Tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum)
Tomato is an annual plant that belongs to the family Solanaceae. Natively, tomato plant is perennial, but since we expect to harvest many tomatoes from every plant, we cultivate it as annual. The fruit of the tomato is usually spherical and red color. We use tomato in cooking, salads, and sauce. Tomato contains antioxidants that prevent certain types of cancer.
Tomatoes varieties can be determinate (also called bush tomatoes) and indeterminate (the tall ones!). Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called bush tomatoes, are varieties that can grow to a small height (approximately 4 feet or 1 meter). Indeterminate varieties can reach a height of 10 feet (3-3.5 meters) if they are mechanically supported (the stem of the indeterminate tomato cannot stand alone, we normally place props so that the plant can grow up there and give us higher production).
Professional Cultivation of Tomato
Sowing tomato can be done either in pots or seedbed (sow early spring), or directly on the ground (sowing in mid-spring- only for amateur cultivation). Of course, when cultivating professionally tomato, we should first select carefully the variety that matches our preferences (tomato for salad, for sauce, cherry tomato) and field characteristics, then sow the seeds in pots, then select carefully the most vigorous plants and finally transplant them in the field.
On average, there are about 8.400 tomato seeds per oz (300 seeds of tomato per 1 gr). We need about 4.2 – 5 oz. (120-150 grams) of tomato seed per hectare (which will give us about 13.000 to 15.000 plants finally). On early spring (20 February – 10 March), we carefully put 1-2 tomato seeds per pot in depth of 0.2 inches (0,5 cm) and we cover lightly with soil. We place the pots in a protective shelter, because tomato plants are not resistant to frost. We water the pots every other day for 20-30 days. When the plants have become 5-7 inches (12-15 cm) in height, we collect the most vigorous plants and we transplant them. Keep in mind that we should reject plants with leaves that start to become yellow.
We plant about 13.000 to 15.000 plants per hectare. We leave a distance of 60 inches (150 cm) between rows and 20 inches (30-40 cm) between plants. We normally irrigate every 3-4 days. We choose areas with much sunshine (tomato plants require 6-8 hours of sunshine daily). The soil should be well drained and soil pH must be between 6 to 6.8. If it not rich in nutrients, we normally strengthen with compost.
We must regularly water our plants. We harvest 75-115 days after transplanting. Mature tomatoes can be harvested almost daily.
Healthy and vigorous tomato plants give an average yield of 55-90 tons per hectare (in greenhouse the production may reach 100 to 150 tons per hectare).
Tomato plants generally need more Phosphorus and Potassium and less Nitrogen. A very common problem stems from the high concentration of Nitrogen in the soil: Some tomato plants seem to be very healthy, vigorous and relatively big but they don’t have the ability to produce tomatoes at all! In such a case, we must not use any fertilizer that contains Nitrogen in this season.
Do you have experience in cultivating tomato? Please share your experience, methods and practices in the comments below.
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