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Tomatoes: A Raw Deal

01 Oct 2018

There is no doubt that tomatoes are popular. No salad seems complete without them. They add a distinctive tangy dash to many meals, and offer matchless colour and seduction in decorative displays. And they’re invariably a favoured choice for pelting felons and politicians.

Over time they have gained the reputation of ‘fruit most likely to be squashed’. Their fat juiciness is often their downfall in surviving the elements, transport and a somewhat dangerous shelf life. There is no more likely fruit to be punctured, dented, split or burst than a tomato – and nothing messier.

But none of that matters. That bright luscious red attracts us, presenting a sumptuous offer, delectable taste, and a full-flavoured mouthful. Whatever the colour – and there are several: yellow, cream, green, orange, pink, purple, black, or striped – we can’t resist.

There is no doubt that tomatoes are popular

How could we ever live without them?

For the longest time we did just that. But in the 16th century they were introduced to Europe by explorers who had sailed to the Americas. The name tomato is Aztec in origin, and the Aztecs are credited with first discovering the delights of the tomato in around 700 AD. The original plant produced a very small fruit, the size of a cherry (a tradition we’ve made newly fashionable today). Over time and a process of natural genetic modification, tomatoes grew themselves to the larger size we know today.

The debate as to whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable goes on. Technically it’s a fruit because it bears seeds, but so do some vegetables, so it’s become a matter of preference as to how you look at it. And whether you say tomarto or tomayto, growing them is a challenge; with tender care they can be very successfully grown, as well as a financially viable as a crop. https://morningchores.com/best-tomato-varieties/

Growing tomatoes

Unfortunately tomatoes are not that easy to rear. And they also require quite a lot of watering during the initial growth period. All the same, the tomatoes grow healthy in an environment that can support and sustain them well. Understanding what their preferences are, means you will have happy, fruitful plants.

Starting from seed: If you are starting tomatoes from seed, be sure to give the seedlings plenty of room to branch out. Crowded conditions inhibit their growth, which stresses them and leads to disease later on. Tomato seedlings need strong, direct light. Tomato plants also need to move and sway in the breeze, to develop strong stems, so even when still in the pot, use a fan to ensure fresh movement of air.Hydroponic tomatoes and drip irrigation

Planting: Tomatoes love heat. Both soil and air temperatures need to be warm.

  • Warm up the soil before planting by covering the intended area with plastic for a couple of weeks. The warmer the soil, the earlier your plants will bear fruit.
  • Plant deeply, covering all the way to the top leaves. This helps the tomato to develop roots all along their stems, thus making a much stronger plant.
  • Once you have regulated a consistent warm temperature, you can add a layer of mulch to retain moisture.
  • Once your tomato plants reach around 3 feet high, remove the leaves from the bottom one foot of stem, as the older, lower leaves may develop fungus disease.
  • You will need to water regularly while the fruits are developing, at least one inch of water per week. Water is very important, and you will need to keep an eye on your tomatoes to ensure they are not looking wilted at any time.
  • As ripening begins, you can reduce the watering, as this will help the plant to concentrate sugars into the fruit for improved flavour.

Determinate tomatoes are determined by height and, under favourable conditions, usually start flowering early in the season. Once they reach a certain height, their fruit will ripen all at once, thus producing large quantities.

Indeterminate tomatoes are those big, juicy tomatoes which grow on taller plants. These plants just go on reaching for the sun. They may take a while to reach their preferred height, so more patience is needed before they begin fruit setting.

 

Growing tomatoes

 

Hydroponic tomatoes and drip irrigation 

Hydroponic tomatoes are grown from seedlings in a nutrient solution within bags or buckets instead of being in the soil. Alternatively, a rooting medium of either rockwool slabs or coconut coir slabs can be used. The watery solution is drip-fed through a network of tubes to the base of the plants. You can monitor and regulate each plant individually as to how much it requires at any time, including injections of fertilizer when needed.

This way the growing system can be managed through correct nutriment solution delivery with regard to frequency and amount, taking into account environmental factors such as air temperature and light conditions, as well as individual stages of plant growth. Adjustments can be made to the solution and delivery schedule at any time, depending on any changes in conditions. This makes for a highly convenient, well-designed system that supports and sustains tomatoes very well.

A watery affair

At Netafim, we’re aware that farmers choosing to produce tomatoes need to keep a wary eye to ensure a fat, ripe and juicy harvest time. Whether outdoor crops, covered crops or hydroponic crops – a watering system comprising our innovative, technically advanced drip irrigation method is going to be your best friend when raising these finicky fellas.

Drip irrigation will allow you to supply water to the crop frequently and in a highly controlled manner to maintain those much needed ideal conditions for each stage of the crop’s development.

Talk to us – because we know how to coax the best out of your tomato crops using the least amount of water, for whichever kind of tomato you prefer, and however you choose to raise them. Find out more about our products at: www.netafim.co.za


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