There are many people sitting in offices thinking of venturing into farming as a way of earning some extra cash. This as many have come to realize is a brilliant idea worth following up on. But there are several questions they all end up asking themselves especially when they have no prior experience in farming, “where do I start?.”
In this article, I intent to provide farmers with the relevant information necessary information to start tomato farming. The intention is to make farmer understand as much as they can about the planting and maintenance process. Other tutorials/guides will follow on other crops. Feel free to suggest the crops to be featured next in.
This tomato farming guide will look at the process of planting, maintaining and harvesting tomatoes. We will also address the factors to consider before planting tomatoes.
First, you need to choose a suitable location for planting. An important factor is access to water. Water proximity should be as close as possible to avoid added costs of transporting/pumping water. Alternatively water tanks can be used and this is specifically suitable when using drip irrigation system.
The previous crop planted on the land should also be considered as tomatoes should not be planted immediately after potatoes or pepper and a 3 month break should be observed. This is to minimize on risk of diseases and reduce costs on disease management. Gently sloping land is best as it facilitates drainage during rainy periods especially for open air method.
The soil should be deep well drained loam. The soil should be prepared well and loosened and broken down well. The optimal pH for tomatoes is around 6-7.5. Soil analysis can be done to determine this and help you come up with the list of required fertilizer to prepare the land. If the pH is low, lime can be used to raise it and if high, gypsum can be used to lower it.
The tomatoes can be raised in seed beds or trays. I personally like trays as they increase the chances of the seedlings surviving. Seed beds are prepared by raising soil around 15cm high and leave spaces for walkways of around 30cm or more between beds. The soil should be fine and made up of small particles. This is to make it easier for the small seeds to break through. The seeds should not be buried deep into the soil but planted at a depth of around 1cm.You can use your finger to draw the lines in which you plant the seeds and covered just slightly with soil. Spacing between rows should be around 15cm. To increase moisture level, the bed is covered with hay or dry grass. This also reduces splash effect during watering.
Watering is best done in the morning and the seeds are expected to start showing/sprouting in around 8days. The watering should continue until a week or two before transplanting where it is reduced to harden the seedlings. It takes about month before transplanting is required. Regular checks for pests and diseases should be carried out, the earlier diseases are spotted and treated, the better the survival rate.
This is done using a pang or trowel. It is good practice to ensure that the roots carry abit/a ball of soil during transplanting to increase success rate after transplanting. The seedlings are then planted in holes with spacing of around 60*45.
There is a general concept of fertilization where phosphate fertilizer is applied at the base for root development (DAP or TSP) and urea or CAN used for leaf development after transplanting. Urea is applied at 2-3 weeks or CAN after 5 weeks. At the start of flowering, top dress with NPK and this can be repeated after the first harvest. Remember that fertilization is done to compensate for soil deficiency. For the best results
This is important to ensure that the plants get adequate water supply. This method is mostly used in greenhouses but is also effective with open air farming. Greenhouses mostly come with 500ltrs water tanks that can serve only one tank. For bigger farms, especially outdoor, one big tank can be constructed or bought to serve the entire network of drip pipes. Excessive watering is however not good for the plants as it may cause leaching of nutrients.
This is done by tying a plant vertically using a string and poles. Two poles are connected using a wire and plants suspended using strings that are tied to it. This method increases productivity of tomatoes as compared to traditional open air methods. The plants grow vertically having several fruit clusters along the stem. Support should be done early after transplanting when the plant is still young to avoid stem damage/breaking later on.
Pruning is removing side shoots, old leaves, diseased leaves and laterals. This should be done weekly to remove side shoots before they develop. Weeding should be done regularly as weeds compete for nutrients with the plants.
The tomatoes should be ready for harvesting as from the 70th day onwards depending on the variety planted.
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