The Best Way to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are regarded by most people as the most popular and most useful vegetable (or fruit) on the planet. There are hundreds of cultivars and strains, some of which are more disease and nematode resistant to others. All are pretty easy to grow if you follow a few key rules.
The question is: What is the best way to grow tomatoes?
The two options are clearly either to grow from seed or from seedlings that have been raised in a commercial nursery. Another less obvious way to grow tomatoes is to simply let them self sow – which they do with remarkable alacrity.
Growing From Seedlings
Probably the easiest and most successful option is to take a trip to your local nursery or plant supplier, and buy some good-looking and healthy seedlings. You'll give yourself a head start if you buy seedlings that are relatively well established and already flowering. Then all you do is make sure your soil is well prepared; decide where you want to plant them; then dig little holes and transplant until you're done.
Tomatoes will grow well in most soil types, provided you've added lots of organic matter, and as long as the soil has a pH between 5.5 and 7.0 (7.0 being neutral and 5.5 just a little acidic). Whether you are going to grow from seed or pop ready seedlings into the ground, proper preparation will ensure greater success.
If you haven't grown tomatoes before, you'll do best to start off with seedlings. Buy plants that are a similar size to one another and plant them out as soon as possible after purchase. You'll find they are a lot easier to keep alive and healthy in the ground than in seed trays – especially as their root systems begin to develop. They will also do well in pots, provided the soil is clean and fertile, and there is space in the pot for them to grow.
Try Growing From Seed
Having said this, it really isn't that difficult to grow tomatoes from seed, provided conditions for germination are good. Be sure to read the instructions on the packet, because different varieties are more sensitive to temperature variations than others, and this can effect, not only germination, but pollination and the growth of the tomato fruit (fruit set) as well. Also, while some types of tomatoes can be sown directly in the ground, either in seed beds or in the veggie garden (where you will then have to space them and remove weaker plants), many types need to be grown in trays. This is where the challenge lies.
Why Not Let Them Self Seed?
Growing self-seeded tomatoes takes no skill at all. In fact tomatoes will self sow from previous plants and from half eaten raw fruit that is thrown into the garden or onto the compost heap. The only trouble is that the quality of self-seeded fruit isn't always up to par. But if you have the space to let them ramble, you've probably got nothing to lose.
One thing to remember – most hybrid breeds of tomato are sterile, so if you throw a half eaten tomato into the garden and expect it to self seed and grow, you may be disappointed.