Tomatoes are easy to grow, and with proper care, you will be able to have a good harvest. Here are the factors that you should consider when growing tomatoes outside.
Choose a site with loose, well-drained soil. Tomatoes love soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Heavy clay loam is perfect for late tomatoes. Early tomatoes will do well in sandy loam. Mix aged compost or manure in the soil 2 weeks before transferring the tomatoes outdoors. If the weather cooperates and you have enough space, you can sprawl the plants to get a good harvest.
Protect your plants from extreme temperatures, diseases, weeds, and pests. Plant 8 to 10-week old tomato seedlings in your garden 2 weeks after the last spring frost date. If you want to transplant them sooner, you have to protect the seedlings from cold temperatures using plastic tunnels or hot caps. A paper collar can protect tomatoes from cutworms. Water the base of the plants and rotate them to new beds every year to avoid bacterial and fungal diseases. Examine the plants to prevent pests early. If temperatures exceed 95 degrees Fahrenheit during summer, you can protect the fruits and leaves with shade cloth protection.
Tomatoes produce best when grown in warm, relatively dry weather for 3 to 4 months. These plants also need constant night temperatures between 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit to set fruits. When night temperatures remain above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the fruits won’t color properly. The plants will stop growing when temperatures go above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Some varieties will set fruits at higher or lower temperatures.
Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of sunlight every day. If you live in southern regions, light afternoon shade will help the plants survive and grow well. For those living in the northern areas, make sure that your tomatoes receive at least 6 hours of sunlight every day.
The soil should be kept evenly moist because too little water will prevent the plants from producing fruits and too much water will drown the tomatoes. Stick your finger into the soil to test its moisture level. If your finger comes out wet, you should stop watering the soil. In case your finger comes out dry, you should water the soil.
Add aged manure and well-rotted compost to the soil where you will be planting the tomato seedlings. You can also add bone meal to the bottom of every hole to speed up ripening. You can add nitrogen when the stems become deep purple, and the top leaves become yellow. Giving the plants too much nitrogen will result in copious foliage, but it will delay ripening.
Harvesting and Storing Tomatoes
Pick tomatoes that are firm and extremely red. If you are growing tomatoes in yellow, orange or other colors, wait for the fruits to turn the correct color before picking them. Leave the fruits on the stem as long as possible. If any fruit falls off before it appears ripe, you should put it in a paper bag and keep it in a cool, dark place. Don’t refrigerate fresh tomatoes to avoid spoiling its texture and flavor.