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 How to Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes should be every gardener's friend. They are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium, and Lycopene which help prevent diseases and cancer. Tomatoes belong to the Solanum lycopersicum family of plants that form part of the nightshade family. Tomatoes originated in the Americas and spread around the world after the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that requires a watchful eye and some special measures. But they are rewarding to grow and always add some color and foliage to any vegetable garden.

Planting Tomatoes
Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow. The biggest challenge for growing tomatoes is to keep all the pests and diseases at bay. More about that later.

* When planting tomato seedlings dig a hole that will accommodate two-thirds of the length of the seedling below the soil surface.
* In the bottom of the hole, add compost, a balanced fertilizer, or aged or composted animal manure. Be careful when using raw manure. Bone meal or kelp meal can also be added to the hole. Mix the fertilizer manure or compost in the bottom of the hole with some of the surrounding soil. Put the seedling in the hole with its roots resting on your “mixture”.
* Fill the rest of the hole with soil, and water thoroughly. The reason for planting tomatoes so deep is to allow the roots to form along the stem which will increase nutrient uptake that will allow for better growth.
* It is helpful in preventing soil-borne disease from spreading to the plant by putting a piece of cardboard around the base of the plant. Take a piece of cardboard, cut a hole in the center, and put it over the plant so that the plant is centered in the hole. Cover the cardboard with mulch. Mulch could be any dead organic material. When using drip irrigation the use of plastic liners is useful. This additionally serves the purpose of preventing the loss of moisture from the soil by evaporation.
* Tomatoes are prolific growers. Have a stake or a wire “cage” at hand. Certain tomato varieties reach up to 8 feet and need to be strung. Provide some kind of overhead support structure for tying the strings too if you plant these varieties.

Organic tomatoes harvested from our garden turned into tomato stew,
and then frozen to be used later.

Tomatoes are here grown commercially near Kruisrivier, Uitenhage. The tomato plants are supported by stringing rope horizontally on both sides of the plant. The ropes are tied to spokes planted every few feet apart. Plants are watered by means of drip irrigation.
Tomato Diseases
There is a very long list but it looks worse than it really is. Nevertheless, tomatoes are prone to a multitude of diseases that can drive any gardener and small-scale farmer up the wall. Even commercial tomato farmers who have access to all the tricks in the book are not spared the rod of these diseases and pests. Following are a few photos of some of the common diseases. A comprehensive list of diseases that affect tomatoes can be found on the link below.

Examples of Common Tomatoes Diseases
anthracnose (Colletotrichum coccodes ) on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum ) - 1236163
Image Credit: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

bacterial speck (Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato) on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum ) - 1568046
Bacterial Leaf Spot
Edward Sikora, Auburn University, Bugwood.org.

For a complete list of Tomato diseases visit the Cornell University Vegetable MD Online webpage here.