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How to Grow Tomatoes at Home (From Seeds and Seedlings)

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How to Grow Tomatoes at Home (From Seeds and Seedlings)

You’ve probably seen those amazing tomatoes at the grocery store and wondered if you could ever grow them at home. Absolutely!

This guide will help you become a backyard tomato farmer. We’ll show you how to plant, care for, harvest, and store your tomatoes. And they’ll be just as tasty as those you buy in the store.

Varieties of Tomatoes

Among the most popular tomato varieties are beefsteak, cherry, and grape tomatoes.

  • Beefsteak tomatoes are large and can be sliced for use in salads or sandwiches.
  • Cherry tomatoes are small, round, and often eaten whole. These tomatoes are great for adding to salads or snacking on.
  •  Grape tomatoes have an oval shape and look like small grapes. These tomatoes are great for adding to soups and sauces or as a snack.

Growing Tomatoes From Seeds

You will need to buy quality tomato seeds. These can be purchased at a garden center. You can also save the seeds from fresh tomatoes.

Place 2-3 seeds in a seed starter or container and cover them with about a quarter inch of soil. Next, mist the top with water.

After that, find a sunny spot where you can place your pot. Now be patient. It may take up to 10 days before the little seedlings start showing their heads.

Planting Seedlings

If you’re looking to get a head start on your garden, this is the best option. You will need to first purchase seedlings from a nursery or garden center.

Look for healthy tomato plant seedlings that have green leaves and a strong stem. You can also prepare some at-home trays and sow the seeds in them.

Once you’ve chosen your plants or the home-grown seedlings are ready, it’s time to start planting.

Tomatoes are fond of sunlight, so make sure you have a place in your garden where they can get plenty of it. Next, dig a hole deep enough for the root of the seedling and then fill it with soil.

Place the tiny plants gently in the hole and cover them with soil, leaving a few inches of the stem above the ground. Also, water your tomatoes well to keep them hydrated during the growing season.

Now it is time to train them to grow in the right direction. Tomatoes thrive when they are supported by a cage or trellis.

Hardening Off   

Once the plants are big enough, you can begin hardening them.

This means gradually exposing them to the outdoors so they can get used to the new environment. Do this 7 to 10 days before you plant outdoors.

Begin by taking them outside for just a few hours each day. Then, gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside. After a few days, they should be able to stay outside all day without issues.

Transplanting Tomatoes  

When the seedlings are about 4 inches tall, gently lift them from the soil with a trowel or bare hands.

Then, you can transplant them into a larger container or directly into the ground. But, make sure they are buried deep enough to ensure that at least 2/3 of the plant remains below the soil surface.

Watering  

Tomato plants require about 1-2 inches of water per day. To ensure they get enough water, use a watering can and hose to water each plant directly. If the top inch of soil feels dry, then it’s time to water your tomatoes again.

Ideally, you want to water the plants in the morning so the sun can evaporate any excess moisture. However, if you’re unable to water them in the morning, you can water them in the evening.

Fertilizing  

Now that your garden tomatoes have started to grow, it’s important to fertilize them regularly. Fertilizing them will help them grow big and strong and will also ensure that they produce lots of delicious tomatoes.

There are lots of different types of tomato fertilizer available, so it’s important to choose the one that’s best for your plants. You can find organic liquid or granular fertilizers.

Compost tea, bone meal, coffee grounds, and kelp meal are good options to start with. No matter what fertilizer you use, be sure to read the directions carefully so you don’t over-fertilize.

Pruning

This is the removal of suckers, which are the small shoots between the main stems and branches. You should also get rid of any leaves growing below the fruit.

Pinching  

Pinching is the process of removing the middle leaves at the tips of the plant in order to encourage the plant to grow thicker and bushier. But be careful not to pinch too many shoots, as this can reduce the overall production of the plant.

Staking  

To support your plants during growth, you can use stakes or poles. If you have many plants, this is a great option, as it will keep them straight and prevent them from falling over or touching each other.

You can also use tomato towers or cages. These structures are designed to support the plant’s weight and keep it upright. These are also great options if you have limited space or if your tomatoes are being grown in containers.

No matter what method you use, it is important to secure or cage your plants before they grow too large.

Growing in Containers

You can also plant tomatoes in containers on your porch, balcony, or patio.

Choose a container that’s at least 12 inches deep and has drainage holes. Next, fill it with a soil-based potting mix and add some organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure.

After that, you can place the tomato plant in the soil. Also, keep the soil moist with regular watering, but don’t let the leaves get wet.

Pests  

There are a few common garden pests that you may have to deal with. The most common one is the tomato hornworm. These caterpillars can do a lot of damage to a tomato plant, eating the leaves and even the fruits [1].

Read more on how to naturally control tomato hornworms on tomato plants.

The Colorado potato beetle is another one. These tiny, orange beetles are quick to inflict damage on tomato and potato plants.

However, there are some things you can do if you have problems with any of these pests. This article explains how you can control the Colorado potato beetle naturally.

Diseases  

Although there are some diseases that can affect tomatoes, most of them are preventable. Early Blight and Late Blight are the most common.

Early Blight is caused by a fungus that attacks the leaves and fruit of the plant. You will notice leaf spotting and yellowing. A fungus also causes Late Blight. With water-soaked lesions, the leaves will develop an irregular shape.

However, you can prevent these diseases by using home remedies and other natural methods. Learn more about how to prevent and control tomato diseases naturally.

Harvesting   

Once your tomatoes have reached full maturity, it is time to harvest them. To determine if your tomato is ripe, check its color.

The color of ripe tomatoes is deep red, orange, purple, green, yellow, pink, etc., depending on the variety. They should also smell like ripe tomatoes.

Once those signs are clear, gently grasp the fruit and remove it from the tree. You can also use pruners or garden scissors to clip off the stem at the top of the fruit.

Storing  

It’s important to know how to store fresh tomatoes so you can enjoy them for as long as possible.

Keep them at room temperature on your counter. You can also store them in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Learn more about how to preserve tomatoes and other vegetables for the long term.

Takeaway  

No matter how you choose to enjoy them, there’s nothing like harvesting your very own homegrown tomatoes! And as you can see, tomato farming is not only for experienced gardeners.

Moreover, by growing them at home, you’ll save money, and you’ll also feel good knowing how they were cultivated. The tips above will help you get started planting tomatoes outdoors in the garden or in pots.

Image via Flickr

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature—sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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