Growing tomatoes is undoubtedly the most popular gardening activity in North America. Tomatoes are a sign of your vegetable garden's success and offer limitless possibilities in the kitchen.
Here's everything you should know about the care they need, common problems, harvesting and preservation.
Tomato plants prefer rich soils that drain well. That is why it is recommended to add compost at the time of planting. They also need lots of light, but you must protect them from bad weather so they can develop properly.
Tomato plants must be watered once or twice every week. To prevent diseases, it is important to water at the base of the plant and not on the leaves. Also, to keep weeds in check and protect the roots from the heat, it is recommended to add mulch around the base of the plant.
Using stakes is essential. Install them one or two centimeters from the stem. Fixing the main stem to the stake will allow the plant to better support the weight of the fruits to come.
Finally, remove suckers. These are shoots that grow out of the joint where a branch meets a stem. They take up a lot of the sap, which negatively impacts the development of your plants.
Unfortunately, there are several diseases that can affect your precious plants. That is why you must watch them closely. Here are three of the most common diseases in tomatoes.
This disease is one of the most common. It is caused by a fungus called Phytophtora infestans. It makes its appearance when the air is humid and the weather is cool. Brown spots develop on the leaves, stems and fruits.
If possible, grow your tomatoes in a sheltered location, and avoid growing them close to potatoes. Also, leave enough space between each plant so there is good air flow through the foliage.
Powdery mildew is also a fungus from the Erysiphaceae family, and it is common in numerous plants. This disease is recognizable by the presence of white powder on the leaves and stems. This will cause the leaves to become distorted.
Avoid watering when it's very hot, and water in the morning. Remove the parts that are affected and try to prevent propagation by spraying diluted milk.
This disease is also caused by a fungus: Alternaria solani. It will cause small black spots to appear on the leaves. First, the leaves will wither, and then the stems and fruits.
Space your plant to limit contamination, remove the first affected leaves, avoid wetting the foliage and do not water in the evening.
Pick your tomatoes when they are coloured. Usually, they reach maturity 4 or 5 months after seeding. When the fall comes and temperatures drop below 10 ˚C at night, it is unlikely that your tomatoes ripen perfectly. Pick them when you think they've reached their full size and they've started changing colours.
Place them in a shady spot, in newspaper or a brown bag, so they continue to ripen. Note that the sun will cause them to soften.
The taste of tomatoes is rarely altered when they are processed. That is why the best way to preserve them longer is to cook them.
Here are a few options:
• Make your own tomato coulis;
• Make jam;
• Dry them;
• Make your own tomato juice;
• Can them;
• Make your own ketchup.
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