Tips On Growing Organic Tomatoes
Growing organic tomatoes is not as hard as it may seem to be. Organic means that no harsh chemicals or fertilizers with chemicals in them were used to grow the tomatoes. They were grown in an environment where all natural substances were used.
Place the garden where it gets at least eight hours of sun per day in a well-drained area. The soil pH level must be 6.0 to 7.0. Add garden lime at a rate of 1 pound per 30 square feet to raise the levels. Use a garden tiller to till soil 8 inches down. Spread 2 inches of organic compost over the site and dig it in. Do not plant tomatoes where potatoes, eggplant or peppers were the prior year as the soil can hold harmful viruses that may transfer to the tomatoes.
Plant transplants in the garden once soil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no chance of frost.
To plant tomatoes:
1. Water transplants with fish emulsion two hours before planting.
2. Dig a trench the same length of the plant and 6 inches deep. A 12-inch tall plant requires a trench 12-inches long.
3. Sprinkle an inch of compost, a handful of bone meal and 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts in the trench bottom. This will give the plant nutrients needed for growth.
4. Remove the lower leaves.
5. Lay the transplant in the trench with the top leaves above ground. Do not break the stem when bending it upward. This allows roots to grow along the length of the stem for an extensive root system.
6. Fill the trench halfway with soil, fill with water and let it drain. Completely fill with soil and water again.
7. Space plants at least 2 feet apart. Overcrowding causes disease.
8. Mulch with straw, bark or black plastic to retain moisture.
Staking and Pruning
Tomatoes require staking to avoid rot and over crowding, Insert wooden stakes or cages right after planting so that roots are not disturbed later. Tie with nylon stockings.
Remove sucker stems the crotch that grow between the main stem and branches, or any branches that grow downward. Check every week to be sure growth is not getting out of hand. Too much foliage causes small tomatoes.
Fertilizing and Watering
Tomatoes love water, so keep them moist. Drip irrigation is the best way to water tomatoes. Water that lays on leaves can contribute to disease and attract pests.
Sprinkle a palm-full of organic fertilizer around each plant and water it in well. Compost tea used to water the plants and spray on leaves every other week. Deters possible pests and keeps plants healthy. Fill a gallon container half full with compost and add an equal amount of water. Let the solution sit for 48 hours, then strain. Dilute one part tea to four parts water.
Pests and Disease
Control aphids by steeping crushed garlic in water overnight, strain and spray on leaves. Release lady bugs or lacewings that eat aphids. Pick off hornworm and throw into a bucket of soapy water or release parasitic wasps to eliminate them. Plant French marigolds around the tomato patch to deter hornworm.
Never touch tomato plants after smoking. This can transmit mosaic virus to the tomatoes from the tobacco in the cigarettes. Immediately remove and destroy plants affected by blight before it has a chance to spread. Overcrowding is a factor in blight, but can affect any garden during a wet summers. Powdery mildew is caused by bad air circulation around plants. It may be relieved by spraying a solution of 4 teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil mixed with 1 gallon of water.
Keep plants healthy and clean to prevent pests and disease from attacking. Organic tomatoes taste better and are healthier for the family.
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