Fresh tomatoes are a treat. If they come from their own cultivation, they taste twice as good, because the hobby gardener knows for sure that they have not been genetically modified or even irradiated. A private garden is not absolutely necessary, because tomato plants can also be grown on the balcony and terrace. To ensure that the hobby gardener succeeds in seeding and care, you should observe the following advice.
Table of Contents
Sow tomatoes safely
Tomato seeds prefer a light location that is protected from drafts. Since sowing usually takes place towards the end of February, it makes sense to buy the seeds of the desired tomato varieties at the latest by the beginning to the middle of the month, because some of the most popular varieties are quickly sold out. Since tomatoes need a lot of light, the window is an ideal location for cultivation. A lack of light in young tomato plants causes the shoots to wilt. This means that only weak, brittle stems form, covered with small, puny leaves.
The lack of light can be prevented by placing a mirror behind the plants by the window, which doubles the amount of incident light as a reflector. If you want to be absolutely sure when sowing, you should preferably wait until the beginning or middle of March. The tomato seeds come in a seed tray or in small pots with a diameter of about 10 cm, which make it easier to prick them out later or separate them. The ideal potting soil consists of the following components:
- good garden soil (10-30%)
- Sand (5-10 %)
- Garden compost (20-40%)
- Lauberde (30-40%)
Of course, potting soil for tomatoes is also available in specialist shops. However, it does not then contain all the components listed. Since this substrate should be particularly loose, it is advisable to add some coconut fibers. The tomato seeds are watered profusely and covered with a thin layer of soil. The formation of waterlogging is to be avoided through a drainage hole in the bottom of the seed tray or pot. Over the coming days, care must be taken to ensure that the soil does not dry out. When the first two leaves appear on the seedling, it is time to prick out the plant. The delicate root system is carefully lifted using a special pricking stick and repotted in a larger planter. At an average temperature of 18° to 25° Celsius, germination takes about 10 days.
outdoors in May
The young tomato plants can be brought out into the fresh air until mid-May, when the ice saints are over and the ground frost is no longer to be feared. In the meantime they have reached a size of about 30 cm. If a garden bed with a sunny location and nutrient-rich soil is available, it offers the ideal location. After the soil has been prepared, an additional 3 to 5 liters of compost are spread to ensure the basic supply of nutrients, while at the same time improving the humus content of the soil.
If the hobby gardener plans to let the tomato plants thrive on the balcony or terrace, they are preferably placed on the south wall because the most warmth can be expected here. The planters preferably have a drainage hole in the bottom that is covered with broken pottery or gravel for drainage to avoid waterlogging.
Plants grown in a greenhouse produce the highest yields of tomatoes because they are also protected from rain, which they do not tolerate well outdoors. In this case, regular airing is an important part of care. The basic rule for each location is that the plants are at least 60 cm apart, with entire rows being at least 100 cm apart. The planting hole should be dug so deep that the root ball is covered with about 5 cm of soil. This measure has the advantage that the tomato plant forms additional roots at the base of the stem and in this way absorbs more water and nutrients.
Tomato plant care
If the cultivation, pricking out and the move outdoors have been successful, the right care of the tomato plants is now important. The following tips provide valuable assistance:
- support the plants with a stick;
- fertilize for the first time after 1 week;
- water regularly, but do not drown;
- pour the water directly on the roots;
- protect from rain with a film;
- the foil must not touch the fruit;
- pinch tomatoes twice a week;
- remove flowers from the end of August.
Fast-growing tomato varieties require repeated tying to the supporting stick with raffia to keep them from snapping. Removing the new flowers from the end of August prevents further growth of fruit, which cannot ripen in the short time until the end of the season. The plant would still make an effort to provide them with water and nutrients at the expense of the tomatoes, which are nearly ripe.
Cut out tomatoes
As part of the care, the regular pinching of the tomato plants plays an important role. In this process, you pinch off the side shoots. The result is significantly plumper and larger tomatoes than if you do without the sting. The plant then forms a large number of tomato fruits, which are usually quite small and do not ripen properly. If the shoots are broken off once or twice a week, the tomatoes will only grow on the main shoot, where they will have enough space, light, water and nutrients.
In connection with this, a climbing aid is required so that the tomatoes, which are becoming heavier and heavier, do not snap off the main shoot. The best time of day for pinching is early morning because the wounds on the plant have enough time to dry before the evening. A special tool is not required for this, because the shoots are simply snapped off between two fingers. However, it is advisable to protect your hands with gloves during this work from the rather stubborn dyes of the tomato plant. If no gloves are available, it is sufficient to apply cream to your hands beforehand.
The most popular tomato varieties for the hobby garden
- Resin fire, robust plant, intense flavor
- Sungold, the fruity-sweet cocktail tomato;
- San Francisco Fog, handles cool weather well;
- Brandywine, the historic strain of 1885;
- Gardener’s Delight, the favorite of English home gardeners;
- Marvelstripe, the mild tomato with the beautiful color;
- Green Zebra, the high-yielding tomato from the USA;
- Yellow Gooseberry, the high-yielding, yellow cocktail tomato;
- Missouri Pink Love Apple, a traditional beefsteak tomato;
- Brown Berry, the robust, dark red tomato;
- Sweetie, the small cocktail tomato with great resilience;
- Bloody Butcher, early maturing, powerful and aromatic;
- Orange Banana, perfect for the orange tomato sauce;
- Clint Eastwood`s Rowdy Red, medium sized and not dangerous despite the name;
Since the tomato enjoys worldwide popularity, numerous new breeds are added to the well-known varieties every year.
pests and diseases
The most dangerous disease that can affect tomatoes is brown rot. It is triggered by a fungus whose spores are spread over long distances by the wind. First the leaves are infected, which can be recognized by black-brown spots. Later, the fruits also fall victim to this disease, which is expressed in the form of brown spots and a white fungus fuzz. Once a tomato plant has been attacked by brown rot, it can no longer be saved. At the same time, the fruits become inedible.
The best way to stop the infection from spreading further is to act quickly. As soon as brown spots appear, the leaves are removed. Fruits that are not diseased can be removed and, with a bit of luck, will ripen further so that they are still edible. The risk of brown rot is greatest in warm, humid summer weather. At this time, the plants are checked daily for infestation. To prevent this, cover the tomatoes with foil or protect them with special tomato houses. The foil must not touch the leaves or the fruit under any circumstances, because this can still trigger the disease.
The causes of another disease that often occurs in tomatoes have not yet been fully clarified. We are talking about green collars, which prevent tomatoes from fully ripening and the associated red coloration. Green and yellow spots form at the base of the stalk, and at the same time the flesh becomes hard and inedible. Experts suspect that green collars are a reaction to the prevailing environmental conditions. The condition worsens if you give too much water and nitrogenous fertilizer. If strong sunlight is added to this, the situation becomes even worse.
Scientists continue to strive to determine the exact causes. Until then, the amount of water should be dosed precisely and fertilizers containing nitrogen should be avoided. Some tomato cultivars have shown remarkable resistance to green collars. These include Picolino, Matina and Dolce Vita. In contrast, varieties that are naturally green in color are particularly susceptible, such as Green Zebra or Green Grape. Basically, it should be noted at this point that tomato plants that are strong and healthy thanks to careful care have a corresponding resistance to any diseases.
Make your own tomato fertilizer
When hobby gardeners grow their tomato plants themselves, they often want to avoid using any chemical agents, including fertilizers from the trade. You can easily make your own organic fertilizer. First and foremost is the well-known stinging nettle, which can help the tomatoes to grow lush and healthy. When planting in the garden soil, a handful of nettles are mixed in. In addition, a brew is cooked from it, which is added to the irrigation water.
Another natural fertilization is done by adding yeast to the potting soil. You can also mix finely ground eggshells into the soil to strengthen the plant. The eggshells can also be soaked in water for several weeks, with which the tomatoes are poured, directly on the roots and not on the fruit and leaves. However, if you want to make your own complete mixes as fertilizer, you should exercise caution, because too much nitrogen can have bad effects on the tomatoes, such as green collars. In contrast, nothing can go wrong with a mulch layer made of garden compost.
Tomatoes have a permanent place on the menu for many people. Once you have tasted the difference between bought tomatoes and freshly harvested specimens from your own garden, you will never want to be without them again. Tomatoes bought in stores have traveled a long way and were therefore harvested green. When the freshly picked tomatoes are on the table in the local region from June to October, the diligent hobby gardener knows that the work has once again paid off, even if it is a long way from sowing in February to the first Bite into the red fruit.