Of all the edible crops bought as young plants, pot grown tomato plants are by far the most popular. And why not. They are one of the easiest to grow, one of the most flavoursome, and one of the best cropping edible plant species by far!
Of course, buying tomato plants is one thing but what you need to know is how to look after them from this point onwards. And the first thing you need to be aware of is whether you are growing on greenhouse or outdoor tomato varieties. This will be on the label (please don't buy unlabelled tomato plants) when you purchase them.
How to plant outdoor tomato varieties
Positioning is all important as your growing tomato crop will require as much sunlight as possible. You may also wish to avoid areas which are sheltered or near to potato crops as this will increase the risk of late blight. Give each plant a good 2 - 3ft spacing, and make sure that adequate plant support is available as they grow - this will be a lot easier to put in place when the plants are small
When it come to planting - and as long as the young tomato plants are tall enough, try placing young tomatoes either on their side so that they are lying horizontally in a trench or up to their first set of leaves in a deep hole. With either situation, back fill the plants with soil and water in. Roots will develop all along the underground stems helping to produce bigger plants and bigger crops.
How to plant greenhouse tomato varieties
For greenhouse tomatoes first pick a recommended variety such as 'Santa', 'Matador', 'Sungold', 'Money Maker' or 'Supersteak'.
Plant the young plants when they are about 6-8 inches tall and the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open. If you are planting into your greenhouse border make sure you have dug in plenty of organic compost during the winter.
If you have used the border before for tomatoes, it is better to change the soil or sterilise it before using it for tomatoes again. This will help avoid soil pests and root diseases becoming a problem. Just before planting, rake in a general purpose fertiliser. If you are going to use a growbag or pot just remember they will require a lot more watering and care. Plant approximately 45cm (18in) between the plants and 75cm (30in) between the rows. In a growbag, generally plant no more then two plants per bag.
Growbags or soil - which is best?
It almost doesn’t matter where in the country you live or the property you are living in because there is almost always at least one spot in the sun that can accommodate a single grow bag. In one fail swoop the ‘growbag’ revolution made it possible for the ordinary person to successfully grow fresh produce at home, irrespective of whether they had a garden or not.
As a native of the South American rainforests, the normal dispersal of tomato seed would begin with its consumption by wild animals or the local indigenous peoples. The digestive process helps to strip the seed of its jelly like coating which contains specialized chemicals that inhibit the seeds germination. After a few hours the seed is returned to the soil along with a dose of natural fertilizer. With the heat of this environment combined with high levels of rainfall, the tomato seeds will germinate within a couple of weeks, making full use of the nutrient rich soil that has been fermenting below them.
Sedge peat differs to moss peat in that it becomes greasy and compacts easily but it doesn’t create a good open environment for root development. This is why all peat-based multipurpose and specialist composts will contain moss peat and not sedge peat. It is however very cheap and as mentioned before, like moss peat it has no nutrients of its own which is why all grow bags must be supplemented with liquid feeds on an almost daily basis throughout the growing season. The problem with this is that the only nutrients that are available to your plants are the ones supplied by you.
So which is better for growing tomatoes, growbags or soil? At the end of the day tomatoes will always taste better in the ground but be aware though that constant cropping in the same soil can bring serious problems such as corky root, wilt and eelworm. To avoid this you would need to consider soil steralisation, or change the soil every few years digging out the old soil and replacing it with humus rich, loamy soil from a part of the garden that has never cropped potatoes. The reason for this is that both tomatoes and potatoes are from the Solonacae family (compare their flowers) and you may inadvertently transfer blight spores with infected soil. To continue the argument, the problem with growbags is that they limit both the size and the flavour of your crop, however they are convenient.
At the end of the day the choice is yours, but perhaps the most important thing here is that you do get a choice.
For more information click onto:
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Buy Blight Resistant Tomato Seed
Common Insect Pests on Tomatoes
Common Tomato Pests and Diseases
Detox you Body with Fresh Fruit
Flea Beetles on Tomato Plants
Grey Mould on Tomatoes
How to Collect and Prepare Tomato Seeds for Propagation
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How to Control Mosaic Virus on Tomato Plants
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Recipe for Tangy Tomato Soup
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Photo care of http://www.gardenworldimages.com/Details.aspx?ID=41855&TypeID=1 and http://domino-35.prominic.net/A55C37/mdd.nsf/dx/Growing-Tomatoes.htm and http://christiescorner.com/2009/09/03/fresh-tomatoes-with-balsamic-vinegar/