One of the best plants to grow organically in your own garden is tomatoes. Growing tomatoes in pots is easy to learn and a great starter plant for anybody new to organic gardening. If you want to grow tomatoes and know absolutely nothing about it you could probably use some basic growing tips. Here are some good practices and tips to help you with growing tomatoes organically:
Tomatoes can be grown either as transplants or from seeds. You may be able to find a wider selection of tomato varieties in seed form than in transplant form.
Plant your tomatoes where they can get at least six hours of sunlight each day.
Tomato seeds should be started 4 – 6 weeks before you actually plan to plant your new tomatoes. Use a fluorescent light which you turn on and off every 12 hours to simulate sunlight.
Don’t plant tomato seedlings outside right away. Seedlings need some adjustments before they can move out of their windowsill lives and into the harsh elements. Wind and sun can kill seedlings that haven’t had time to adapt. Seedlings should be taken outside for several hours a day for a week and a half and placed in a protected area. This process is called “hardening off” and will prepare the seedlings for life outdoors.
The ideal soil temperature for planting tomatoes is around 60 degrees. You should plant your tomatoes in the spring. The tomato seedlings should be planted 4″ deep in the soil. It’s best to do this at a moderate time of day during moderate weather. Keep in mind the seeds will germinate best when the soil reaches 70 – 80 degrees. Summer temperatures are ideal for growing tomatoes. If you wait till the middle of summer to plant your tomato seedlings though, they won’t have as much time in the summer heat to grow. So it’s best to plant your tomatoes early in the season.
This should get you on your way to growing tomatoes! There are a number of fungal diseases that can attack tomatoes and which you need to watch out for. Seasonal blight, Septoria, Blossom Drop, Sunscald and Blossom-End Rot can wreak havoc on your tomato crop. Some diseases kill tomato crops slowly; others can finish off your tomatoes overnight. How can you prevent these diseases while growing tomatoes organically?
Start off with the right materials. Make sure you plant your tomatoes in sterile pots and soil. One of the most fatal diseases to young seedlings is called “damping off” and kills more than 50% of first-timers’ tomato crops. Thankfully it is easy to prevent by taking care before you plant!
Mulch is a good cure-all for a number of potential problems. Coating the soil with a 2 – 3″ mulch layer is an excellent and reliable disease preventative. Mulch insulates tomatoes from fungal spores and normalizes the moisture of the soil. Mulching also prevents blight. Mulch regulates the temperature of soil and keeps it from overheating and prevents weeds from getting into the soil. You can use organic compost as mulch, which has the added benefit of being nutritious for your plants and replacing the need for a fertilizer.
If you do end up with repeat fungus problems, there are organic fungicides that you can buy to treat your tomatoes.
Growing tomatoes is a great way to get started gardening organically. You only need a few supplies: a sterile container, soil for starting seedlings, and something to start your seedlings in before you plant them. A paper cup or a plastic jug can suffice for this purpose. It’s also great to have a fluorescent light for use with your seedlings. For the small investment of purchasing supplies, you can get a great value from a new tomato garden. It will save you money and also be fun and rewarding!