The tomato is one of the most popular starter plants for amateur gardeners. They’re colorful, easily available, and yield tasty fruit. But they can also be quite tricky to care for.
Tomato seedlings need space
If you’re growing tomatoes from seeds, give them room to branch out. Reduce the number of seeds per pot and keep the pots themselves slightly apart. As the seedlings emerge, observe them and remove the weaker ones. You want to keep only one per pot, the one that grows strongest.
This is essential for healthy growth. Crowded space will inhibit your tomato plants’ development. That puts undue stress on them and they become more likely to develop disease down the line. Shortly after your seedlings get their first true leaves, transplant each into its own pot.
Tomatoes need lots of light
You already know that the right balance of light and shade is a critical part of garden planning. If you want to make an idyllic garden environment for your tomatoes, make sure they get lots of sunlight. It needs to be strong and direct. This is especially important in the seedling stage.
If you don’t get a lot of strong sun where you live, consider artificial aids. Plant your tomatoes in a greenhouse or use grow lights. If you opt for the lights, mind their timing. Expose the plants to their artificial sun for 14-18 hours per day.
In addition, be careful about how you position the grow lights relative to the plants. You want your tomatoes to grow stocky and strong for bearing fruit, not spindly and fragile. So, have just a few inches between the lights and the seedlings. As the young plants grow, lower their pots or raise the lights.
Tomato is susceptible to disease
Like many other plants, tomatoes can suffer from plant diseases and pest attacks. The most common problems are the tomato blight, the blossom end rot, and the whitefly.
If you suspect your tomato plant is ill, you can consult an experienced gardening specialist for a diagnosis and care advice. You can also try to help your plant yourself. Here’s how.
Tomato blight is a fungal disease. Early symptoms show up as concentric blemishes on the leaves. Later stages cause greasy gray spots on the leaves, fruits, and stems. Remove all the affected parts and burn them or throw them in the garbage. Don’t use them in compost. Don’t reuse the saoil where the infected plant grows. Apply mulch to stop the fungal spores’ growth. If the blight attacked the stems, apply fungicide.
Blossom end rot is a nutritional problem. If you see a circular brown or black patch at the bottom of the fruit, your tomato needs more calcium. Apply fertilizer with increased calcium content and keep the soil consistently moist.
Whiteflies live on the underside of the leaves and suck the sap of the tomato plant. Get rid of them with an insecticide spray. Make sure it’s nature-based and safe for use on edible plants.
Tomato stems need a workout
In order for a tomato plant to develop a healthy stem, it needs to be exposed to air currents. The stem grows stronger by swaying in the breeze. If your garden is outside, just make sure they have some exposure (e.g. they’re not walled in). But if you’re gardening indoors, you’ll need to get creative.
One easy solution is to set up a fan in front of the plants. Turn it on twice a day for about five to ten minutes each time. As an alternative, move the young tomatoes manually. Gently move your hand across their tops to ruffle them. Do this for a few minutes, a few times a day. It’s a little more physical effort on your part, but it’s definitely worth it.
Growing tomatoes can be very rewarding if you can provide them with suitable conditions and the right nutrients. Just make sure to safeguard them from disease and pests and give them a little breeze, and they’ll be the prized first crop of your garden.