Many consumers have begun to grow their own produce as a way of attaining fresh, organic food that's not tainted by chemicals. Whether you have a similar motivation or you just like the idea of growing tomatoes, starting a small tomato farm isn't difficult. Simply select and prepare a plot of land, plant your tomatoes and maintain the plants until harvest time. If you put in the time and effort you'll be rewarded by a delicious crop of healthy produce.
Select a size and location for your tomato farm. The larger the plot of land you choose, the more tomatoes you can grow--but the more work it will require. The ideal location is in a flat, sunny area that drains well.
Prepare the ground for gardening. Use a shovel or a hoe to turn the soil and mix in your choice of manure, compost or fertiliser to add nutrients to the soil.
Dig shallow trenches or rows with a shovel or hoe across your garden plot in which to plant your tomato seedlings. Space the rows at least 24 inches apart to allow for maximum plant growth and the use of stakes or trellises.
Plant your seedlings in rows by loosening the soil around the root ball with your fingers and placing the seedling in the trench. Gently pat soil into place around the seedling. If you plan to stake your tomatoes, plant the seedlings at least 24 inches apart. If you plan to use a trellis or cage, plant them 36 inches apart.
Water your seedlings to remove air bubbles from around the roots. Regularly water your plants in hot weather--if it doesn't rain--to keep the soil moist.
Stake your tomatoes or support the stalks with a trellis or cage once the plants grow to a height of 12 inches. If you're using stakes, drive the stakes deep into the soil for support but be careful not to sever any roots. If you're using a cage, position the enclosure so the plant's centre stalk is in the middle.
Hoe your garden for weeds or sprinkle straw or mulch around your plants. These substances will not only help to reduce weed growth but they'll also help to keep the soil moist.
Side dress your tomato plants with nitrogen fertiliser once the first tomatoes are about the size of golf balls. To side dress your plants, dig a shallow trench around the plant about 6 inches from the centre stalk and sprinkle in two tbsp of nitrogen fertiliser. Pat the soil back into place over the fertiliser and water the plants well.
Monitor the growth of your tomato plants and reapply the nitrogen fertiliser mixture twice more, three and six weeks after the first application, respectively. Spray your tomato plants with natural pesticides to protect them from pests.
Harvest your tomatoes when the fruits are full and ripe. A ripe tomato will be firm and brightly-coloured. Hot weather can cause tomatoes to soften, so during the height of summer you may need to harvest your tomatoes every other day and set them on a sunny ledge indoors to finish ripening.
If you have a great deal of space, consider planting several different varieties of tomato rather than just one. Tomato plants come in many different sizes, colours and flavours so plant a few of each type to see what you like best.
Tips and warnings
- If you have a great deal of space, consider planting several different varieties of tomato rather than just one. Tomato plants come in many different sizes, colours and flavours so plant a few of each type to see what you like best.