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Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-tomatoes-162830/

Overview on how to grow tomatoes

1. Get Tomato Seeds or Seedlings: Start by getting tomato seeds from a local nursery or store. Alternatively, you can buy small tomato plants called seedlings.

2. Choose a Spot: Find a sunny spot in your garden or on your balcony that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. Tomatoes thrive in sunlight! You can plant tomatoes anywhere really. They need lots of water so they work well in your aquaponics system. Or plant them in your wicking beds, growing bags or raised beds in your shade house. If you have lots of water you can plant them in normal garden beds with deep soil.

3. Prepare the Soil: Use well-draining soil that’s rich in nutrients. You can add compost or organic matter to improve the soil quality. If you’re using a pot, make sure it has drainage holes at the bottom.

4. Planting: If you’re using seeds, follow the instructions on the seed packet. If you have seedlings, plant them in the soil, leaving about 60-70 centimeters of space between each plant. If you’re growing them in a pot, choose a pot that’s at least 25-30 centimeters deep.

5. Watering: Tomatoes need consistent watering. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Water the plants at the base, avoiding getting water on the leaves to prevent diseases.

6. Support Your Plants: As your tomato plants grow, they might need support to prevent them from falling over. You can use stakes or cages to help them stay upright.

7. Fertilizing: Tomatoes are hungry plants. You can use a balanced fertilizer according to the instructions on the package. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to lots of leaves but fewer fruits.

8. Pruning: If your tomato plant becomes too bushy, you can prune it by removing some of the extra leaves. This helps the plant put more energy into growing tomatoes.

9. Watch for Pests and Diseases: Keep an eye out for any bugs or diseases. If you notice any problems, try to address them as soon as possible. There are organic solutions and sprays you can use.

10. Wait for the Magic: Tomatoes take time to grow, usually a couple of months. Be patient and watch as small green tomatoes turn into ripe, red fruits.

11. Harvesting: When your tomatoes are fully ripe, you can gently twist or cut them off the vine. Then, enjoy your homegrown tomatoes in salads, sandwiches, or even as snacks!

Remember, gardening is a learning process, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Just pay attention to your plants, give them care, and you’ll have delicious tomatoes in no time. Happy gardening!

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV: https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-and-green-tomato-fruits-6342170/

Now the detail:

An Organic Guide to Soil Preparation and Planting Tomatoes

Introduction: Embarking on the journey of growing your own organic tomatoes can be incredibly satisfying. To ensure robust growth and a fruitful harvest, it’s crucial to start with organic soil preparation and adhere to eco-friendly planting practices. This article offers a comprehensive manual for creating nutrient-rich soil and effectively planting tomatoes using only organic methods.

Part 1: Organic Soil Preparation

1. Selecting Natural Soil: Opt for natural, well-draining soil with excellent air circulation. Loamy or sandy soil textures are particularly beneficial as they prevent waterlogging and encourage healthy root expansion.

2. Test Soil pH Organically: Assess soil pH using a homemade solution of vinegar (acidic) or baking soda (alkaline). Adjust pH by incorporating organic materials like compost or coffee grounds.

3. Enrich with Organic Matter: Boost soil fertility by integrating organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, or aged manure. These enrichments enhance soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability.

4. Embrace Organic Fertilizers: Prioritize organic fertilizers like well-decomposed compost, seaweed extracts, or worm castings. These nourish the soil and support sustainable plant growth.

5. Harness the Power of Cover Crops: Consider planting cover crops like legumes or clover during off-seasons to prevent soil erosion, enhance soil structure, and fix nitrogen naturally.

Part 2: Planting Tomatoes Organically

1. Opt for Organic & Heirloom Varieties: Select tomato varieties that are organic or open-pollinated, aligning with your local climate and garden conditions.

2. Timing in Harmony with Nature: Plant tomatoes after the last frost, allowing the soil to warm naturally. Utilize organic seedlings or transplants for a healthier start.

3. Mindful Hole Digging: Create planting holes deep enough to accommodate the root ball and twice as wide to provide ample space for root expansion.

4. Embrace Planting Depth: Trim lower leaves and plant tomatoes deeply into the hole. Buried stems promote robust root growth along the buried section.

5. Organic Spacing Wisdom: Space tomato plants around 60-70 centimeters apart, facilitating proper sunlight exposure and air circulation.

6. Organic Mulching Magic: Layer organic mulch like straw, leaves, or grass clippings around the base of the plant. This eco-cover conserves soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and maintains soil temperature.

7. Gentle Organic Watering: Water the freshly planted tomatoes gently and thoroughly. Practice mindful watering to prevent water wastage and over-saturation.

8. Organic Supports – Staking or Caging: Support tomato growth with organic methods like bamboo stakes, twine, or homemade trellises, fostering healthy stem development and fruit production.

9. Nutrient Nurturing the Organic Way: Supply organic nutrients through natural means such as compost tea, liquid seaweed, or diluted fish emulsion when flowering begins.

10. The Organic Pruning Approach: Trim excess leaves and suckers to improve air circulation and focus plant energy on fruiting. Utilize trimmed materials for composting.

Staking and Pruning Tomatoes

Photo by Anna Tarazevich: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-pruning-a-tomato-plant-7299975/

Staking and pruning are essential practices for cultivating healthy and productive tomato plants. Proper staking provides support to the plants as they grow, preventing them from sprawling on the ground and promoting good air circulation. Pruning involves selectively removing certain parts of the plant to encourage better fruit production and reduce disease risks. Let’s delve into the details of staking and pruning tomatoes:

Staking Tomatoes:

1. Choosing the Right Stakes: Opt for sturdy stakes made of wood or metal that can withstand the weight of the tomato plants. The stakes should be at least 1.5 to 2 meters tall to accommodate the plants as they grow.

2. Setting Up Stakes: Drive the stakes into the ground about 15-20 centimeters deep and around 10-15 centimeters away from the base of the tomato plant. Ensure the stakes are secure to withstand wind and the weight of the plant.

3. Attaching the Plants: As the tomato plants grow, gently tie them to the stakes using soft ties or twine. Start tying when the plants are about 15-30 centimeters tall, and continue as they grow, loosely looping the ties around the main stem.

4. Pruning Suckers: Remove any “suckers” that develop in the leaf axils. Suckers are small shoots that emerge between the main stem and branches. Removing them directs the plant’s energy towards fruit production.

Pruning Tomatoes:

1. Early Pruning: Begin pruning when the tomato plants are around 30-45 centimeters tall. Identify the main stem and the first set of leaves above the ground.

2. Identifying Suckers: Suckers are new growth that forms in the “V” between the main stem and the branches. They can be found in the leaf axils. Suckers often grow quickly and can take away energy from fruit development.

3. Removing Suckers: Using clean, sharp pruning shears, carefully remove the suckers by pinching them off or making a clean diagonal cut. This prevents damaging the main stem.

4. Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes: Consider the type of tomato plant you have. Determinate tomatoes tend to grow compactly and produce fewer suckers, so pruning might not be as necessary. Indeterminate tomatoes are more vigorous and may benefit from more extensive pruning to focus energy on fruiting.

5. Managing Branches: Monitor the number of branches on the tomato plant. If the plant becomes too bushy, selectively remove some of the lower branches to improve airflow and sunlight penetration.

6. Aiming for Balance: Avoid over-pruning, as leaves are essential for photosynthesis. Maintain a balance between removing excessive growth and maintaining enough foliage for healthy plant development.

Benefits of Staking and Pruning:

  1. Improved Air Circulation: Staking lifts the plants off the ground, reducing the risk of fungal diseases that thrive in damp conditions.
  2. Optimal Sunlight Exposure: Staking ensures that leaves and fruits are exposed to sunlight, promoting better fruit ripening.
  3. Enhanced Fruit Quality: Pruning redirects the plant’s energy towards fewer, larger fruits, resulting in better flavor and size.
  4. Easier Harvesting: Staked and pruned plants are more accessible for harvesting, as fruits are at a comfortable height and easy to spot.

In summary, staking and pruning tomatoes are vital practices that contribute to healthy growth, disease prevention, and a more bountiful harvest. By providing proper support and judiciously pruning, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a successful tomato-growing season. Definitely watch the videos below to see how the pruning is done. It’s much easier to understand by watching a video.

A detailed guide on pruning can be found here: https://ofags.com/how-to-prune-tomatoes/

Photo by Skyler Ewing: https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-and-red-tomato-fruit-8911771/

Managing Tomato Diseases and Pests Organically

Tomatoes are susceptible to a range of diseases and pests that can harm plant health and reduce fruit yield. Adopting organic methods to manage these challenges ensures a safe and eco-friendly approach. Here’s an overview of common tomato diseases and pests, along with organic strategies to deal with them effectively:

Common Tomato Diseases:

  1. Early Blight (Alternaria Leaf Spot): Characterized by dark, concentric rings on leaves, leading to browning and defoliation.
    • Organic Control: Space plants for better airflow, mulch to prevent soil splashing, and use copper-based fungicides.
  2. Late Blight: Causes water-soaked lesions on leaves and stems, leading to rapid browning and plant collapse.
    • Organic Control: Remove affected leaves, provide good spacing, improve ventilation, and apply copper or sulfur-based sprays.
  3. Powdery Mildew: Appears as white powdery patches on leaves, affecting photosynthesis and weakening plants.
    • Organic Control: Prune crowded growth, improve air circulation, and use organic fungicides like neem oil or sulfur.
  4. Blossom End Rot: Caused by calcium deficiency, leading to sunken, darkened patches on the bottom of fruits.
    • Organic Control: Maintain consistent soil moisture, add calcium-rich amendments like crushed eggshells, and ensure proper drainage.

Common Tomato Pests:

  1. Aphids: Tiny insects that cluster on new growth, causing stunted growth and transmitting diseases.
    • Organic Control: Blast aphids off with water, introduce natural predators like ladybugs, or use insecticidal soap.
  2. Whiteflies: Small, white insects that suck plant juices and leave behind sticky honeydew, attracting fungal growth.
    • Organic Control: Introduce parasitic wasps, use reflective mulches, or employ yellow sticky traps.
  3. Hornworms: Large, green caterpillars that feed on leaves and fruit, leading to significant damage.
    • Organic Control: Handpick hornworms, encourage natural predators like parasitic wasps, and use botanical insecticides.
  4. Tomato Fruitworm: Larvae of this moth feed on fruit, causing surface damage and rot.
    • Organic Control: Remove affected fruits, encourage beneficial insects, and apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) sprays.

Organic Management Strategies:

  1. Crop Rotation: Avoid planting tomatoes in the same spot year after year to disrupt disease and pest cycles.
  2. Companion Planting: Certain companion plants like marigolds, basil, and nasturtiums can deter pests.
  3. Beneficial Insects: Attract and introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps that prey on pests.
  4. Neem Oil: An organic insecticide and fungicide derived from neem trees, effective against a variety of pests and diseases.
  5. Diatomaceous Earth: A natural powder that damages the exoskeleton of insects and prevents them from feeding.
  6. Homemade Sprays: Create organic sprays using ingredients like garlic, onion, hot pepper, and soap to deter pests.
  7. Healthy Soil: Maintain well-balanced soil with compost and organic matter, promoting strong plant growth and disease resistance.

Conclusion: Organic management of tomato diseases and pests involves a holistic approach that considers plant health, natural predators, and eco-friendly solutions. By adopting preventive practices, utilizing organic remedies, and promoting biodiversity, you can minimize the impact of diseases and pests on your tomato plants while nurturing a sustainable garden ecosystem. Remember that vigilance and consistent care are key to achieving successful organic tomato cultivation.

Worthwhile videos:

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