How to Grow Lycopersicon Esculentum
Tomatoes grow best in full sunlight, apart from competing plants.
Garden tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) have specific needs that directly affect the quality and quantity of the fruit your plants produce. Knowing the basic growing conditions your tomatoes need is a crucial factor in producing thriving, healthy plants. With a little preparation, you can enjoy strong plants and a healthy crop of tomatoes throughout the growing season.
Garden tomatoes grow readily from seed planted in containers. You can start your tomato seeds in containers during the winter to produce plants that are ready for transplant or outdoors after the final frost of the spring. Tomato seeds are best sown into a container with at least 3 inches of soil. Sprinkle the seeds lightly over the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil no more than 1 inch deep. Water the seeds enough to moisten them without saturating the soil. Once the plants have germinated and grown at least 1 inch high, remove and discard the smallest plants from your containers leaving only healthy plants spaced 2 to 3 inches apart.
Garden tomatoes grow best in a mildly acidic soil with a pH rating between 6.2 and 6.8. Run a soil test on your garden soil and amend it with lime to increase its pH or sulfur to decrease it. The best type of soil for growing tomatoes is a deep loam that drains rapidly. Adding a layer of topsoil at least 6 inches deep to soils that are heavy in sand or clay provides a fertile bed for growing tomatoes.
Tomatoes require regular watering in a well-drained soil to maintain healthy growth. Water your tomato plants often enough to keep the soil moist without saturating it. Saturated soil has visible water after pushing your finger into the soil. If the leaves of your tomato plant begin to curl in on themselves at the edges and turn yellow, increase the frequency of your watering regimen. Tomatoes typically require at least an inch of water per week over their roots.
Applying a layer of mulch 2 to 4 inches thick around the base of your plants reduces water loss and helps prevent competing weeds from taking hold around your tomatoes. Supporting your tomato plants with a wire cage ensures full fruit production and prevents root damage when your plants reach their mature height. Wire cages with a height and diameter of roughly 4 feet installed at planting time provide support for the plant when it reaches its full size.
Cleaning up tomatoes or leaves that drop to the ground prevents the spread of disease and pests among your tomatoes. Harvesting your tomato plants regularly encourages them to produce more tomatoes. Tomatoes are best harvested just before the fruit fully ripens on the vine to avoid sun scald and other problems. Tomatoes grown in containers often require fertilization to maintain regular growth. According to the Purdue University, complete fertilizers with a nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium ratio of 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 are best for tomatoes. Fertilizer is best applied at planting time, three weeks later and in small doses once every week afterwards.