Tomatoes are by far the easiest vegetable to grow. Growing tomatoes from seed is easy and rewarding for the beginner gardener or homesteader. Find out how you can grow this garden favorite and enjoy sweet juicy tomatoes this summer.
The tomato is certainly a favorite of mine. Whether it is a thick juicy slice with Himalayan salt, a sweet cherry tomato hot off the vine or a basket of plums for a pot of sauce. They all bring big smiles of joy to me.
To make the tomato season last a bit longer I like to plant cherry tomatoes as well as the larger varieties. They fruit quicker, don’t take as long to ripen and have a longer production season.
I enjoy popping these sweet little gems in my mouth as a healthy snack or adding them to garden salads.
The tomato certainly holds a prominent spot in our garden and maybe yours too.
The tomato is a wonderful choice for the beginner homesteader to grow from seed. Growing from seed allows you to have more control over the type of seed you want to use (heirloom, hybrid, organic). It also gives you flexibility of which tomato for example, is best suited for your space and purpose.
EASIEST VEGETABLE TO GROW
First, decide how you want to use the tomato by assessing how you currently use tomatoes in your diet. Do you add tomato to your salad or eat them out of hand as a snack? Do you add them to pizza or a sandwich or do you eat a lot of sauce?
Answering those questions will determine which tomato type you will be seeking. And it will make finding the seed easier and quicker when you can break the process down.
Beefsteak 12-16oz used as slicing tomato
Midsize 4-12oz used as slicing tomato
Saladette 2-4oz eaten out of hand or in salads
Cherry/Grape ¼-2oz eaten out of hand or in salads
Paste used for sauce
Tomatillo/Ground Cherry popular in Mexican cuisine
Next, check the number of days to maturity found in the seed catalog description right after the variety name. This refers to the length of time it will take the crop to reach maturity based on clinical trials where the seeds are being purchased.
For me, it offers a guide to see if a particular vegetable is suited for my geographical location. Will there be enough time from the time it is planted in the ground until it has completed the fruiting process?
If seeds are started indoors as tomatoes must be then the calculation is made from day of transplanting into the garden.
Did you know that there are determinate and indeterminate tomato varieties? This will determine how the fruit will ripen. Do you want to be able to pick tomatoes a few at a time throughout the growing season or do you want a large batch all at once at the end of the season?
Determinate varieties are fruits that all ripen at one time, with bush habit. Plant 18-24” apart.
Indeterminate varieties are fruits that ripen and plant keeps growing until frost. For best production they need support by staking, caging or trellising. Plant 18-24” apart when they are staked and 36” if they are to sprawl.
Planting the Tomato Plant
Make sure the soil is fertile, there are no nutrients in sandy soil alone. Clay soil without anything added is too heavy and will suffocate the roots. Amending the soil with compost will help to keep it light and fluffy.
Looking at the tomato plant prior to transplanting into the garden, you will notice nodules or bumps along the main stalk or trunk of the plant. When these nodules are covered with dirt they will form into roots. Plant the tomato plant deeper than it was growing in small container. Tomatoes can safely be buried up to the top 2 sets of leaves. Or create a deep enough trench and lie the plant down and cover it with dirt. Both of these methods will create a stronger root system.
At time of transplanting, I also put a large stake in the ground behind the tomato. As the plant grows I tie a piece of twine around plant and stake. It keeps the plant from toppling over or being adversely affected by strong winds.
Compost tea can be applied every few weeks. If too much nitrogen is applied then you might end up with excessive foliage and poor fruit set.
Harvest when fruit is red (or color of the variety planted) and firm.
Some Common Tomato Diseases and Insects
Common Tomato Diseases: Common Insects:
Alternaria (Early Blight) Flea Beetles
Late Blight Tomato Hornworms
(There are many others as well)