Growing Tomatoes: Fast Facts
Next to lettuce, tomatoes rank at the top of the American fresh vegetable preference list. Hardly a sandwich or salad gets served without the ubiquitous tomato slice.
The chart at the top of the page shows that canned tomatoes are about the only thing Americans prefer to fresh tomatoes, by approximately a four to one margin.
Most backyard gardens are tomato friendly for seed and seedling started plants. Purchasing tomato starter plants saves the average gardener about two weeks worth of germination time and effort.
Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable
Growing Salad Vegetables
The large number of tomato varieties lend themselves to only a few general growing tips.
Basically, tomatoes are warm weather, sun dependent plants that require proper water and nutrition to reach their fruiting stage. Most gardeners start their tomato selection process by choosing between either determinate or indeterminate tomato varieties.
Determinate tomato varieties grow as small bushes. Growth stops following the plant's flowering and fruiting stages. The picture on the left shows roma tomatoes, a popular determinate variety that produces meaty fruit.
Determinate varieties are recommended for small outdoor gardens and container gardens.
The caged tomato in the picture highlights the ability of the cage to hold the center vine vertically, allowing branch vies room to settle around the edges of the cage for support.
Plant growth stops only after the first frost or the plant succumbs to a fatal disease. Otherwise, it continues to flower and fruit almost indeterminately. Many of the popular slicing tomatoes like beefsteak are indeterminate vine tomatoes.
Once the tomato variety is selected, plan on a two stage, indoor and outdoor, growing season.
Depending on tomato variety, the indoor growing season takes anywhere from four to six weeks. It consists of prepping the plants for outdoor growth. Healthy young tomato plants thrive on consistent temperature, nutrient, water and lighting conditions.
Gradually introducing seedlings to artificial light over the first two days they break ground guards against potential developmental problems caused by excessive light or heat.
After a week or so under artificial lighting, slowly introducing seedlings to natural light and temperatures helps with their transition to outdoor garden plant. Sunny warm places on window sills, or in favorable weather instances, the porch or deck, provide good seedling growing environments.
Indoor Seed Germination Tip: Suggested indoor seed germination temperatures vary according to a few general rules such as seed strain choice and climactic conditions. Seed germination temperature range: 70oF - 80oF.
Tomato outdoor growing season starts with transplanting the tomatoes into their designated garden spot. Again, depending on variety, plants need an appropriate support system during stem and branch development. Flowering and fruiting behavior becomes noticeable approximately two weeks following their transition from indoor seedling to outdoor garden plant.
Total time for a tomato plant to move from through the flowering, fruiting and harvesting stage is variety dependent, but typically falling in the range of three to six weeks after flowering. Finally, extreme low or high temperatures tends to disrupt flowering in many tomato varieties. Plants often exhibit signs of stunted growth after flowering during atypical weather patterns.
Organic tomato pest management starts with clean soil. Maintaining a weed free environment throughout the outdoor growing season also contributes to healthy plant growth. Local gardening centers and agricultural extension service also provide additional sol specific and pest management specific strategies suited to local garden environments.
Organic Tip: Tomato popularity places them center stage in the organic fertilizer market. Consequently, many tomato organic fertilizer products find space on the shelves of local garden supply shops. Reading their labels closely helps evaluate the nature of any specific product's organic claims.
© 2007-2012. Patricia A. Michaels