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January 26, 2019
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January 26, 2019

Growing terrific tomatoes

Food security is everyone’s responsibility and it begins at home. Due to the harsh dry season and unpredictable rainy season, I am sure we are all convinced that we need to start our own small gardens. This year I will address a ‘How-to-Grow Guide’ for your favourite crops.

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), belonging to the Solanaceae family, is one of the most popular vegetables grown throughout the world. It contains Vitamins A and C and Potassium and research has shown that it contains a compound called Lycopene which has anticancer properties.

If you can recall, in late 2018, the price of tomatoes skyrocketed to $25 to $30 per lb. We can once again relax since the prices have regularised but if you are a tomato lover, here is the guide to grow your own tomato plants traditionally at home:

* The optimum pH of soil for tomato is 6 to 7. The soil should be well aerated and not prone to water logging. You can add a basic fertiliser (12:24:12) to your soil before planting and ensure that your soil is free from insect pest.

* Purchase high quality seedlings (grown from a disease resistant seed, treated with fungicide and a plant starter) from your trusted agro-shop and transplant into soil. Seedlings should be planted at a spacing of 1–1.5 ft. within rows and 2.5– 3 ft. between rows. Make a hole in the garden bed 10 cm (4 inches) in diameter and 10 cm (4 inches) deep. You can add limestone and manure into the holes for pH regulation and fertilisation.

* The tomato plant requires watering immediately after transplanting. Water your plants twice daily (morning and afternoon) if there is no rain. At 2–3 weeks old, acquire wooden stakes and stake your plants to ensure proper growth and fruit yielding as the plant matures.

* Your fertilising regime should be as follows: A week after transplant use a fertiliser high in phosphorus (10:40:10) and repeat in the third week. New leaves will appear 2–3 weeks after transplanting so a fertiliser high in nitrogen (20:10:10) is needed. When flowers start to form (4–6 weeks after transplanting) a complete NPK fertiliser high in potassium (12:12:17+2) should be used for flowering and fruit development. A healthy well-fertilised tomato plant can continue to flower and fruit for 3–4 months.

* Be on the lookout for pest and diseases. Popular insect pests are thrips, whiteflies, leaf miners, pin worms and fruit worms. Tomato plants are also very susceptible to blights, bacterial wilts and the tomato leaf curl virus. Use an Integrated Pest Management approach and good agricultural practices (intercropping and crop rotation) in your garden. Keep weeds away by manually removing them, use natural repellants and encourage beneficial insects such as spiders and ladybird beetles into your garden.

Harvest your tomatoes when they are half ripe (orange) or ripe (red in colour) around nine weeks after transplanting. One tomato plant can produce around 10 to 15 pounds of tomatoes.

Please feel free to suggest the next vegetable grow guide you would like to learn about via email: 

What! Weeds? Arggh!

Q: My name is Monica, I am almost 80 years old and love to plant. I have a grow box and a little back yard where I plant some vegetables, but the weeds are taking me over! What can I use to kill the weeds? Please rescue me. Thank you.

Dear Monica, 

Thank you for your email. I am really happy to hear from you. I must commend you on your garden and it is wonderful that at the age of 80 you are growing your own vegetables.

Weeds are very destructive and can be quite annoying in grow boxes. The most effective form of weed control in grow boxes is pulling them out while the vegetables are growing. However, when you have harvested your last crop in the grow box, there are several methods for pre-emergent weed control:

Using a black plastic material, cover the soil in the grow box for five days when there is hot sun. This is a method of soil sterilisation which assists in killing pre-emergent weeds and any diseases in the soil.

Purchase a systemic weedicide (there are organic brands) and spray the soil before you plant again.

When planting your next crop, using mulch can help reduce the growth of the weeds.

I hope these tips help. Please feel to send questions to for further information or for assistance in any other agri topic. Have a blessed day!