Cultivation guide :Tomatoes

Tomato is a warm-season day-neutral vegetable crop that cannot withstand frost and high humidity. Growth requires temperatures between 10°C and 30°C. It required low to medium rainfall.

Types of tomato cultivars

It has been categorized into three groups based on the growth of the plant and nature of flowering:

  • Determinate type,
  • Semi-determinate type,
  • Indeterminate type.

They bear flowers or fruit on every third node. In determinate type, the main stem of plant is stopped after 5-6 cluster setting. In the indeterminate type, the main stem of the plant grows continuously. First branch grows from the bottom of the stem, and other branches grow from other above nodes.

 It would be better the determinate and semi-determinate varieties for home garden farming, and the indeterminate types for commercial farmers.

Nursery Raising

Tomato seeds are sown on nursery beds to raise seedlings for transplanting in the field. Raised beds of size 3 x 0.6 m and 10-15 cm in height are prepared. About 70 cm distance is kept between two beds to carry out operations of watering, weeding, etc. The surface of beds should be smooth and well leveled. Add sieved FYM and fine sand on the seedbed. Raised beds are necessary to avoid the problem of waterlogging in heavy soils. In sandy soils, however, sowing can be taken up in flatbeds. To avoid mortality of seedlings due to damping off, drench the seedbed first with water and then with Bavistin (15-20 g/10 liters of water).

About 250-300 g of seed is sufficient for raising seedlings for one hectare of land. Before sowing seeds are treated with Captan or Thiram (2g/kg of seed) to avoid damage from damping-off disease. Sowing should be done thinly in lines spaced at 10-15 cm distance. Seeds are sown at a depth of 2-3 cm and covered with a fine layer of soil followed by light watering by water can. The beds should then be covered with dry straw or grass to maintain the required temperature and moisture. The watering should be done by water can as per the need till germination is completed. The cover of dry straw or grass is removed immediately after germination is complete. During the last week in nursery, the seedlings may be hardened by slightly withholding water. The seedlings with 5-6 true leaves are ready for transplanting within 4 of sowing.

Transplanting

 In determinate types, ridges are not necessary if the seedlings are transplanted during summer (March-April). In indeterminate types, ridges are necessary to cultivate until rainy season for drainage of rainwater.  In rainy season (July to August), About 15 cm high ridges need to be made to transplant seedlings for prevention from rainwater.  A shade with a plastic roof is better for rainy season to cover the plants if this facility is available.  The gap between the ridges (row –row distance) should be at least 80 cm with 60 cm spacing between the plants in each row for determinate and semi-determinate varieties.  It is better to adopt crop rotation system. 

Management practices

Staking in tomatoes

 It is one of the most important management practice in tomato cultivation which can get double production in comparison plants without staking.  Staking or bamboo branch can be given with the support of rope. It is necessary to staking in tomatoes cultivated in rainy season.

Pruning 

Pruning helps the plant to receive direct sunlight and air movement. It also helps in keeping the plant healthy and improves size, color, and shape of fruits.  Remove the tip of plants to increase the size of fruits.  In a kitchen garden, the main stem of indeterminate varieties will be pruned at 4- 5 leaves stage, and two side shoots should be kept on the plant. Then, other side shoot should be removed from the plant time to time if we saw more side shoots are emerging.  Maximum of two main stems can be kept while the old leaves at the bottom of the plant, yellow and infected leaves should be timely removed.  Timely pruning can help in number of fruits, productivity, quality and uniformity in size of the fruits.  Pruning work makes to increase the number of fruits in per unit. The pruning of unnecessary parts should be removed no sooner as it is found. Otherwise, if delayed to remove the young side shoots grown from leaves, it consumes the nutrients, which weakens the plant and results in decreased yields.

 Harvesting 

The harvesting time may differ following the purpose of tomato use.  There are six different harvesting times based on the target and purpose of picking tomatoes from garden

  • Immature green

The tomato fruit becomes dark green in color.  The seeds inside the fruits are not fully grown, and they are not attached by the jelly-like substance. 

  • Mature green

 The tip of the fruits has been turned a little yellow-greenish color.  The seeds inside are wrapped with like jelly substances.  The tomatoes of this phase are picked for longer transportation and storage.

  • Starting of pink color/ Turning Stage

  1/4 part on the top of the tomato fruit becomes pink.  The tomatoes at this phase are picked for local markets.

  • Pink color stage

  3/4 parts on top of the tomato fruit becomes pink. Such tomatoes are also picked for local markets. 

  • Dark red

 The tomato fruit turns completely red and becomes hard at this phase.  The hard red tomatoes are picked for preparing ketch-up (sauces) and making pickles. 

  • Overripe red

The tomatoes of this phase are deep red and very soft in texture.  Tomatoes of this phase are picked only for harvest seed.

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