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33 Awesome Tips for Planting, Growing and Harvesting Tomatoes

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Title: 33 Awesome Tips for Planting, Growing and Harvesting Tomatoes


1
33 Awesome Tips for Planting, Growing and
Harvesting Tomatoes
2
Tomato Fact 1 Did you know that Canadian farms
produce close to a million metric tons of
tomatoes in Canada every year?Tomato Fact 2
All greenhouse-grown tomatoes are sold for fresh
consumption.Tomato Fact 3 Canadians consumer
approximately 1.33 litres of tomatoes every year.
(source Alberta Agriculture and
Forestry)Tomatoes are used practically almost
everyday in everything from pastas to salads to
soups and moreHere are some tips that we use to
grow our own awesome tomatoes and you can do too
in your own backyard garden. Read on and get
growing!
3
Planting Tomatoes1. Location, Location,
LocationTomato plants need lots of strong direct
sunlight.  In fact, they need anywhere from 8-10
hours of light each day in order for them to
flourish and minimize the risk of disease.Plant
where there are no large trees or buildings
nearby so that the sun is not blocked. If you
arent sure, mark off an area that you think has
sufficient sunshine and check back every 2-3
hours in a day to see if the sun still reaches
that spot.
4
2. More than Breathing RoomOvercrowded seedling
plants result in poor in air circulation and can
raise humidity levels which lead to disease. 
Spacing plants too close together can also cause
some plants to shade each other without adequate
sunlight plants can suffer from blossom drop and
fail to flower and set fruit.If you allow your
plants to sprawl, measure off two shoe sizes
(shoe size 10 11 inches) and a bit and youll
get pretty close to the recommended 24 inches
apart.
5
If you plan on staking or caging your tomatoes,
measure off 1.5 shoe sizes and youll get pretty
close to the recommended 15 inches apart.3.
Turning Up the HEAT On SoilIts a fact, Tomatoes
LOVE heat.Extra degrees of soil warmth will
translate into earlier tomatoes.  Who doesnt
want early tomatoes? Use plastic (black or clear)
to cover the planting area before you intent to
plant.  Some say that clear plastic works better
because it allow the suns energy through while
trapping the heat energy.
6
When you add the plastic covering, it will cause
the weed seeds to germinate faster and then kill
them so they wont come back.4. Soil Power
UpLike anything you create, grow or build,
starting out with the right foundation is
critical to future success.Get a high quality
soil base to make sure that you have enough
nutrients for the plant to draw from.  Later on,
you can continue to add to this soil with other
nutrients as they become depleted.
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5. To Determinate or IndeterminateSelecting the
right type of tomato plant is dependent on what
you plan to do with them.  If you want a large
quantity of tomatoes quickly, then select a
determinate variety.  If you want to eat fresh
tomatoes on an ongoing basis (at least for a
while) go for the indeterminate
variety.Determinate Grow to a certain height
(approximately 3 feet tall), stop growing, and
then set and ripen their fruit all at one
time.Indeterminate The plants like to grow
tall before it starts to set fruits and the fruit
will ripen at different times.
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If you are looking to make your own tomato sauce,
go for the determinate variety so that you can
harvest a large quantity to use.6. Meet Hairy
Vetch An Organic FriendTo keep your tomatoes
healthy and strong, many organic gardeners often
plant hairy vetch in the garden bed as opposed to
rotating crops in small growing spaces.  Hairy
vetch is known to fix nitrogen in the soil and
provide almost all the needs of the subsequent
crop.   In addition, it also supports several
beneficial insects and can host several species
of nematodes.
9
Plant hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) in the fall and
let it grow.  When it is time to plant tomatoes
in the spring, cut the hairy vetch right down to
the ground and plant the seedlings through matted
residue.  Doing it this way not only provides
nitrogen, but the hairy vetch also acts like a
mulch that preserves the moisture and prevents
weeds from sprouting.7. Young and Green Buying
SeedlingsThe simplest way to identify which
seedlings to purchase is when it looks healthy. 
This means that the foliage is clean, has a dark
green color and is sturdy.
10
If there are flowers showing or the leaves at the
bottom are turning yellow or brown, then you have
a plant that has been stressed.Take a closer
look at the leaves, top and underneath, to make
sure that there are no chew marks or insects like
aphids.  If there are, dont buy it.Getting the
most productive plant means choosing the
healthiest, pest-free plants that you can find.
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8. More Roots More Fruits Its all what we
want when we plant a tomato plant, lots of
tomatoes to use in our salad, to make sauce and
to just eat them with a dash of salt.  There are
a couple of ways you can encourage more roots
from your plant.Dig a deeper hole plant your
tomato plants deeper than the pot they come right
up to top few leaves.Dig a shallow trench lay
your tomato plant sideways and within a few days,
the plant will straighten itself out and grow
toward the sun.
12
The stems will be able to develop roots all along
it which makes for a stronger plant, better
foundation, and greater ability to absorb
nutrients and water.  As an added bonus, a larger
root system near the soil surface will mean more
heat is available to the plant, producing earlier
tomatoes. 9. Tomatoes like Eggs too!When you
plant your seedling in the deep hole, use a
handful of crushed egg shells because it provides
the tomato plants thrive on calcium.
13
The calcium from the from egg shells is absorbed
into the roots and into the stems of the plant. 
If you have yellowing tomato plants, it is a sign
that you have a calcium deficiency.As an added
bonus, when you boil your eggs, dont throw away
the water as it is full of calcium from the egg
shells.  Let the water cool off and water your
tomato plants with it.10. Break the Disease
CycleTo get rid of disease-causing organisms and
stop the cycle, place your tomatoes on a 3-year
rotation schedule with unrelated crops. 
14
Unrelated crops such as corn, beans, or lettuce
will break the disease cycle.Make sure you dont
plant members of the tomato family which includes
peppers, eggplants and potatoes.In addition, get
rid of diseased plants instead of composting
them.  Either throw them away or burn the
diseased plants and any other garden debris like
mulch or weeds that were in contact with the
diseased plants.
15
Growing Tomatoes 11. A Little Vinegar With My
Soil Please Tomato plants like soil that has a
pH between 5.5 6.8 so they are considered to be
acid loving plants.Acidic soils have iron in a
soluble form which allow plants to take in the
iron contained in the soil. Tomatoes have a high
iron requirement to help it flourish and grow.
Alkaline soils also have iron, but not in soluble
form and cant be absorbed by the tomato
plant.You can gauge whether your soil is acidic
or alkaline by using two simple household items
vinegar and baking soda.
16
Put a couple spoonfuls of soil into two separate
containers. In one container, add some vinegar. 
If it fizzles, it means that your soil is
alkaline and you are done.  If it doesnt fizzle,
add water to other container with soil so it
becomes wet and muddy.  Add some backing soda to
it and if it fizzles, it means your soil is
acidic.  If neither sample fizzles, then your
soil probably has a neutral pH of 7.For other
ways to determine soil pH, check out these
tests.12. Stake Them Highkeeping disease away
from tomato plants is always an ongoing issue,
but manageable.
17
One way is to use 6-foot stakes (what is showing
above ground) or a trellis system for
indeterminate tomatoes.By keeping the ripe fruit
off the ground, it is less susceptible to disease
and it is easier to harvest.A basic trellis
structure is 8-foot steel stakes pounded
approximately 18 inches into the ground at 4-foot
intervals.  Attach horizontal wires to the stakes
with 1-foot vertical intervals to provide the
tomato vines support as they grow.
18
13. A Balanced Approach 5-5-5 Maybe Hairy Vetch
isnt your thing, consider adding a small amount
of balanced organic fertilizer like 5-5-5 and
work it into the soil just before you decide to
plant the tomato seedlings.Fertilizing too much
before the plant is well established and in full
flower means you get lots of foliage and very
little fruit.Putting down a small amount of
5-5-5 balanced fertilizer gets the plants off to
a good and healthy start.14. Tie them up White
Glove HandlingWhen you want to support your
plants, avoid the use of wire or string.  Try
using strips of soft cloth or green growing tape
so that it will not girdle the stem.
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15. Watering the Right WayKnowing how much to
water and when is important to helping to
developing healthy tomato plants and fruits. 
Always try to water directly on the soil and not
on the leaves to minimize the chance of
disease.When the plants are developing water
the plants deeply and regularly.  Get at least 1
inch of water per week.When at the height of
summer soak your tomato bed once a week or every
five days.When the fruit begins to ripen ease
up on the watering to help coax the plant into
concentrating its sugars for better flavor.
20
If you hold back too much water, the plants will
wilt and become stressed.16. Getting Water to
Where Its Really NeededTomatoes have two sets
of roots, some are at the surface and the lower
ones drink in the water.Sink a pipe vertically,
be careful not to hurt the stem, into the ground
when you plant out.  The pipe allows you to get
water down to where it counts quickly and
efficiently.17. A Rock and Some WaterIf you are
in a period of drought, considering using some
flat rocks and place one next to each plant.
21
The flat rocks will pull up water from under the
ground and keep it from evaporating into the
atmosphere. 18. Prune or not to
PruneIndeterminate tomato varieties require (or
benefit from) pruning because they continue to
grow unlike determinate varieties, which stop
growing.Pruned plants will yield fewer and
larger fruit (great for sauces), while unpruned
plants will yield greater numbers of smaller
fruit.
22
19. Prune it RightPrune off non-fruiting
branches.  These are shoots that develop between
the stem and the main branches.  By doing so, you
will direct the tomato plants energy into
growing bigger and better fruit.However, you
will need to go easy on pruning the rest of the
plant because it is the leaves that are
photosynthesizing and creating sugars that give
flavor to your tomatoes.When your tomato plant
grows to a height of 65 to 90 centimeters, remove
the lower leaves from the bottom 25 centimeters
to prevent the development of fungus.You may
also want to prune off the leaves (that have yet
to change color) around the full size tomatoes to
get more sunlight for the fruit, increase air
flow and minimize disease.
23
20. Remove those Suckers (fruit bearing
branches)Why would you want to remove fruit
bearing branches?  It depends on what you want
the plant to do.Sometimes you prune out the
suckers so that the plant doesnt get top heavy. 
Another reason is that the plant can produce more
fruit than it can mature in time for the fall
season.If you arent sure, prune one plant and
not another and see what happens.  Youll know
better next time around.
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21. Adding Just Enough Compost/MulchWhen the
first fruit is ripening, add some compost around
the stem and trim some of the upper leaves to
encourage new growth and continued fruit.Make
sure that it is also warm enough outside and the
ground has had a chance to warm up before adding
mulch. While mulching does conserve water and
prevents the soil and soil-borne diseases from
splashing up on the plants, putting it down too
early it will also shade and therefore cool the
soil.
25
22. Dry Leaves No InfectionTomatoes can become
infected when airborne spores land on wet plants,
as a result never use an overhead sprinkler or
water from above. If it rains you cant do
anything about it, but try not to unnecessarily
get the plants wet.When watering, always keep
the water towards the base of the plant, and try
and keep the leaves dry.Using drip or soaker
hose irrigation is the best way to do this.
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23. Mid-summers Refill is NitrogenIts
mid-summer and youve watched your tomatoes grow
and grow.  If you have low organic matter in your
soil, you might run out of nitrogen for your
tomatoes by mid to late summer.  Youll know by
the yellowing of the lower leaves. With low
nitrogen levels in the plant, the plant can get
early blight disease which spreads like
wildfire.Control early blight by keeping up
nitrogen levels up from mid to late summer and
significantly improve the number of fruit.Also
consider using water soluble fertilizers and use
according to label directions. These are good
summer fertilizer supplements.
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24. Cutting out the CutwormCutworms are one of
the many pests that can affect your tomatoes. 
Cutworms chew through the stem of the plant,
effectively killing it.  You can stop this from
happening by placing a collar around the stem
of the plant where it goes into the soil.Take an
old cardboard toilet paper roll holder or a strip
of newspaper and create collar around the stem. 
Make sure the collar is at least 1 inch below and
1 inch above the soil surface.Once the stems
toughen up in 3-4 weeks, cutworm damage is no
longer an issue and the paper collar will have
rotted away.
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25. Some side dressing with the tomatoes
pleaseSide dressing is the application of
fertilizers in a shallow furrow or band along the
side of vegetable row crops or in a circle around
individual plants along the drip line.Side
dressing gives extra nutrients to the plants so
that they can produce to their full
potential.Apply the side dressing 2-3 weeks
after transplanting, at blossom time, before
first picking and 2 weeks after the first picking.
29
26. Solarize your soil Harness the suns energy
to help you control nematodes and weeds.   During
the hottest part of the summer, moisten the area
and cover it with a sturdy plastic tarp.  Leave
the tarp in place for at least 3-4 weeks and it
will kill the weeds and nematodes.   It is also
an effective treatment for other pests and
disease pathogens.Harvesting Tomatoes27.
Harvesting the Fruit You can see when the fruit
is ready to be harvested when it is a solid color
(red, yellow, etc.) from top to bottom, but still
firm.
30
By keeping an eye on how the fruit is developing,
you may need to harvest daily or every other
day.The best-tasting tomatoes have a balanced
ratio of sugar to acid.  As the sugars increase
so does the color of the fruit. So during the
longer days of summer, tomatoes that ripen in
this time have more sugar than those who mature
during shorter days of summer.Once you pick
them, store tomatoes on your kitchen counter,
where the temperatures are above 50 F (10 C),
instead of in your refrigerators crisper. The
cold temperature can spoil the tomato flavor and
texture.
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28. Pick it RightGrasp a ripened tomato gently
and firmly. Twist it until it snaps off the
vine.  You may also want to use clipper or knife
to harvest tomatoes. Cut the stem close to the
fruit.29. Looks Count!Tomatoes will always
ripen from the inside out. If a tomato looks ripe
on the outside, it will be ripe on the inside.
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30. Watch the TemperatureTomatoes stop ripening
are above 30C / 86F. If you have a long string of
hot days, or if you live in an area that has
consistently hot summer temperatures, then
tomatoes may ripen to a yellow/orange color and
stop. Harvest them before they turn completely
red.Even if the days are overcast or cloudy and
warm, the fruit will continue to ripe because
tomatoes need warmth and not light to continue
the process.31. Save Your Own SeedsInstead of
buying seedlings, consider saving your own seeds
from your own crop.
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Select the best looking fully ripe tomato,
squeeze the seed mass into a jar, fill it with
water and shake well.  In a day or so, rinse the
seeds through a strainer and dry them on a plate
for a couple of weeks or until fully dry.  Store
in a cool dry spot and you are ready for next
years growing season.32. Ripening Tomatoes Go
the distanceWhen the fall months arrive and you
still have several green or partially ripe
tomatoes on your vines,  dont let those tomatoes
go.  Here are two ways to ripen them properly
even when you dont have the warmth or sun to
mature the fruits.
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Ripening Indoors Pick the tomatoes and cover
them with a single sheet of newspaper in a warm
and dark spot.  The tomatoes will continue their
ripening process.  Check on them once a while to
make sure they dont over ripen.  Remember to
never ever put them on a windowsill.  It may turn
red, but it wont be ripe.Ripening Outdoors
Cut a semicircle around the plant that is 2
inches from the stem and 9 inches deep.  By
cutting some of the roots, youll shock the plant
into forcing all its strength into ripening its
fruit.  Make sure you only do this near the end
of season.
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33. Long term storage of tomatoes If you are
looking to store your tomatoes for a longer
period, you can freeze them.  Remove the core of
fresh unblemished tomatoes, place them entirely
into freezer bags or containers and seal.  Label
them along with the date you froze them.  When
you defrost the tomatoes, the skin will slip
right off making it perfect for creating
sauces.http//www.toemar.ca/
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