Basic requirements for growing tomatoes include land, water, tomato seeds or plants, composited manure, trowel or small shovel, twine or any thread for tying plants to supporting sticks or poles.
Ground selection and preparation
Crop rotation is advisable as it diminishes the risk of soil-borne diseases such as early bright and bacterial spot.
Farmers should choose land in an area that receives 8 to 10 hours of sunlight during the day and has good soil and good weather conditions. The area should have decent air circulation.
The ground must be prepared by adding lots of well-rotted composite measuring 25-40kg per square meter. Tomatoes grow well in any warm and fairly damp environments. They can easily be grown organically on soil rich with organic matter.
Seed sowing and plant transplanting
Farmers can start the tomato-growing project from either the seed or plant stage. Several varieties of tomato are advisable as they will provide farmers with a steady harvest. Farmers who prefer to start from the seed stage can buy seeds and sow them 0.5 to 1.5cm under the ground.
Deep sowing may result in seeds failing to germinate. After an average one month the seed will have shot from the ground. They should be transplanted when they reach 15-25cm tall.
Given the low winter temperatures, farmers are advised to carry out the project in a Green House. Farmers are advised to transplant other plants three weeks after the first crop to spread the harvest out.
Farmers must bury 50-75 percent of the plant in the soil when transplanting since new roots will emerge along the buried stem. Each plant must be supplied with four litres of warm water within 10 minutes of transplanting to avoid transplant shock. Plants must be spaced 45-90cm apart, although the spacing can be halved in warmer weather conditions. Spacing should leave enough room for the farmer to move in between the plants when weeding, watering and during harvesting.
Farmers should water the plants 7-10 days after transplanting. Half a litre of warm water per plant everyday is recommended.
Some dry vegetation such as grass and straw should be placed in the plant beds after a week of transplanting to control weeds and minimize moisture loss.
Soil should not be kept continuously wet as this will kill the roots and cause stem disease and fungus.
Farmers are best advised to use drip or hose watering methods. Overhead watering promotes diseases such as fungus that hinder good growth of tomato crops.
Two weeks after transplanting farmers are recommended to supply each plant with two gallons of water per week. The regularity of the watering should increase as the plants grow. This will increase to a gallon of water three or four times per week. The regularity of watering would increase as per need in hot and dry weather conditions.
To prevent fungal diseases, the watering of tomato plants in the morning and evening is recommended. This should be by way of drip irrigation and water furrows.
At this stage the plants should be supported on sticks (stakes) 2.5m high.
Suckers must be pruned as they deprive plants of energy.
Farmers are advised to adopt Foliar Fertiliser feeding system. The Foliar method involves spraying fertilizer on plant leaves ideally in the morning or evening when the tomato plant pores are open. This facilitates direct absorption of nutrients into the plant. The type of fertiliser should the type that stimulates development of fruit.
Tomato fruit will start to appear 45-90 days after transplanting. When the fruit reaches a good size, softness and colour it is ready to be harvested.
While the first fruit is ripening, farmers must encourage the development of new fruit by applying manure to the soil and trimming some of the upper leaves.
The fruit should be picked when it has reached full size and colour. Tomato fruit can also be picked earlier and stored indoors to ripen. This helps lessen their chances of rotting in the field.
Winter tomato produce fetches a high price at the market as supply is far outstripped by demand. Most farmers avoid growing the crop during low temperature seasons due to lack of facilities like Green Houses.
Tomato plants are sensitive to frost and other harsh weather conditions caused by the winter season.Post published in: Agriculture