How to grow tomatoes from seeds: Step by step from transplanting seedlings to harvesting


This lesson assumes you have already read or seen or watched part one of the 'How to grow tomatoes from seeds' lesson. The first part covered issues to do with seed bed preparation, how to sow the seeds, fertilizers and fungicides before transplanting as well as when and how to transplant the tomato seedlings.

This Part 2 is going to take you through from the transplanting method right up to the last day of harvesting your tomatoes. If you prefer buying seedlings, then you may omit part one of the lesson, but I strongly urge you to learn how to grow your own tomatoes from seeds, it's very easy and all you need is the know-how and enough confidence to do so.

To help those who did not go through part 1 of this lesson, which you can also read or watch by clicking here, I will repeat the last 3 stages of the previous lesson, which is part 1 of this whole tutorial.

a. After preparing where to plant the tomato seedlings, you will need to water the area first. You also need to spray either copper oxychloride or mancozeb to the field you are going to transplant the seedlings, so that the fungicide will help fight some of the many diseases that live in the soil. Since we are transplanting seedlings that have been hardened and are literally very thirsty, it's good to give the soil a little watering and get the soil wet. After spraying with a fungicide and lightly watering the field, use your hand or a pointed object such as a wooden stick or a metal rod to make holes about 10cm or 4inch deep. These are the holes where we will transplant our tomato seedlings, therefore they have to be 30cm apart when using a drip irrigation system, or 40 to 50cm (15.75 inch to 19.7 inches) apart if you are not going to use a drip irrigation system.

b. If you had sown your seeds in a seed tray, then transplanting will be a little easier. It's just a matter of pulling the seedling by its stem, as close to the growing media as possible and the whole plant including the roots and the growing media will pull out of the cell. Without disturbing the roots, you just place the seedling into the hole you made with a wooden or metal rod, then compact the soil surrounding it a little bit with your fingers so as to make the plant firm. If you had planted on a traditional seed bed, then use a small garden folk to remove the seedlings from seedbed without cutting off or disturbing the roots. Remove one plant at a time from the butch and plant it into the holes you made earlier. Avoid what we call J-rooting. This is a situation where a hole you made for transplanting purposes is smaller than the total length of the roots and the roots can't fit such that the end part of the roots will have to point upwards like the letter J. So make sure the hole is deep enough to accommodate the whole length of the plant's roots. Now compact the soil surrounding the newly transplanted seedling with your fingers and give it a firm grip.

c. When you are done with transplanting, it's time to water the plants again. You will need to water your tomato plants everyday and within the first 2 to 3 days probably twice a day if you live in very hot countries such as most parts of Africa. But remember, if you over-water them damping off is likely to hit your young plants. So keep spraying copper oxychloride or mancozeb every week to prevent fungal diseases such as damping off. For healthy tomatoes, you should spray this fungicide until the last week of harvest.

Now that you have have transplanted your tomato seedlings, the next phase is for continuous application of fertilizers and insecticides and fungicides. Every week you have to apply these three requirements if you want to successfully grow your tomatoes the commercial way. We will achieve this in the following stages;

1. About 7 days after transplanting your tomatoes, apply Ammonium Nitrate using farmers' cup number 5 (about 5grams) and drench into the soil about 10cm away from the plant. By day 7 all plants should have recovered from transplant stress and so it's the best time to start applying fertilizers to your little plants. Each plant should get about 5 grams of Ammonium Nitrate per week for the first 3 weeks after transplanting. If the first time you are going to drench with fertilizer is on Wednesday, then throughout your tomato farming season you should put fertilizer to those tomatoes every Wednesday. For Ammonium Nitrate (AN), you make a small ditch with a tip of a hoe or a garden spoon or a stick and the ditch should be very shallow, about 1 inch deep – just big enough to accommodate 5 grams of fertilizer, and about 10cm away from your tomato plant, so that you don't scotch the plants with the fertilizer for it is rich in nitrogen. Put the AN fertilizer in the ditch then cover with soil.

Repeat this process of AN fertilizer application at 7 days intervals for two more weeks. This means that 7 days after transplanting your tomatoes, you put AN fertilizer. You do it again on day 14 and lastly on day 21 after transplanting your tomatoes.

2. Choose another day during the same week when you will spray your fungicide. You can use copper oxychloride or mancozeb. Personally I prefer copper oxychloride. Usually you apply about 30 grams of copper oxychloride per 15 or 16 litre knapsack. Refer to the usage instructions stated on your copper oxychloride or mancozeb packaging for specific quantities, but usually its 30 grams per 15 or 16 litre knapsack. You will then need to stray the whole tomato plant as well as the soil surrounding your plants, as both mancozeb and copper oxychloride prevent soil-borne diseases such as damping off. If, for example, you first spray copper oxychloride or mancozeb on a Monday, then every Monday you will have to repeat the process, and this will help you prevent diseases such as damping off, early blight, late blight as well as bacterial spot.

3. Again, choose another day where every week on that given day you will spray your insecticide. In some parts of the world, red spider mites are the most painful pests that hinder the growth and success of your tomatoes. However, in other countries, especially as of 2017 and onwards, leaf miners and tuta absoluta larva are by far the number one enemy to most farmers. The good thing, however, is that most insecticides that fight leaf miners and the tuta absoluta larvae, usually kill red spider mites, white flies, aphids and some other insects that hinder your tomatoes' productivity. You may, for instance, choose Friday as your day for applying your instectide. For tuta absoluta I recommend Avaunt, Steward, Cartap, Acephate and Belt, with Avaunt being my first preference. You will have to apply this insecticide once every week until the last week of harvesting your tomatoes.

WARNING: Never use tuta traps. These tuta traps use pheromones that attract male tuta moths from nearby farms or areas and you will have a very difficult time in dealing with the tuta monster as you will have to fight even the foreign ones you were never supposed to see on your tomato plants had you not called them. Just stick to Avaunt or Cartap and you will be fine.

4. Now that we have applied our Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer for three weeks and we are continuously spraying our copper oxychloride or mancozeb and we are spraying Avaunt or any other insecticide every week, it's time to give other fertilizers to our tomatoes so that they can produce more fruits, produce fruits with a great flavour and strengthen flowers so that wind and rains don't easily drop these flowers. We will alternate Calcium Nitrate, Potassium Nitrate and Sulphate of Potash. You must NOT apply all the three fertilizers every week, you should only apply one type of fertilizer per week, otherwise your tomatoes will have too much nitrogen and become too watery. This will reduce their shelf life and they will easily go bad. Ever commercial tomato farmer wants their tomatoes to last longer on the shelf as this maximizes profits. I strongly recommend that you use water soluble calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate and sulphate of potash. Water soluble fertilizers are more effective, cheaper in the long run and plants find it easy to absorb nutrients from water soluble fertilizers as the fertilizer is sprayed directly to the leaves and the stems of the plants.

for the first four weeks you are going to apply 3 X cup number 30 per 15 or 16 litre knapsack per week. Each cup number 30 carries about 30 grams of fertilizer, therefore, for the first 30 days, you'll need about 90 grams of calcium nitrate in the first week, 90 grams of potassium nitrate in the second week and 90 grams of sulphate of potash in the third week then you repeat again 90 grams of calcium nitrate per knapsack in the 4th week.

5. Upon spraying these fertilizers for the whole month, you will have to increase your fertilizer amount from 3 cups of cup number 30 to 4 cups per knapsack. This means that in week 5, you will put 4 cups of cup number 30 (or 120 grams) of potassium nitrate to your 15 or 16 litre knapsack then spray your tomatoes. The following week you will put 120 grams of Sulphate of Potash (SOP) in your knapsack and spray your tomatoes. The following week you will spray 120 grams (or 4 X cup number 30) of calcium nitrate and the following week you apply 120 grams of SOP. This completes the second month of spraying these three fertilizers.

6. As from the third month of spraying these water soluble fertilizers and onwards, you will have to spray 5 X cup number 30 of each of the three fertilizers that we have been spraying. This means you start by spraying 150 grams of calcium nitrate per knapsack this week, then 150 grams of potassium nitrate per knapsack next week and again 150 grams of SOP (Sulphate of Potash) per 15 or 16 litre knapsack the following week. You should continue applying 5 X cup number 30 (or 150 grams) of each of these three fertilizers until the tomatoes have stopped developing fresh flowers. This means, when you are growing indeterminate varieties which keep growing taller as long as you continue maintaining and feeding them, then you have to continue spraying the fertilizers on a weekly basis at rotational basis.

7. Bear in mind that spraying fungicides and insecticides such as copper oxychloride and avaunt or cartap should not be stopped. Keep applying both the fungicide and the insecticide every week until the last week of harvesting your tomatoes. When you start harvesting your tomatoes, you may have to apply both the fertilizer and insecticide on the same day, so that you can harvest your tomatoes safely. To do so, you will need to first harvest your tomatoes before applying the insecticide and the fertilizer. Before reaching this decision, first check with the instructions of your insecticides, but with avaunt, usually for tomatoes you can harvest 3 days after spraying avaunt, but please confirm with your specific packaging's instructions.

8. Now that we have talked about fungicides, insecticides and fertilizers to use when growing tomatoes, now lets talk about trellising the tomatoes. There are basically three types of trellising your tomatoes. The first and most common one is to put a wooden stick on each and every tomato plant then use a thread to fasten the the plant to the stick. For subsistence farming that can be handy, but for commercial farming where a farmer grows thousands of tomato plants, this may not be ideal. Again, the wooden sticks often bring diseases such as bacterial spot to the plants.

The second trellising method involves using wooden sticks as well, but not on every plant. Sticks or small wooden poles are arranged in rows and a wire or trellising twine is then used to support the tomatoes so that the don't lie to the ground. This is the best method when one is growing determinate tomatoes.

The third trellising method, which is the most common in greenhouse farming is that of using trellising twine that is tied to a wire which runs above a row or tomatoes, about 2 to 3 metres above the ground. A small piece of trellising twine is tied to the wire above the tomatoes and as the tomatoes grow, the twine is regularly turned around a tomato plant as a way of supporting the stem from falling down. This method is best used in indeterminate varieties where only one or 2 stems per plant are permitted to grow, the rest are cut off as suckers.

9. Now let's talk about pruning and removing suckers from your tomatoes. This process should be done on a weekly basis, by those growing indeterminate tomatoes only. Determinate variety farmers should NOT prune their tomatoes, though it's a good practice to cut off old tomato leaves that are showing signs of getting diseased or a touching the ground. Indeterminate tomatoes are tomato varieties that keep growing and growing as long as you continue maintaining and feeding them. Because indeterminate tomatoes keep growing and producing more tomatoes, it's best to remove all suckers or side shoots and let each plant have only one stem where you will harvest tomatoes from. Don't hesitate to cut off all side shoots or suckers, you will still harvest more tomatoes from a pruned stem than a non-pruned indeterminate tomato plant. You can use your hand to remove old leaves that are showing signs of getting diseased or are touching the ground. Some use a knife or a pair of scissors or shears, but personally I prefer using my bare hands, so that I don't transfer diseases from one plant to another using these sharp tools. Throw away all the old leaves and suckers that you have cut off, do not use them as compost as this will lead to a contaminated compost.

10. One of the most important requirements should one opt to venture into farming and especially tomato farming, its water. Without water there is no farming to talk about, but I decided to bring this topic towards the end so that I give it all the attention it deserves. You only water your tomatoes when it's necessary and when watering, give the tomatoes as much water as possible. You don't have to water the tomatoes everyday. Although you have to water them daily from germination to a week or 2 after transplanting, from there you will need to scale down on how many times you water them. Three times a week or even twice a week can be ideal, but three times a week is the best. I will not tell you how much water to give your tomatoes per day, because there are so many factors that determine that, including your farming region, how old they are, where you grow them (open field or greenhouse farming), how much space you used to separate the tomatoes, the time of the year you are growing the tomatoes, the type of soil you have etc. The bottom line, however, is that water your tomatoes as much as you can, either until the water is saturated on the surface or until it can no longer sink into the ground easily. If you give your tomatoes less water they will not grow big and when the rains come, they will crack. If you give your tomatoes little water then you are likely to have problems such as blossom end rot as the roots will struggle to extract enough calcium from the soil.

11. The ultimate goal for growing tomatoes is to eventually harvest them and then either consume them or sell them. So the last thing in the tomato farming process is the harvesting part and that's what we're now talking about. Firstly, tomatoes ripening stages can be classified into 4 – non ripe, semi ripe, ripe and very ripe. The non ripe ones are basically green tomatoes that haven't really ripened. About picking up these tomatoes. You need to consult your market first, most shops prefer semi ripe tomatoes, because they are first and have the longest shelf life. However, not every shop prefers such tomatoes, I know a local big supermarket that buys ripe tomatoes, the ready to cook ones when you buy them today and you can cook all of them right away. It's because the supermarket's customers normally buy tomatoes in small quantities and they want tomatoes they will cook almost immediately or at least the following day.

So generally when targeting those who buy tomatoes in bulk or those who buy for resale, then usually they prefer semi-ripe tomatoes. When you target end users, the consumers themselves, particularly those who buy a few tomatoes to cook for two to three days, then ripe tomatoes are what they prefer.

Avoid letting your tomatoes reach the very ripe stages for they have the shortest shelf life and usually these are very soft fruits that easily break and therefore require you to handle them with extra care. Usually the very ripe tomatoes are the ones you should be picking for personal consumption if you want to make soups or stews. You can also sell them at discounted prices to local customers, neighbours and friends. If you want to save seeds for the next tomato farming season, it's also a great idea to extract seeds from very ripe tomatoes because the seeds have matured and are most likely going to germinate.

When picking tomatoes you want to deliver to your local fruit n veg shop. Using a shall rug or mutton cloth to wipe every tomato is a good idea, the tomatoes will get shiny and more attractive. They become more appealing and eye catching and the rug helps remove some of the copper oxychloride residue that would have piled up on the skin of your tomatoes. This is not a big deal because copper oxychloride is not generally harmful and you can even harvest your tomatoes soon after spraying them with copper oxychloride.

That's about it fellow farmers. We could not cover everything about tomatoes in this video, despite separating the tutorial into part 1 and part 2. I will do more videos in due course where I will explain various diseases to watch out for, how to prevent them, what causes them and how to treat them should they strike.

Don't forget to like and share this video so that others can learn how to grow tomatoes. If you have any questions or requests, feel free to comment in the comments section below, I will be very happy to respond within the shortest possible time.