Tomatoes have a vital place in almost every Indian kitchen and are the most versatile food ingredients that come in various shapes, sizes and colour. Tomatoes are one of those easily grown veggies in an organic terrace garden that can be grown all round the year. So lets know how to grow our own organic tomatoes in 10 easy and simple steps.
1. Choose a sunny spot: Tomatoes love to thrive well in sun. So always choose that sunny spot which gets good amount of sunshine for about 8 to 10 hours
2. Sowing: Always start with viable and healthy tomato seeds. Fill the seedling tray with organic Potting Mix and and sow the seeds. Sow one seed per cup and cover with a polythene sheet to ensure proper germination of seeds. The tomatoes seedlings will be ready for transplanting to the pots/containers by 3- 4 weeks. Select large size containers as tomato plants are huge feeders of nutrients with large root area. Also ensure that the potting mix should be well draining and rich in nutrients.
3. Staking: Provide stakes (wooden, metal, bamboo cane) to the plants after transplantation as they require support once the fruiting starts. To stake, push tomatoes stakingin the stake 1-2 inches away from the main stem. Once the plant needs support, loosely tie the main stem to the stake with a soft thick cord that will not cut into the stem over time.
4. Watering: After transplantation, water the plants daily to keep an optimum moisture level (not too dry or wet) at the roots instead of foliage as moisture on foliage invites diseases.
5. Pruning: Prune out the suckers; shoots that rise between two preexisting main stems. They simply consume the nutrients thus lowering the fruit yield.
6. Nutrition: Tomatoes are heavy feeders when it comes to nutrition. So the potting mix should support the plants with good nutrition. Flowering and fruiting stages are critical, hence it is very important to provide nutrition during these stages. Use organic Potting Mix always. It provides all the necessary nutrients required.
7. Companion plants: A few companion plants for tomatoes include:
1. Basil: known to enhance the flavor of tomatoes
2. Marigolds: They are the best pest deterrents, besides enhance the beauty of the garden
3. Carrots: Plant carrots 2 weeks before you plant the tomatoes, to give them a chance, and then plant tomatoes in around them. This helps carrots to get shade during hot summers. Though the carrots might be a little smaller, as the tomato roots will probably win the space battle, but they will be flavour-packed.
4. Lettuce: The tomatoes shade the lettuce in the hot summer months, making it easier to grow lettuce all year.
5. Beans: Beans provide nitrogen to the soil. Tomatoes love nitrogen.
8. Pests and their management: The most common pests on tomato are leafminers that feed on the leaf tissue, plant sap sucking pests such as whiteflies, thrips, aphids and fruit borers that feed on the fruits by penetrating into them. Whiteflies and thrips act as vectors for viral disease. The plant sap sucking insects can be most of the times managed with proper nutrition since the weak and undernourished plants become more susceptible to their attack. If there is infestation, one can go for organic pest control like Neem oil.
9. Diseases and their management: Leaf curl/ murda complex is the most important disease in tomatoes growing in kitchen garden caused by leaf curl virus that is transmitted by sap sucking insects; thrips and whiteflies. Physiological Disorder: Blossom End Rot is yet another common problem observed in tomato once the fruits start to develop which is due to calcium deficiency or acidic soil.
10. Harvesting: Tomatoes can be harvested when the colour changes from green to yellow or red.
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