There are 2 choices to make when deciding on where and how you are going to plant your tomatoes with respect to soil preparation.
- Planting directly in the soil
- Planting in a pre-prepared container
Making your own compost is environmentally friendly, very easy and will save you money. So instead of using compost bought from a garden centre or garden supply store, why not set up a little corner of your plot for recycling your kitchen waste and garden cuttings. The video below shows you what you need to do to set up your own garden compost system and how to get it started.
Preparing the soil for tomatoes is an important aspect of caring for tomatoes, because they need loose soil which has plenty of nutrients in order to form a decent root system. By making a compost pile in your garden you can ensure that you have the main ingredient you need for proper soil preparation.
Many people simply don’t have access to a decent patch of soil and as a result think that growing tomatoes is beyond their reach. But tomatoes, being what they are, can be easily grown in containers of some sort and are very well suited to being grown in grow-bags.
Ideally you should select a fit for purpose grow-bag, but alternatively a 60 litre bag of multi-purpose compost will serve just as well and will easily support the growth of two tomato plants, three at a stretch. In the UK you can plant your tomatoes in May if you have a greenhouse or June if you are planting outside on a patio or some other suitable spot that gets plenty of sunshine. The planting schedule is effectively driven by the risk of a late frost, or rather ensuring you avoid being caught out by a late frost.
Make sure the growbag is laying flat with the compost evenly distributed, a quick shake of the bag before laying it down and opening it up for the plants should sort this out. Also make sure you puncture a few small drain holes in the underside before putting the plants in.
There are a number of potential causes for this including the wrong soil type, too much nitrogen and extremes of either wet or dry weather.
Tomatoes don’t really like limey or sandy soil so if the ground you are using has this constituency you are either going to have to use containers or be extra vigilant when preparing the soil. A good idea for the latter is to dig a trench, line the bottom with newspaper and then fill it back in with a good well rotted compost and soil mix, potentially getting soil from another source if yours really is very sandy or full of lime.
An automatic plant watering system for your tomato plants may just solve one of your biggest problems
For many people growing tomatoes, the biggest problem they face is establishing an effective plant watering system. Whether that is due to a busy lifestyle, being a little forgetful or just don’t like the routine of watering the plants on a regular basis.
For anyone with the space and climate (or large greenhouse), growing tomatoes in a raised bed is a great way to ensure that you can grow healthy tomato plants in a controlled area and in reasonable quantities. There are lots of ways to build a raised bed for tomatoes and vegetables and the video below describes many of most common methods with detailed instructions for how to build a raised bed using a basic timber structure.
Although, when gardening, how to build a raised bed should also consider what materials you already have available. For example, as I have a reasonable amount of timber on my land, I simply cut down a few appropriately sized logs i.e. around 6″(150mm) diameter and cut them to the required length. The recommended size when building a raised bed is 4′(1.2m) by 2′(0.6m), this will ensure that you can easily access the entire area of the raised bed without having to stand on the soil. So weeding, pest control and general maintenance can easily be carried out from the edges of the raised bed. It also makes it easier to stake your individual plants which should be spaced at least 12″(300mm) apart to ensure they have sufficient light and nutrients. 6 plants should fit comfortably in a raised bed of this size.
By using materials that were readily available to me I saved on the cost of purchasing timber from the local garden centre or DIY outlet. So it is always worth looking to see what you have available and if you have something suitable then why not use it? A raised bed made of wood does not have to be an exact science, as long as it is reasonably substantial and can take the weather for a few years it should be fine.
There are quite a few garden pests that will attack your tomato plants so you need to stay pretty vigilant and keep a careful eye on your plants to make sure that they are not under attack. Many of the pests tend to lay their eggs on the underside of the the tomato plant leaves, so try and get in the habit of just lifting the leaves up and having a look underneath.
Some of the most common tomato pests are : -
If you are interested in growing tomatoes from seed then you can find out the technique for separating the seeds from the fruit and preparing them for cultivation in the following video. The video describes the process in a clear and easy way that most anyone will be able to follow.
Heirloom tomato varieties are very popular for their full flavour and taste. Although the video does not use heirloom tomatoes the technique is exactly the same for all tomato types. If you want information on how to cultivate the seeds and turn them into tomato plants you can find out exactly how to grow tomatoes from seed by clicking on the link.
This year we decided to go with the Sioux heirloom tomatoes again. I have talked about the Sioux variety before when discussing the tastiest tomatoes available. You can read all about why they are considered to be the tastiest tomatoes and who actually suggested to me that Sioux tomatoes are the tastiest via the link above.
This year I tried a little experiment with respect to what makes the best seeding compost. I have used specialist compounds before from local garden centers and yes they work fine, but they can sometimes be a little expensive. So as I had plenty of seeds I thought it would be worth a try with my own compost. Basically I just layer my garden waste and cuttings in a big old wooden frame and mix in, nettles, grass cuttings, dead leaves and anything else that becomes available through routine maintenance in the garden, the exception being perennial weeds. You can of course pile your kitchen waste in there as well, I don’t actually because it is quite a long way from the kitchen to our large compost frame, so we keep a small plastic one a little nearer for that job, just for convenience really. It’s the same principle of layering different types of garden & kitchen waste (wet and dry) just on a smaller scale.
Once the compost is well rotted and crumbly you know it is ready to go. Because I was going to use it as a ‘seed compost’ I decided to riddle it and take out any big pieces. You can do that with any garden riddle or sifter, they cost a little bit but last for years and they are an essential garden tool. The benefit of course is that you end up with a nice fine compost that, provided you have allowed it to rot down completely, will provide a rich source of nutrients to your young plants as they grow.
Having taken the trouble to select the right plants, popped them into the ground in the right location, maybe done a bit of pruning to top them out and prevent them contacting the ground; where they can pick up contamination. The watering program is clearly working and the fruit is coming and ripening nicely.
So what can go wrong? Well actually now, as suggested, is the time to be extra vigilant against pests, blight and blossom end rot; to name a few of the potential problems you could possibly encounter. That would be a real shame at this stage of proceedings just when you are starting to reap the rewards of your toils.