Why a WaterUps® wicking bed is best for growing tomatoes
12 September 2018
The simple answer is that tomatoes (“Lycopersicon Esculentum”) fruit best when they have a consistent soil moisture level. They are also thirsty plants. According to Ohio State University, they need around 38mm of water each week to fruit. Therefore, if you are using conventional above ground watering method, maintaining an even and consistent moisture level can mean watering both in the morning and the evening. Even then it is difficult to be sure that your tomato plants are getting the optimal amount of water. So why not let the plants themselves decide? That is exactly what happens in a WaterUps® wicking bed. Refer to our website for more information.
One of the most important things to remember with tomatoes is to never let the soil become dry. If that happens not only will it affect fruiting, but the plant itself can develop all types of problems. For example, inconsistent watering can make your plants prone to blossom end rot.
The combination of a significant and frequent water requirement makes growing tomatoes a perfect plant for a WaterUps® wicking bed.
So, apart from the consistent watering provided by your WaterUps® wicking bed, what are the key considerations for successfully growing tomatoes:-
The right soil
The right soil for your tomatoes will have a pH of 6.5 to 6.7, which is similar to most vegetables. Given that 7.0 is neutral from a pH perspective, you want your soil to be slightly acid. If it is too acidic you need to add some lime. If it is too alkaline you will need to add some sulphur to bring the pH down.
You will also need to ensure that your soil is friable and contains plenty of organic matter and compost. This will not only provide your tomatoes with necessary food but improve soil aeration which will improve the wicking process – refer to our previous blog post.
When planting the tomato seedlings in your WaterUps® wicking bed, plant them quite deep in the soil. You can actually plant them down to the bottom leaf of your seedlings as they will root from the stem. A stronger and larger root system will produce a healthier plant with better fruiting capability.
Be careful not to plant your tomatoes too close together. Make sure they are at least 40cms apart.
Plenty of sun
Tomatoes like plenty of sun, ideally up to 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Planting at the right time
Don’t plant your tomatoes too early. In addition to plenty of sun they also like a consistent warm temperature.
The right structure to support your plants
Tomatoes need a good structure to grow on to both access consistent light and to support the weight of the fruit. Build your frame or cage when you plant because tomatoes will grow quickly and you don’t want to be trying to add a cage for them to grow on.
Picking your crop
It will take between 10 and 14 weeks for your tomatoes to mature. Smaller cherry tomatoes will mature a couple of weeks quicker. The best time to pick them is just as they are changing colour.
Like most of our vegetable, tomatoes are also a favourite of our local fauna. I add mesh to my growing structure to protect the ripening fruit from the possums, rodents and birds that constantly oversee my WaterUps® wicking bed.