Ripe tomato fruits are nostalgic summer treats that you can eat straight from the vine. You can also include them in several recipes from sandwiches and sauces to salads and soups. For most gardeners, growing a perfect, sun-ripened, unblemished, and aromatic tomato is the trophy.
Generally, tomatoes are not difficult to grow if the climatic conditions are ideal for planting them. But more to that is your ability to choose the right variety because the fruits are susceptible to diseases. Varieties like Juliet tomatoes are disease-resistant, making it easier for you to raise productive and healthy plants.
After cultivation, the next natural thing you should find out is how to harvest. You need to reap the bounty and sometimes, you may have excess. If it comes to that, what should you do with them? This may seem like a lot for beginners but relax! We’ve got you covered.
In this guide, you will find adequate info on selecting, growing, harvesting, and storing tomatoes. You will also get tips for trouble-shooting your garden in case you encounter challenges. Grab your gardening gloves and let’s get started.
How to Select and Grow Tomatoes
One way to start on the right foot is to choose the right variety, plant it properly, then supply enough TLC until the seedlings start sprouting. There are 3 types of varieties: determinate, indeterminate, and heirloom.
Determinate produces one large yield and dies off when the season is almost over. Indeterminate produces fruits all through the season, sometimes it continues to the beginning of frost. Heirloom is a combination of age-long seeds cultivated for specific characteristics such as shape, color, texture, and taste.
After selecting your desired variety, you need to choose a sunny area to cultivate. The soil should also drain properly. Before planting, you can add organic fertilizer, like compost, to the soil to ensure that the seeds get adequate nutrients to support their growth.
Tomato seeds should have a first start indoors before you transplant them to your garden. You can also get seedlings from reputable nurseries, then plant them directly. However, you must ensure that the frost is over, and the night is becoming warm before you plant your seedlings.
Troubleshooting Tomato Problems
It is obvious that gardeners are not the only people who love tomatoes; diseases and pests can infect your plant if you are not careful. The following tips will help you resolve problems in your tomato garden:
As the summer heat increases, some fruits may find it difficult to set. You just need to be patient; when the night becomes cool, green fruits will emerge. However, you need to harvest ripe fruits promptly to relieve the already stressed plants. More importantly, if you live in an area that has high temperatures during summer, ensure you get a variety that is heat-resistant.
Some areas experience droughts during summer and sometimes, gardeners may not remember to water their plants. In this case, you should use drip irrigation, soaker hoses, or other techniques that can help you overcome drought and evenly maintain the soil moisture. This will prevent blossom end rot and cracked fruits. Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium during periods of moisture fluctuations.
Fungal diseases are common when the weather is humid. An example is the early blight disease that forms dark spots on the lower leaves. As soon as you spot diseased or unhealthy-looking leaves, remove them.
Another devastating disease is the late blight that kills the plants quickly. To control this, you need to get a fungicide like copper or chlorothalonil. Spray it on the leaves and keep your garden clean by removing plant debris.
Pests are common in tomato gardens. During mid-summer, tomato hornworms, those green caterpillars, usually eat the tomato foliage as well as damage the fruits. One of them can strip the leaves of a plant within a short period. Therefore, you need to deal with them immediately you see them.
Towards the end of summer, those plants that started producing earlier will start showing stress signs. You can extend their lifespan by pruning the withered branches and leaves. After that, supply them with liquid nutrients and treat diseased plants.
Preparing for the Next Planting Season
After experiencing a successful harvest, your work is not over. You need to prepare for the next planting season by saving your seeds from the current successful varietals. To prepare the seeds, follow these steps:
- Store the seeds in the fruit pulp until they form a moldy film.
- Rinse thoroughly, then dry with a clean towel.
- Package them in airtight bags or containers and keep them in a dry, cool spot.
- Ensure you label the containers or bags with the variety and date.
Fermenting the seeds before drying helps to improve the next season’s germination. You can watch this video to see how to do it.
How to Ripen Green Tomatoes
If the planting season is almost over and you still have green tomatoes, do not panic. You can coax your unripe fruits to blush. Simply pick them and leave them on a windowsill that gets a good dose of sunlight. You can also place them in brown paper bags with apples, which release gases that encourage fruit ripening.
Additionally, you can wrap them in newspapers and store them in a room without light. If all these options do not work, just reward yourself with a yummy green tomato recipe.
How to Preserve Tomato
When your garden yields a bountiful harvest, you may run out of space on your countertop and windowsill. In this case, you can make tomato sauce and store it in a can or prepare fresh salsa. You can also slice and dry in the sun, oven, or dehydrator, then grind into powder.
You must not grow tomatoes to enjoy the best of the fruit. It is also gratifying to select prime products from the local farmers’ market. When selecting tomatoes, choose those that do not have bruises and don’t yield completely when you use your fingers to press them.
Furthermore, if you want to buy for later use, ensure you select the harder fruits, then leave them on your countertop to ripen. Do not refrigerate them as they will become mushy and lose taste. If you want to save sliced fruits, place them in a bowl on your countertop and cover them with plastic.
Tomato is usually one of the first things a beginner vegetable gardener starts with. The goal is to produce fruits that are juicy, firm, aromatic, and blemish-free. The journey begins by choosing a disease-resistant variety and following best farming practices, which we discussed in this guide.