Even though you might find this item in the vegetable aisle at the grocery store, it is actually a fruit. We are, of course talking about the ever humble Tomato. The uses of tomatoes are so diverse that if you sit to write them all down for several days, you will still end up missing more than a few. Not only can it be consumed raw, but it also plays the role of a vital ingredient in many drinks, salads, and dishes.  Health benefits wise, the tomatoes are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folic Acid, and Antioxidants and all these provide protection from Prostate Cancer and Colorectal Cancer, keep the blood pressure in check, protect from heart diseases and diabetes, keep the skin healthy and soft, and prove to be highly beneficial for pregnant women because of folic acid. If you are thinking of growing fruits and vegetables in your own home garden, then tomatoes should definitely be on top of the list!

1.    Varieties

Before you jump into the planting process, you need to decide on the variety of tomatoes you want to grow. Not that you can’t grow multiple varieties at the same time. But it would be best if you knew what you were working with. There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes to choose from. But the most popular choice for home gardens is the Heirloom Variety.  The heirlooms are a specially bred variety of tomatoes that you can find in local markets everywhere. Some of the most common heirloom tomatoes are Amish Paste Tomato, Black Krim Tomato, Yellow Pear Tomato, Mortgage Lifter Tomato, San Marzano Tomato, Cherokee Purple Tomato, Green Zebra Tomato, and Brandywine Tomato. All of these types vary in color, shape and growing time. Though it has been noted that the heirloom variety needs a lot of sun to ripen fully, but despite that they are also known for producing the best result.

You can also try the Hybrid variety of tomatoes. This variety came about as a result of forced cross pollination of two varieties. Some of the most popular hybrid tomatoes are Juliet Tomato, Early Girl Tomato, Celebrity Tomato and Big Beef Tomato. The hybrid variety doesn’t require as much sunlight as the heirloom variety does, so you can go ahead and experiment with this variety also.

2.    Seeds

You can either choose to buy tomato seeds online or from a local grocer, or you can make your own seeds for planting. You can just scoop out the pulp from a fresh tomato and place it inside a glass jar. Leave the jar outside in the sun to dry. For 2 to 3 days stir the pulp everyday till you see a white mold on the surface. Using gloves, scoop out the mold. Pour water in the jar and mix things up. Then use a strainer to get rid of the water and save the prepared seeds.

3.    Soil

The only type of soil tomatoes do not grow in is clay. Other than that you can try just about anything, but usually loam and sandy loam are considered the best choices. Make sure that the soil is loose. Too dry soil or too wet soil will affect the growth and health of the tomatoes.

4.    Fertilizer

You need the absolute right balance of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in the fertilizer for the tomatoes to grow just right. When you buy the fertilizer, make sure that it has a ratio of 5-10-5 NPK. Tomatoes need a lot of nourishment to grow. They are often even called ‘big eaters’. Make sure to spray the fertilizer around the plant every couple of days.

If you are in a hurry for the plants to grow then here is a trick you can apply. You can take a small and very young tomato plant and plant it directly in a grow bag, which is just a large plastic bag filled with compost and aged manure. You can order the grow bags online or buy them at a local market. A sixty liter grow ought to be able to accommodate two small plants. Tomatoes ripen faster when they are continuously nourished from the grow bags. This trick will also allow you to grow the tomato plants in a greenhouse or indoors.

5.    Preparing the Soil & Planting the Seeds

Choose an area that sees a lot of sunlight, preferably at least six hours a day. In a straight line, dig out not too deep grooves using a trowel in the soil about two feet wide. Make sure that the soil around the groove remains loose otherwise it will hurt the growth. You don’t need more than four to five seeds for each groove. But just to be on the safe side, you can go up to eight seeds, but no more than that because then you will have a lot of seeding to do.

6.    Watering

At the peak of summer, you can get away with watering the tomato plant every two to three days. But during the first few days following the planting, you have to water it every day. Not too deeply though. Remember, too much water can be just as bad as not enough water.

7.    Staking

Tomato plants are stake plants. Meaning that, as they start to grow, they need the guidance and support of stake to hold them up. You could use a four feet long stake (or any other type of stick) for this purpose. Dig the stake deep in the ground for proper support. Then wrap the outer vines of the plant around the stake. This will allow the plant to grow in an upwards trajectory and will also make easier for you to water the roots very easily.

8.    Best Time to Grow Tomatoes

Even though tomatoes are enjoyed all year round, the best possible time to grow in home gardens is in summer. Tomato plant flourishes in warm weather with lots of sun. This is especially true of the larger fruiting heirloom varieties. But avoid planting if you feel the air is getting too chilly because otherwise you might not get the tomatoes you were hoping for.

9.    Organic Pest Control

The pests you need to worry about most with tomatoes are Aphids, White Flies, Flea Beetles and Hornworms. If you want your plants to remain healthy, then you must use pest control. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be chemical based.  There are a lot of organic pest control options available in the market. Just make sure to read the label carefully before spraying your plants.

You also have the option of making your own organic insecticide. This way, you can save a little money and at the same time get rid of the dangerous tomato pests in the most natural way. All you have to do is to boil washed Rhubarb leaves in clean water for just about twenty minutes. Afterwards, take it off the stove and let it cool for a while. Strain the water and put it in a spray bottle to spray it over the tomato plants. If you have an extensive garden then you might want to consider buying a sprayer.

You can also add just a little liquid dish washing soap in the rhubarb water to give it an extra kick, but it is completely optional.

10.                    Harvesting

Unlike many other vegetables and fruits, tomatoes are not fussy growers. Despite that, it will take anywhere from sixty to seventy days for them to fully mature from the day you plant the seed till they are ready to be harvested. The red glossy sheen of the tomatoes will let of you know if they are ready to be plucked or not. After that they are ready for you to enjoy as you wish.