Editors Note: A guest post from Angela Williams to The Prepper Journal. After all, it is spring south of the equator! As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today
It is every farmer’s dream to produce firm, sweet and blemish free tomatoes. However, just like vegetable farmers, tomatoes farmers face numerous disappointments such as poor quality, low produce, and diseases. Many of such factors are related to the soil quality, its nutritional level and also its PH level. Therefore, proper preparation of the soil is one of the success keys towards healthy tomato plants as well as a bountyful harvest. The following are tips on how to prepare the soil for planting tomatoes.
- Identify the space for planting the tomatoes
Tomato seedlings require strong and direct light for them to grow well. In case you want to plant them in open ground, choose an area where the plants can get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. If one is growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, it is quite hard for them to get adequate natural light, therefore, one can use artificial lighting to ensure that the plants get light for 14-18 hours every day.
- Identify the soil type
Different plants require different types of soil. Tomatoes require well-drained, deep and loamy soil since they have a branching root system that penetrates the ground to a depth of up to four feet. Such soil should be rich with silt, sand, and clay. One great way to improve the structure, cultivability and nutrition retention level of gardening soil is through the use of compost. Most gardening stores sell compost. However, since compost consists of broken down organic matter, one can make it with ease using yard clippings, leaves, or waste from fruit and vegetables.
- Test the PH level
Different types of soils have varied PH level. One can purchase a soil test kit from a garden store. When the PH level is low, it means that the soil is acidic and a level 7 indicates that the soil is neutral. Tomatoes flourish in soil that is slightly acidic with a PH range of 6.2-6.8. Soil’s PH level is easily adjustable. In case the PH level is too high, add some sulfur to lower it. On the other hand, for low PH, add lime to the soil.
- Add nutrients to the soil
For tomatoes to grow well, the soil should have a balance of nutrients such as potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen. Nitrogen contributes towards healthy leaves and prevents them from yellowing. To increase the level of nitrogen one can either use organic or inorganic materials. Organic sources of nitrogen include fish meal, compost, leaf mold and alfalfa meal. On the other hand, inorganic sources of nitrogen include ammonium sulfate, calcium nitrate, anhydrous ammonia and sodium nitrate. Potassium is also crucial since it helps tomatoes with disease resistant and allows them to grow strong and at a fast growth rate. In case the potassium level is low, use rock sand, wood ash, granite, and potassium sulfate. Phosphorous helps tomatoes develop strong roots and also helps in seed formation. Low phosphorus levels lead to tomatoes with reddened stems and stunted growth. One should use products such as bone meal, compost, rock phosphate or super-phosphate.
- Till the soil to a fine grain
Tilling is considered an old tradition and many people have done away with it. However, tilling offers ample benefits. Such benefits include the aeration of the soli, mixing of nutrients, organic materials, and fertilizers. Tilling also helps to chop and kill weeds that compete with plants in consuming water and nutrients. Rolling garden carts, wheelbarrows or tractors over the garden squeezes the air out of the soil, thus the need for tilling. At times, crust surfaces may form on top of soil which acts as a hindrance towards the penetration of the water. In such a case, tilling softens the surface, allows water to penetrate with ease and also makes the soil soft enough for the tomato roots to penetrate with ease.
- Dig holes or trenches
After confirming the soil type, PH and nutrients levels, dig trenches or deep holes. Spacing the trenches or the holes is crucial since it prevents overcrowding of the plants. Ensure a space of 2 feet or 0.6 meters between each seedling and also maintain the same spacing between the rows. Maintain this spacing for the plant to branch out and also to allow for the proper circulation of air. Overcrowding tomato plants inhibit the growth and place them at a high risk of getting diseases. Consider the height of the seedlings when digging the holes since two-thirds of the seedling is required to be buried in the ground. If the seedlings are tall, make deep holes, but if they are short, one should dig shallow ones. Unlike other kinds of seedlings that die when planted deep into the soil, tomatoes are different since they sprout roots along the buried stem. The additional roots absorb more minerals that lead to healthy plants, strengthens the plant so that it can support more fruits and also helps it survive hot weather conditions.
Though it is every tomato farmers dream to yield a bounty harvest, many farmers face problems such as diseases as well as low output. However, such problems are related to the soil, and therefore there is great need to prepare the soil before planting tomatoes.
One of the things to consider when preparing the soil for planting tomatoes is the space. Tomatoes do well in open areas that receive at least six hours of direct light daily and also with good circulation of air.
To recap, it is crucial to consider the soil type since tomatoes do well in well-drained, deep and loamy soil. The PH level of the soil also contributes immensely to the health of the plant since tomatoes thrive within a PH range of 6.2 to 6.8. It is vital to consider whether the soil has nutrients since tomatoes require phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen. In case the soil is low in nutrients one can either use organic or inorganic means to boost the soil. It is also important to till the soil since it helps to mix nutrients, air the soil and make it soft for water and tomato roots to penetrate with ease. Lastly, one needs to dig holes or trenches for planting the seedling. Finally, ensure there is 2 feet of space between the rows and also between the holes since, again, tomatoes require enough space to branch out.