in the same spot for more than three years in a row.
Tomatoes like warm soil and do not tolerate frost. Plant tomatoes when the there is no more risk of frost and soil temperatures reach above 15 °C or 60 °F.
How to Prepare the Soil?
Tomatoes develop best in loose, rich, well-drained soil, so make sure to work lots of compost into your beds before planting. Prepare the garden bed by adding and mixing about 1” to 1 ½ “ of compost to the existing garden soil. If the soil has lots of sand and clay, consider to purchase some gardening soil in addition to compost. A good planting bed should have around 1 foot in depth, and I do not recommend planting beds with less than 9”.
How to Plant and Space?
Plant the tomatoes deeply and press the soil down gently. The lowest set of leaves should be at soil level, but burying the lowest leaves will not cause any issue.
For best results, leave about 1 to 2 feet between the plants, and space your rows 2 feet apart. Should you have a small vegetable garden, you can reduce spacing at 1 to 1 1/2 if you offset the plants.
When and How Much to Water?
Once planted water well all the tomatoes plants. Tomatoes love moderate moisture, so never let your tomatoes beds dry out. To prevent diseases, water early in the morning at the bottom of the vines and, once the tomato plants are established, apply about 2 inches or 5 cm of mulch such as straw, grass clippings or composted leaves.
When to Support the Plants?
In general when the plants are about 1 foot or 30 cm you should use tomato cages or stakes to support the vines. Alternately you can train them on cotton twine.
When to Fertilize?
Add enough compost when you prepare the soil and you should not need to add any more fertilizer.
When to Harvest?
Pick tomatoes when they begin to change from orange to red and let them finish ripening at room temperature out of direct sunlight. For yellow varieties pick the tomatoes just before they begin to turn yellow.
How to Store Tomatoes?
Should your garden yield more tomatoes than you can consume, store them in a cool and dry place but not in refrigerator. Storing tomatoes in refrigerator will cause them to lose flavor and texture.
Eating fresh, well ripen, juicy and tasty organically grown tomatoes free of pesticide and herbicide has its own distinctive health benefits, especially for children. Planting and growing your own organic tomatoes is not that hard!