Mkulima today tomatoes are one of the best selling farm produce. This is as a result of the high demand in the market and high consumption rates in both household and established businesses. Though a profitable venture it comes with loads of challenges, Today we share Tips for tomatoes farming and a bumper harvest.
Today we cover ten tips on how to grow quality tomatoes.
These are tips from a farmer with over 30 years of experience. The farmer has made and perfected the art of homemade fertilizer during this period.
There is nothing as satisfying as having quality tomatoes both for the market and home consumption. Tomatoes are a staple in every home and garden.
To ensure you smile all the way to the bank makes sure you take good care of your tomatoes
Tomatoes are very heavy feeders meaning they require close attention and quality feeding to guarantee a good harvest.
When feeding tomatoes both the plant and fruit health must be taken into consideration.
The main nutrients that tomatoes require are phosphorus, calcium, and nitrogen.
Phosphorus helps the tomato plants make big and beautiful flowers and fruits. Calcium will help in the prevention of blossom end rot.
To notice if the plants have calcium deficiency check for sunken holes on the flowers.
Blossom end rot
Blossom end rot will mostly be visible on plants with calcium deficiency. In addition to this tomato plants also require nitrogen to ensure optimum growth and fruit production.
Though nitrogen is required make sure you only apply the required amount since a lot of nitrogen can lead to losses in the farm.
The effect of too much nitrogen is the plant grows big, bushy, and very green but with little or no flowers leading to no fruits to harvest.
Here is how to show some tender, love, and care for your plants.
Prepare your beds
Before you even think of starting out in production make sure the soil or growth media in hydroponics farming has the right nutrients.
Make sure you make your beds prior to planting any plants. You can use compost manure either from chicken or cows.
But make sure the compost is well prepared before you use them on the farm.
You can also add worm casting that you can retrieve from your home vermicomposter.
Here is the guide to starting your own worm bin at home.
It is perhaps the best way of home composting so you should seriously consider starting one.
If you don’t have your own worm bin at home you can either build your own or buy from online stores like amazon.
Worm castings from homemade vermicomposter are loaded with nutrients as well as a wide variety of microscopic organisms that help tomatoes use up the nutrients with ease while keeping pests at bay.
Another exceptional and easily available additive is eggshells.
First, you have to clean your eggshells then grind them into a powder that can blend easily with the soil.
The eggshells give your soil a boost of calcium that ensures the tomatoes are protected from blossom end rot.
Check your beds for proper drainage and ensure that there is no compacted soil that will get in the way of proper drainage if farming on soil but if using hydroponics this is not necessary.
In hydroponics farming ensure the pump is working as required and the nutrient reservoir is filled with the right nutrients and the right level.
To know if you are on the right track you should be able to push your fingers into the soil with ease.
If there is difficulty during this process your soil might be compacted and you will need to break it up.
Use of fertilizers
When thinking of using fertilizers on your farm the best way to do it is by ensuring that you apply during planting and wait until the plants have settled in the soil before adding fertilizers again.
For this homemade farming guide, you should add items like fish head into the plant hole as a result of its quick decay process. The fish head will ensure the young tomato plant has nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, and trace minerals to the newly planted tomatoes.
Where fish heads are not readily available you can easily replace them with fish bones, fish guts, and shrimp shells.
Talk to the local restaurant they might be able to help you source for these at no extra costs.
The next items you can include in the holes are crushed eggshells and crushed aspirin this will give the plants a boost of immunity.
Finally, add 1/3 cup organic bone meal plus ¼ cup of the homemade tomato fertilizer (scroll below)
Bone meal is a nutrient-rich powder made from boiled animal bones that are then pulverized. It’s a great soil additive to have on hand.
Slightly cover the holes with soil and pour some sufficient water don’t flood the plants.
At this stage lookout for the first green tomatoes forming on the vine
When I see the first little fruits starting to form on my plants I provide a second application of fertilizer.
This is a good time to use fish emulsion – such as this Organic Neptune’s Harvest Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer – which provides vital nutrients for the developing fruit.
In addition, I use an organic foliar feed which I use on the plant and on the soil around the plant, or some of my very own homemade tomato fertilizer (see recipe below).
Keeping a close eye on your tomato plants throughout the growing season is a good way to know when they need a little extra boost.
If you happen to notice that your fruit production is slowing down or your plants look a little “tired,” it might be time to offer up another feeding.
I generally use fish emulsion or compost tea or composted manure at this time.
To avoid your plants becoming too stressed, provide supplemental feeding once a month throughout the growing season.
A note on chickens, rabbits, and hamsters
If you have chickens, their manure is exceptional for tomatoes – just be sure to compost it well before using.
Rabbits and hamsters also offer rich manure for tomatoes. This is especially true if they have a lot of alfalfa in their diets.
My Favorite Homemade Tomato Fertilizer
Over the years of trial and error, I have discovered a formulation for tomato fertilizer that seems to work best.
Although there are many options for homemade fertilizer, this one has worked best for me:
Any good organic tomato fertilizer uses a high-quality compost for its base. I use compost made from food and yard waste. If you do not have homemade compost you can just blend composted animal and coconut coir together.
Combine a half-gallon of your compost blend and place it into a bucket. Break all the clumps up and make sure it is well combined.
Add two cups of vermicompost to your compost blend to help provide beneficial microbes in the soil. In addition, add two cups of powdered eggshells and two cups of rabbit or hamster droppings.
If you don’t make your own vermicompost, you can purchase some from your local garden center or online – such as from this page on Amazon. You can also buy rabbit manure if you don’t produce your own.
Potassium and phosphorus
Eggshells and wood ash for homemade tomato fertilizer
Next, bolster up the potassium and phosphorus levels by adding in a cup of wood ashes. Wood ashes have a number of brilliant uses in the garden.
If this is something that you have a hard time finding, you can use a couple of cups of kelp meal for a potassium boost and a half cup of bone meal to add phosphorus.
Adding used coffee grounds to a tomato plant to boost nitrogen.
I add 1 cup used coffee grounds or 2 cups of alfalfa pellets for a slow-release nitrogen fix for my tomatoes.
Make sure you add some water to the pellets so that they fall apart before you add them to your mix. If you need a higher boost of nitrogen you can use a blood meal. Add half a cup to your mixture.
Although it may sound strange, you can also add finely cut pet hair or human hair to your mix. Hair breaks down and adds nitrogen and also keratin – a protein that tomatoes will use well for strong growth.
Let your fertilizer cure
It is important to let your fertilizer cure for about a month or so before using. Be sure that it is in a sealed bucket.
Liquid Organic Fertilizer
If you would rather use liquid fertilizer you can create what is known as a fertilizer tea.
Of course, this is one tea you do not want to drink!
To make the tea follow these steps:
- Mix one pound of homemade fertilizer (made above) to a gallon and a half of water. Stir to mix well a couple of times a day.
- Place your bucket with the lid on in an area where it is protected from extreme cold or heat.
- Allow your compost tea to steep for five days.
- Strain the liquid and use it immediately in an undiluted form.
- Add the solid parts to your compost pile or sprinkle around the base of plants in your garden.
- Other ways to ensure a bountiful harvest of tomatoes
- Collecting an abundant harvest of homegrown tomatoes
- Always start with healthy plants that are at least a foot tall.
- Be sure to harden off indoor transplants well before planting.
- Never transplant on a windy or hot day.
- Dig a 12- inch hole for transplants.
- Pinch off the lower two to three sets of leaves before planting.
- Leave two to three feet between plants for good airflow.
- Provide each tomato plant with a gallon of water after planting.
- Invest in sturdy tomato cages to provide support as your tomatoes grow. Here are some more tomato support ideas.
- Plant friendly companion plants to reduce pests and disease.
- Prune correctly to avoid your plants wasting energy on non-productive growth.
Want to learn more about growing beautiful, tasty, and abundant tomatoes? Here’s some more tomato growing goodness on Rural Sprout.
More Tomato Growing Goodies
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