Tomatoes are easy to grow and can be depended on for good harvests. By growing tomatoes organically at home, you can guarantee that the fruit on your table is free of chemicals and pesticides. Fresh tomatoes are excellent in salads or in cooking. Excess harvests can be canned, dried or frozen.
Start tomatoes from seed indoors five to six weeks before the last spring frost. Plant seeds in flats or peat pots filled with a combination of sifted compost and peat moss. Keep moist, but not soggy. Purchased seedlings may not have been grown organically.
Prepare the soil by mixing in one to two inches of organic materials, such as compost or manure two weeks before planting time. Select a location where tomatoes will receive full sun. Do not plant where tomatoes or plants in the same family, (potatoes, eggplant, etc…) were grown for two years previous, because they are susceptible to the same diseases.
Place fence or trellis before planting, if you choose these methods of support. Tomatoes get heavy while ripening and require support of some sort to keep plants off the ground and decrease loss from rot or insect damage. A six foot length of fence or trellis should provide support for three good sized tomato plants.
Harden off seedlings at least two weeks before planting time, by watering less frequently and moving outdoors, to a location protected from wind and strong light. Begin with several hours at a time and increase gradually. Within a week seedlings will be ready to move outdoors permanently.
Dig holes one foot deep, with three holes to a six foot section.
Fill holes with eight inches of compost and four inches of soil, and mix together thoroughly. Bring the mixture up around the sides of the hole, leaving a depression in the center.
Place seedlings gently in hole, one to two inches below the surface.
Bury the stem horizontally up to the bottom most leaves. Roots will grow from the stem, producing a much sturdier plant. Pack soil gently around the base of the plant.
Place tomato cages or stakes now, if this method of support has been chosen. Tie stem to support with strips of soft cloth. Do not use string or wire, which can cut into the plant.
Water tomatoes regularly.
Fertilize with an application of compost tea or fish emulsion once plants are well established and in full blossom. Make compost tea by placing one quart of compost in a cloth bag and steeping in a gallon of water for several days.
Protect from cutworms by placing cardboard or metal collars, when young. Hornworms should be picked off by hand as they appear.
Harvest tomatoes when they are evenly colored, but still firm.
Cover plants through light frosts, but be sure to harvest before more severe frosts threaten.
Wrap green fruits in newspaper or tissue and place where it remains above 55 degrees Fahrenheit to ripen. Green fruits can be used for pickling or cooking.