Published on October 12th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans1
Growing Organic Tomatoes
What’s better than a homegrown tomato? An organically homegrown tomato! Here are the steps for growing delicious organic tomatoes from seeds:
- Find a good seed, preferably organic seeds of the “heirloom” variety. These are the best tasting and are not hybrids. There are around 4,000 varieties, so there are plenty to choose from.
- Plant the organic seeds (about as deep as the seed is wide) in loose compost about 5–7 weeks before the last frost. Keep them between 21–24 C (70–75 F). Make sure to keep the soil damp until germination, watering-in chamomile tea to help prevent damping-off, sudden death of the seeds caused by fungi.
- Once the organic seeds germinate (8–10 days), begin watering them from the bottom for the next 20 or so days to prevent fungal growth. When seeds form two additional leaves aside from “seed leaves,” transplant them to individual containers—paper cups or plant bands about three inches deep.
- Choose your outdoor site carefully. Organic tomatoes grow best with a lot of sunlight in areas that are well drained and aerated. The organic tomatoes also need to be protected from wind and frost. The optimal temperature range is 18–24 C or 64–75 F.
- Organic tomatoes need well-draining soil that contains a lot of compost and natural rock minerals. Some suggestions: fallen leaves, household compost, composted manure, vermicast, and rock dust.
- After 5–7 weeks, transplant the organic seeds to your outdoor bed, being careful to minimize shock. Add in a handful of compost to each hole. You can also add a tablespoon of powdered milk to help prevent fungal growth. Set plants around 60 cm apart in rows that are 60–100 cm apart. Plant the organic tomatoes deep, as they root from the stem. Support plants with stakes, not rounded ones, to keep them off the ground. Tip: Use soft yarn. Tie yarn tightly around stake but loosely around plant just below a leaf node. Mulch around organic tomatoes using pine needles, dried grass clippings, straw, or leaves.
- Companion plant using thyme, stinging nettle, garlic, celery, parsley, carrots, and many others you can find in this article of growing organic tomatoes. Companion planting of beneficial herbs and vegetables helps to protect against fungi and insects.
- Before the organic tomatoes set, feed the plants every for 20 days or so with foliar sprays made from compost tea (compost steeped in water), molasses, fish, or seaweed. Once fruit sets, feed once per week. Also sprinkle milk powder once per week to prevent fungus growth. Animal and bird fertilizers work well in liquid form.
- Water daily, but not too much. Hand water the organic tomatoes around the roots in the morning, not in the afternoon or evening.
Other tips for keeping your organic tomatoes healthy:
- Pluck the first flowers and wait until your organic tomato plant is around 30 cm tall before allowing the fruit to set. This gives the organic tomato plant time to set its roots and to fill out its foliage. Also removes shoots below first fruiting branch.
- Inspect organic tomatoes daily to check for damage or signs of disease. Cover with paper bags or baskets when it is going to be cold and use netting to protect from birds.