Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are the most popular home garden crop in the country. Highly adaptable and easy to grow, tomatoes can thrive in a wide range of climates and conditions. Of course, like any garden vegetable, tomatoes need the right type of soil to produce the best crop.
Types and Textures
Loam and sandy loam soils are best for tomato production, but these plants will grow in almost all soil types except heavy clay. If your soil has lots of clay, you can improve the texture by tilling the soil and incorporating sand, sawdust, peat moss or other amendments before planting. The soil should be fairly loose and well-drained. Tomatoes don't do well in dry soil, but avoid planting them in excessively wet, waterlogged soil, or anywhere standing water gathers after a rain.
The pH scale is used to characterize the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. When starting a new garden, it's best to start with a soil test. You can purchase home pH testers from the market that are adequate for determining your soil's pH level, if you don't want to send it out for testing. Most soils are slightly acidic, that is, slightly less than pH 7, which is neutral.
Tomatoes grow best in soils that are just slightly acidic, from a pH of 5.5 to 6.8
It's not difficult to modify your soil's pH level. To know more about how to alter your soil pH click here.
First select the tomato seeds which suits to your locality. Place the seeds in a paper cups and cover them with a loose layer of dry soil. You can also use seedling trays.
Alternatively you can cut the ripe tomatoes in slices and place it in a grow bag/pots and cover them with lose layer of dry soil.
Sprinkle water on it for a few days and you will see the seedlings sprouting. Once they are over an inch tall, cut the paper cup away and replant the seedlings in the pots you have prepared. Plant only one seedling per pot.
Sun Light and Watering
Keep your tomato plant to a place where the sunlight is available in plenty. The fruit formation equires at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight.
Tomato plant requires plenty of water specially during summers. Do not wet the leaves or the stem of the plant. Always put water directly into the soil near the roots. Tomatoes are particularly susceptible to many pests and diseases. Horn-worms, Aphids, white-flies are few of the pests which can reduce the production of tomatoes. Late blight(specially during monsoon) and distorted leaves are the common diseases to the plant. It is always wise to plant basil, marigold, lettuce, onion, garlic etc. along with your tomato plant. It will help in distracting little pests from your tomato plant. This type of planting is called companion planting.
Tomato plants need support for growth. You need to build cage or stakes at the time of planting. Staking keeps fruits off the ground whereas cage help the plant to hold its upright.
Improving Fruit Growth
Take out any shoot that grows between the stem and main branches, these shoots always hinder the fruit growth. With the same logic cut off the top of the plant if it grows vertically. It will help the plant to become more bushy with much more fruits. It is not necessary to do this. It depends upon the type of plants you grow.
Mulching is simply spreading a protective layer of a material on top of the soil. Mulches can either be organic -- such as leaves, grass clippings, straw, bark, and similar materials -- or inorganic -- such as stones, brick chips, and plastic. For long term soil improvement use organic mulches, which have numerous benefits. It retards weeds, helps retain moisture, and most importantly improves the soil condition as it slowly breaks down, loosening the soil and adding nutrients.
Tomato Blossom Drop
Tomato blossoms are self fertile, and a certain amount of self pollination of tomato flowers does occur. But pollen does not move well by itself from anther to stigma, as evidenced by the really poor pollination seen in greenhouses when no pollination aid is given. But shaking by wind or mechanical means can cause the release of the pollen, which drops down (the blossoms normally hanging downward) through the stamen tube to the stigma. The best possible motion to release this pollen is from a bee that "sonicates" Sonication is the vibration of the wing muscles without flight, causing the whole flower to vibrate, and a cloud of pollen to be released onto the bee's body and at the same time, onto the stigma.
Tomato plants lose their blossoms for several different reasons:
1. Temperature: Extreme temperature such as high daytime temperatures (above 85 o F/29 o C), or high nighttime temperatures (above 70 o F/21 C), or low nighttime temperatures (Below 55 o F/13 o C) tomato plants will drop the flowers. Tomatoes grow best if daytime temperatures range between 70 o F/21 o C and 85 o F/29 o C.
2. Humidity: The ideal humidity range is between 40 70%. If humidity is either too high or too low, it interferes with the release of pollen and with pollen’s ability to stick to the stigma. So pollination will not occur. If humidity is too low, hose the foliage during the day. This will both cool the plant and raise the humidity. This is not recommended in areas with high humidity or when fungus diseases are present.
Other potential sources of blossom drop:
1. Lack of pollination
2. Nitrogen: High or low application rates of N fertilizer can cause blossom drop.
3. Lack of water: Tomatoes have very deep roots, and can sometimes reach down up to 5 feet. Shallow watering will stress and weaken the plants.
4. Insect damage or disease
5. Heavy fruit set: When a tomato plant has too many blossoms, the resulting fruits are all competing for the limited food supplied by the crop. The plant will automatically abort some flowers. Once the initial crop is harvested, the problem should subside.
Source : Compiled from various gardening sites, books & learned from personal experience.