How to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are native to the Americas, and a favourite to grow in home gardens. They are full of vitamin C, iron and protein. They are easily grown in our Maritime Climate.
There are five major fruit shapes that differ between varieties of tomatoes; cherry, plum, pear, standard and beefsteak. Cherry tomatoes are defined by weight in the range of 1/4 to one ounce. The plum and pear tomatoes are the fruit shapes as described and weigh between 2 to 6 ounces. The standard tomatoes are round to globe shape weighing 4 to 8 ounces. The beefsteak size differs depending on the variety, but can be 2 pounds or more.
Tomatoes are also categorized by their maturity date. The maturity date means the number of days from planting outdoors to expect ripened fruit ready for harvesting. Tomatoes can be early, mid-season or late. Early tomatoes will ripen from 55 to 65 days from transplanting. Mid-season is considered 66 to 80 days for ripe fruit. Late types require over 80 days or more to ripen
There are basically two types of plant growth for tomatoes. They are determinate and indeterminate.
Indeterminate growth means varieties grow, blossom and produce tomatoes throughout the growing season until the end of the warm season. Because of the abundant lush growth, pruning indeterminate plants is highly recommended. To prune, pinch out suckers inbetween the 'V' shape that forms between the main stalk and the stems that branch out. Examples of indeterminate plants are Beefstake, Early Girl, Big Beef, Early Cascade and Sweet Million. When growing indeterminate varieties it is esstenial that they be grown on steaks or in tomato cages as they can often reach well of 5' tall.
Determinate tomato plants will reach a predetermined height and not grow beyond that height. They are relatively compact and produce a full bushy plant. The plants flower, set fruit and ripen in a short time so that the main harvest is concentrated into a few weeks. Examples of determinate varieties are Scotia, Celebrity and Tiny Tim. These are great varieties to grow in containers on the patio.
If starting tomatoes from seed you need to start them inside (typically end of Feb, early March). Tomato seed should be sown indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the last predicted frost for your region. Most seed will germinate in 5 to 12 days. For maximum germination, the soil temperature needs to be kept warm, about 21 to 24 degrees Celsius. Place in a sunny location (or even better use grow lights), keep seedlings warm and water regularly. Because seedlings are inside for quite a while prior to planting out, you may need to move the them from the small cell paks they were started into a larger 4-6" pot. When transplanting up the tomato seedling can be planted deep, to the first leaf stem as roots will develop along the buried main stem, making a better established root system. Continue to provide as much direct sunlight as possible. Grow lights should be used to supplement the natural sunlight while inside. The plants may stretch or get leggy if they do not receive enough direct light. Occassionally fertilizing the seedlings will help to keep the plants strong, Plant Prod 10-52-10 is great for plants during rapid growth periods and transplanting.
Prior to moving tomatoes outside, it is necessary to harden the plants off (so the plant does not go into shock). It is recommended to harden off plants before placing them in the garden.
Put plants outside in a protected area where they will receive full sun, but out of the wind. Move plants inside at night. After being outside for a week or two, the plants should be hardened off and ready to transplant. To prepare an optimum growing space in the garden for toamtoes add compost and other organic materials to your soil to improve nutrinets, texture and mositure holding capacity. Products
like kelp meal and Halifax Seed's Grow All Fertilizer 8-12-6 as well as a fertilizer with calcium are all great for tomatoes.
The use of a Kozy Coat can help to extend your tomato harvest season. These plastic, red, 'wall of water' forms a teepee over the tomato plants, protecting them from chilly temperatures and giving them a head start.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require attention. Use a water soluble fertilizer to feed your tomatoes throughout the season. Gaia Green Tomato Supreme or Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer are both great choices for healthy tomato plants. Continue to monitor the plants for suckers that need to be pruned out and watch for insects and disease. Ensuing the plants are properly staked will provide good air circulation around the plants to help prevent disease. Consistant watering will help the plants to grow uniform, plump toamtoes and will help prevent cracking.