Whether You Say Tomato or Tomäto, A Guide to Growing the Red Fruit

Tomatoes and Spagetti

Green Blizzard is not a gardening website per se, but we do selectively cover gardening ideas to reduce your carbon footprint. Because even a small kitchen garden, or a herb window box, or even a few random plantings can whittle away at your carbon footprint.

This is particularly true with relatively heavy, susceptible to damage, and difficult to transport fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes. Delicate produce requires considerable packaging and in-route care to get it into your kitchen. Commercial farms use exhaust-belching heavy equipment to manage the growing area and harvest the product. Then it moves long distances to our market, typically in large refrigerated diesel trucks. Oftentimes, the plants are grown in heated greenhouses, further adding to the fossil fuel consumed and embodied in the product. There is considerable invested (embodied) energy in these tomatoes even before you take a bite.

So, any way you can shorten the transportation distance and minimize the resources for anything you consume, the less a consumable inflates your carbon footprint. It is hard to surpass the efficiency of planting a small tomato plant in a sunny spot in your yard and later in the growing season picking and carrying the produce into your kitchen. It’s a perfect zero CO2 emissions product – carbon footprint free!

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, and wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. Tomatoes are tropical fruits that need warm temperatures to grow. It can be demanding to grow them as a garden vegetable, but their rewards make them worth it. Tomatoes provide an impressive amount of Vitamin A, C, and K, reduce cholesterol, improve vision, manage diabetes, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and promote healthy skin. Growing them yourself also provides added benefits to the environment and greens your thumb. If you’re ready to start your tomato garden, here is a guide on how, when, and where to plant your tomatoes.

Read the $64 Tomato

Preparation: Before you physically start planting any tomatoes, it is important to plan ahead of time. This is because tomatoes have a long growing season and you need to start off right. Tomatoes are tropical fruits and will die at the first sign of frost. Therefore, you will want to start growing your tomatoes a few weeks after the last frost in your area. Since tomatoes can be demanding, you might want to start growing them indoors first. In this case, you can start your tomato seeds indoors anywhere from six to eight weeks before the last frost.

The critical growing requirements of tomatoes can be broken up into three categories: light, water, and soil.

Light: Tomatoes need plenty of sunlight. They germinate best in 80 degrees Fahrenheit and won’t germinate at all if the temperature is below 60 degrees. Therefore, tomatoes need at least six hours of direct sunlight a day – although eight hours is ideal. Be sure to keep all parts of the plant unshaded to promote good fruit growth.

Water: You must keep your tomatoes happy with a constant supply of water. Because they grow long roots, tomatoes can handle long drinks of water regularly. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, tomatoes need at least two inches of water per week. This equates to about 120 gallons for every 100 square feet of growing space.

Soil: Tomatoes need a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8. However, they can also grow in slightly acidic soil with pH levels as low as 5.5. You ultimately want soil that dries well. Even though they can take in a lot of water, they don’t do well in soggy soils. This can lead to root rot and other tomato diseases. A unique thing about tomatoes is that they prefer it when you bury the stem in the soil as you plant it. Therefore, you should bury up to two-thirds of the stem in the soil at the time you plant.

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Companion Plants: To create an eco-friendly garden, you may want to use companion plants to complement your tomatoes and provide benefits that can boost growth and vitality without the use of pesticides. Tomatoes have several companion plants to help them grow healthily and peacefully.

Chives: Planting chives near your tomatoes can help them grow in peace. The onion scent of chives deters aphids from attacking tomatoes and keeps them healthy and untouched. Don’t worry because the chives smell will not alter the smell of your tomatoes and now you’ll have two ingredients for use in your pasta.

Marigold and Basil: These are two other bug repellents that can prevent pesky flying insects as well as those underground insects from attacking your tomatoes. The bugs you need to watch out for include flea beetles, aphids, white flies, blossom-end rots, tomato hornworms, and mosquitoes.

Mint: Planting mint near your tomatoes will help improve their health and taste. The smell of mint also deters mice, if you live in an area with a large mouse population.

As tomatoes have companion pals, they also have companion foes. Be sure to keep your tomatoes away from cabbage, corn, dill, eggplant, potatoes, and walnuts. These will stunt the growth of the tomatoes or attract blight and bugs.

Jackie Edwards a guest writer contributed this post.


About the author

Keith Blizzard

A life-long environmentalist, Keith set out on the never ending journey of adjusting his lifestyle to a more sustainable one, with a goal of annually shrinking his carbon footprint. When he looked around for a dependable source of meaningful carbon footprint reduction ideas, it was pretty lame - so he launched Green Blizzard loaded with eco-friendly lifestyle tweaks. When he's not managing Green Blizzard, you'll find him on the trails around Mid Coast Maine with his trusty trail companion mutt, Moose.