8) Growing tomatoes

In this tip:

  • Introduction
  • A)# Sowing and germinating
  • B)# Transplanting
  • C)# Tomato plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer
  • D)# Sowing early or sowing late
  • E)# Putting tomato plants in the garden soil
  • F)# Roof over the plants or in the open air

Introduction

I used to sow tomatoes species Moneymaker. Many seeds, low price and the seeds can be stored for many years.

But Moneymaker is not very resistant against the plant disease tomato blight. When growing tomatoes in a backyard garden and/or under a roof, there is less attack by this plant disease.

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New:

A colleague grows 3 species of tomatoes in the open air in our allotment garden. At these tomato plants there is no or only little attack by Tomato Blight. See below:

tomaten bella 1

Species Primabella on September 24 (early autumn).

tomaten bella 2

Species Rondobella (left) and Resibella (right) on September 24 (early autumn).

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tomaat primabella 11 okt

Primabella on October 11 (early autumn).

tomaat resibella 11 okt

Rondobella (left) and Resibella (right) on October 11 (early autumn). Brown spots on a few tomatoes. Stems and leaves are brownish.

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tomaat primabella 21 okt

Primabella on October 21 (autumn).

tomaat resibella 21 okt

Rondobella (left) and Resibella (right) on October 21 (autumn). More fruits have dark spots, more leaves and stems are brownish. Two days later all tomatoes have been harvested.

The seeds of these tomato species (Primabella, Rondobella and Resibella) can be ordered via the internet.

These 3 species have non-hybrid seeds, info see   here   on the internet. You can pick the seeds from the tomatoes and sow them (next year). You get tomato plants of the same species with the original properties. Very useful.

Put the tomato plants of the various species far enough apart in the garden soil, to overcome “cross-pollination” between 2 species.

This video   shows how to harvest tomato seeds

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Below my harvest of tomato seeds:

tomaat resibella zaadjes 1

Soak tomato seeds about 7 days in a box filled with water about 20 C (68 F). Put lid on.

tomaat resibella zaadjes 2

tomaat resibella zaadjes 3

tomaat resibella zaadjes 4

tomaat resibella zaadjes 5

tomaat resibella zaadjes 6

Remove the lid. Sift the seeds out of the water. Put the seeds on a piece of cardboard. Let the seeds dry in the air at about 20 C (68 F), drying time 1 to 2 weeks.

tomaat resibella zaadjes 7

tomaat resibella zaadjes 8

Dried tomato seeds. Scrape the (sticking) seeds from the cardboard and store them in a tray or in a paper envelope.

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tomaat resibella en primabella kiemproef

Germination test: Sow dried tomato seeds of your harvest in moist potting soil. Let the seeds germinate indoors (about 25 C, 77 F). After 5 days all tomato seeds have turned into thin tomato plants. The tomato seeds germinated well.

(the other seeds are sweet pepper seeds)

tomaten resibella 3

tomaten resibella 4

tomaten resibella 5

Use a tea spoon to dig out the tomato plants with adherent soil. Separate the little plants. Put each plant in a small flower pot (with insert and strip) filled with sieved compost.

tomaat resibella en primabella kiemproef 2

Put tomato plants at a cool light place, for example indoors before a window.

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Below a general description about growing tomatoes.

A)# Sowing and germinating

A1) Sowing date and species

Sow tomatoes indoors in early spring (March or April). You can sow earlier, in late winter (February) to have early tomatoes. Grow them first in a cool room or greenhouse and later outside.

The plants give many big healthy tomatoes in summer and early autumn. See photos above in my backyard garden in open air and in my allotment garden under a roof.

During a wet, cold summer, tomatoes can burst or get brown spots (Tomato blight).

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A2) Sowing and germinating

Sow tomatoes in a plastic margarine box filled with sieved moist potting soil (sieve through bottom holes of a flower pot). 15 tomato plants fit in a small margarine box.

  • Fill a small (250 grams) margarine box with sieved potting soil.
  • Flatten the top of the soil.
  • Press on the potting soil (use the bottom of another margarine box).
  • Spray water on the potting soil.

  • Lay tomato seeds on the potting soil.

  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sieved potting soil.
  • (you can put a short plastic label with info between soil and short side of the box).

  • Put a well fitting lid loose on the box. Or click on at one side.
  • There are narrow air openings between box and lid.
  • The seeds get fresh air, but do not dry out.

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  • Put the box with lid on indoors at about 20 C (68 F). About 7 days after sowing, first tomato plants can be visible.
  • Regularly remove the lid to check germinating;
    • When needed spray water on the soil.
    • When no plants are visible, put the lid or the box again.

  • When first plants are visible, don’t put the lid on.
  • (when lid is too long on the box, you get thin and long tomato plants).
  • Put the box with plants on a light place at 15 to 20 C (59 to 68 F).
  • You can “lift” the short plastic label with info.

  • You can put the box with mini plants under a mini greenhouse before a window.
  • Don’t push the greenhouse (transparent mushroom box 0) too low; keep air openings (about 0.5 centimeter, 1/5 inch) underneath.

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Remove the mini greenhouse when tomato plants are about 2 centimeters (1 inch) high. Let the plants grow bigger, indoors before a window at about 15 C (59 F). In this way you get firm tomato plants.

When plants grow thin and long, they grow too warm and/or too dark. Put them at a light, cool place then.

Let the plants grow bigger until they have 4 or more leaves. They are big enough to replant then (as describes in chapter B)#.

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A3) Sowing tip 1: use a mat

Lay a piece of sink mat on the potting soil. Drop each seed in a mat hole. Remove the mat after sowing. In this way you can sow at equal distances. More info about this mat in   tip 29  .

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A4) Sowing tip 2: shove drop tray

You can use tweezers or pick tomato seeds between thumb and index and drop into the mat holes. Or use a shove drop tray (    tip 33)   ).

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A5) Sowing tip 3: lowered big margarine box

In a big margarine box you can grow more plants: 24 instead of 15.

  • Useful: cut the upper edge of the margarine box.
  • The original lid and a transparent mushroom box fits well, see below.

  • On this photo a lowered margarine box is on the original lid.
  • The lid fits well and does not clamp (red/white arrow).
  • There are narrow air slits between box and lid.

Below there are photos of using such a lowered margarine box.

A mushroom box fits well over lowered big margarine box.

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A6) Sowing tip 4: Big lid, small lid

  • When you don’t have a fitting lid?
  • Then you can put on a “too big” or “too small” lid on.
  • Put it on “normally” or “upside down” or without little tab.
  • There must be an air opening between box and lid.

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A7) Sowing tip 5: Germinating tomato seeds without covering soil (very illustrative)

Tomato seeds germinate well when they are not covered with soil. Below a description, very illustrative and educational. In shallow seed pits (depth 0.5 centimeters, 1/4 inch) seeds do not dry out so quickly.

  • After a few days, remove the lid. (check if seeds do germinate).
  • After 5 to 10 days, most seeds have a tiny root.

Here after:

  • Cover the seeds with a layer of potting soil.
  • Put a lid on and continue germinating indoors at 20 C (68 F).

  • Or put a transparent box over the tray and let the plants grow bigger, not covered with soil.

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A8) Sowing tip 6: two seeds per sowing pit

In each sowing hole you can put two tomato seeds, so 48 seeds in 24 sowing pits.

Not all seeds germinate and turn into big tomato plants. I got 33 tomato plants from 48 tomato seeds.

tomaat 48 zaden 3

Take the block of sowing soil with plants out of the box. This makes it easier to split the “double plants” before transplanting.

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B)# Transplanting

Transplant the tomato plants when they have 4 or more leaves.

Use compost or good potting soil as planting soil. In bad (cheap) potting soil, tomato plants grow badly and slowly. Make the soil less acetic by mixing the soil with agricultural lime; about 1 part of lime on 20 parts of planting soil.

Plant each tomato plant deep (up to the lower leaves) in the soil in the flower pot. The plants make deep roots then and will not fall over that easy.

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Put a long tomato plant stem “zigzag” in a flower put, see below;

 

This is how you put a long tomato plant deep in the planting soil.

The same plant, after 10 days of growing indoors before a window.

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Place the pots with tomato plants on a light, cool place, 15 to 20 C (59 to 68 F). For example before a window of a (not used) bed room. The plants grow quickly and need much water, so add water often.

I put my flower pots with small  tomato plants before an oblique attic window, the smallest plants at the back, the biggest ones at the front on the photo above.

Tomatoes grow fast.  When tomato plants grow thin and long, the place is too warm and/or too dark. Put the plants at a colder place with more light.

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Remark: very useful, put the plants in round flower pots with insert:

Use a flower pot and insert for each plant. Put the insert in the pot, fill with planting soil and put the plant in the soil. More info in tip 30.

Taking the plant out of the pot is very easy.

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C)# Tomato plants, taking out of flower pots and putting in a compost layer

A tray with tomato plants in flower pots. The plants are 15 to 20 centimeters (6 to 8 inch) high. Big enough to replant in a layer of compost.

When needed, remove weed plants before replanting.

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C1) Removing tomato plants from flower pots

  • From flower pots with insert:

  • (Take the strip with info from the soil),
  • Take the insert with plant out of the flower pot,
  • Take the plant with root ball from the insert.

This procedure is very convenient.

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  • From flower pots without insert:

  • Put on gardening gloves,
  • Take the flower pot with plant,
  • Turn the whole upside down, with plant stem between 2 fingers,
  • Hit the bottom of the flower pot (with a garden trowel),
  • Take the pot from the root ball,
  • Turn the plant with root ball to the “normal” position.
  • The tomato plant can be replanted now.

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C2) Replanting in a tray with a layer of compost

Replant the tomatoes in a tray filled with a layer of compost. Mix agricultural lime though the compost to make the compost less acidic. Mix in a bucket and then fill the tray. Or add lime to the compost in the tray and mix.

Tomato plants grow much better (faster) in compost than in potting soil. Compost contains more nutrition.

Layer thickness of compost is 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inch). Distance between plants is about 15 centimeters (6 inch). Right after replanting, spray water on the compost layer.

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C2a) In a tray or laundry basket

Small and large grown tomato plants in trays or laundry baskets.

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C2b) In a shopping crate

Tomato plants right after replanting in a shopping crate with compost.

Large grown tomato plants in the same crate. Some plants have been planted in the garden soil.

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I have a deep greenhouse. By day, trays and crates with tomato plants are in this greenhouse. During nights or at cold weather, they are in a barn. Frequently water the compost layer. Excess water flows through holes and cracks out of the trays.

Watch the sunshine;

Tomaten G

Tomaten K

Tomaten H

You can put a white sheet over the greenhouse to protect the plants against bright sunshine.

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C2c) In a window box liner under a tunnel greenhouse

You can replant the tomato plants in a window box liner and put the box under a tunnel greenhouse.

Put tomato plants in a box liner with 10 centimeters (4 inch) spacing.

Dig the liner box in the garden soil. Shove garden earth against the sides; the box is tight in the soil.

Put a tunnel greenhouse (see tip 13) over the “buried” window liner box. Put flat perspex plates at both ends of the tunnel. The plants can grow until about 20 centimeters (8 inch) high.

(You can put 1 box liner with tomato plants and 1 box liner with sweet pepper plants under 1 tunnel).

At warm sunny weather, you can put a piece of sheet over (against) the tunnel greenhouse.

Add water when needed. Put the window box liners indoors (in a barn) at night or at cold weather.

After a few weeks, the tomato plants touch the tunnel.

Deepen the hole for the liner box about 10 centimeters (4 inch).

Put the liner box in the deepened hole. Shove some garden soil against the sides of the liner box.

Put the tunnel greenhouse over the liner boxes. Put end plates against the tunnel.

A few weeks later, the plants will grow against the tunnel again.

From that moment on, put the liner box with plants outdoors in the shadow by day (and in a barn by night or cold weather).

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D)# Sowing early or sowing late

Early sown and late sown tomato plants. Early sown tomatoes in the green tray.

When you sow tomatoes very early (February, end of winter) it can be too cold in the (tunnel) greenhouse later on. The plants do not grow quickly and/or the leaves change color to light green/yellow. So you better not sow too early.

My experience: the “yellow” tomato plants turned into healthy green plants in the garden soil later.

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E)# Tomato plants in the garden soil

Some tomato info;

Variety:

You can grow “normal” tomatoes or varieties that are less sensitive for the plant disease Tomato Blight. See Introduction of this tip.

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Planting deep:

You can remove the lower leaves and put the tomato plant “extra deep” in the garden soil. So deep until the lowest bunch of flowers is about 15 centimeters (6 inch) above the soil (so the tomatoes don’t touch the soil).

  • Dig a deep vertical hole in the soil. Put the plant in the hole and fill the hole with a mixture of compost and agricultural lime.

Or… Put the plant in a wide, less deep hole in the soil;

diep planten 5

Needed: tomato plant, compost, agricultural lime, bamboo stick, watering pot.

diep planten 6

  • Dig a wide, less deep hole in the soil.

diep planten 7

  • Put compost and lime in the hole.

diep planten 1

  • Lay the root ball of the tomato plant in the hole.

diep planten 2

  • Bend the stem upward.
  • Put more compost and lime in the hole.

diep planten 3

  • Shove garden earth into the hole.
  • Put a watering pot in the soil (above the root ball).
  • From now on, pour water in the watering pot; water sinks towards the root ball).
  • Extra roots grow underground at the stem.
  • More info in     this site    .

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Supporting:

Tomato plants “crawl on the ground”. To keep the plants upright, put a stick next to the plant and fix the plant to this stick using strings or strips. You can wind the stem of the plant around a rope. Or around an iron tomato spiral.

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Topping:.

Remove the top of the plant above the (3rd or) 4 flower cluster. All sun energy is used for growing and ripening tomatoes in the (3 or) 4 groups.

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Cutting (breaking off) leaves:

To have tomatoes ripening well and against the plant disease Tomato Blight, you can break or cut leaves from the plants;

  • all leaves of the lower half of the plant in July (early to mid summer).
  • many leaves of the upper part of the plant in August (mid to late summer).
  • the last leaves during September (late summer).

Also remove leaves with brown spots or cut off the brown parts of the leaves.

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Roof:

You can grow tomatoes under a roof. For less attack by Tomato Blight.

In tip   7) Roof over sweet peppers or tomatoes    these roofs are described.

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Watering:

Water the plants sufficiently. Water on the soil around the plants. Don’t pour or spray water on the leaves.

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Harvesting last tomatoes:

Pick all tomatoes from the plants in September (end of summer) and take all plants out of the soil. Let the green, yellow and orange tomatoes ripen. See in tip 15.

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F)# Roof over the plants or in the open air

In a big allotment garden, tomato plants can suffer from the plant disease Tomato Blight. Tomato plants get this disease when the leaves are wet from pouring water, rainwater or condensed water for a long time.

You can put tomato plants under a roof to keep the plants dry. . See tip   7) Roof over sweet peppers or tomatoes    .

F1) Roof over the plants

Under a roof you can have tomato plants growing along a rope.

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F1a) Roof with closed sides

A good roof in an allotment garden;

Tomato roof in my allotment garden. At 3 or 4 sides, plastic foil can be fastened to the roof. With air openings above and below. This foil stops slanting torrential rain (///).

At dry weather, plastic side foil is removed or folded down.

A few centimeters (inches) under the roof there is plastic foil to catch dew drops.

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F1b) Roof with open sides

In a closed (backyard) garden a roof over the plants is enough. The sides are open. Below info about these roofs in my backyard garden.

Tomato plants under a curved or a flat roof with open sides.

At slanting rain, the lower leaves and tomatoes get wet and splashed with mud. There is little risk of brown spots or rotting tomatoes.

You can put a layer of straw on the soil to reduce mud splashing.

Under such a roof, drops of condensed water fall from the roof on the top leaves.

These water drops cause brown spots on some leaves. Cut off the brown parts of the leaves. The stems and tomatoes do not get brown.

Info about tomato plants and roofs in   7) Roof over sweet peppers or tomatoes      .

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F2) In the open air

In a closed (backyard) garden you can grow tomatoes in the open air, so without a roof over them.

Put a stick in the soil and fix the plant to it using plastic strips or strings.

Push a watering pot (lowered bottomless plastic flower pot) a few centimeters (1 inch) in the soil.

Some leaves get brown spots from condensed water or rain water. Remove these leaves. Or cut away the brown parts.

Due to much rain falling on, (the top) tomatoes can get cracks.

End of September (early autumn); Moneymaker plants with big fruits and all leaves removed.

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tomaten schrompel 1

During a warm dry summer, some ripe tomatoes can wrinkle while hanging on the plant. I think this is because the roots of the plant are in dry soil, or the plant has got too little water.

Help: I think that watering tomatoes more often and regularly (every 2 days or so) will prevent this “disease”.

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F2a) Good tomato growth in the open air (no leaves on the plants)

Moneymaker plants in my backyard garden at the end of September (early autumn). All leaves have been removed. Still many healthy tomatoes hanging on the plants.

tomatenplanten blad af

Tomato plants in my backyard garden, in August (mid summer). All leaves have been removed. Many good tomatoes hanging on, but also some bad (brown spotted) ones. This is due to cold wet summer and Tomato Blight.

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F2b) Bad tomato growth in the open air (many leaves)

October 1 (early autumn). Plants with grey leaves and good, healthy tomatoes.

tomaat zwart 2

October 3 (2 days and 2 cold nights later). Brown stems and many tomatoes with brown spots. All tomatoes have been picked today.

Three days later the harvested tomatoes are rot and mould.

Conclusion: Harvest all tomatoes at last at the end of September (early autumn). And you better break off leaves during the summer.

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F2c) Tomatoes in a big (morture) bucket.

Tomaten L

You can put tomato plants in a layer of compost in a big mortar bucket. The bamboo sticks are fixed with nylon cord. More info in tip 2, nr  55.

Tomaten M

Or put the tomato plants in compost in a big bucket.

grote emmer tomatenplant

The bamboo sticks are fastened to the bucket using tie-wraps through the holes of the bucket handle.

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Remove leaves and/or put the bucket under a roof at rainy weather. This prevents the tomato plants from Tomato Blight.

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F3) Cut tomato stem, white or brown

When you cut the stem of a tomato plant, you can see white material or a brown ring. I think a stem with all white is from a healthy plant. Perhaps a brown ring means Tomato Blight.

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