They are called "Harzfeuer", "Moneymaker", "Red Zebra" or "Deutscher Fleiß" - tomatoes are not only one of the most popular vegetables in Germany. They also have imaginative names, are incredibly diverse and very healthy. Experts believe there are more than 10,000 varieties of the undemanding nightshade plant around the world. And the best thing is: the low-calorie vitamin C bombs can easily be grown and raised on the balcony or in your own garden. That's not only fun - the fruits from your own harvest also taste tastier than the imported goods from abroad that have matured in the greenhouse.
Here we explain how, with a little patience, the right timing, a few seeds and a little bit of luck, you won't have to buy tomatoes in the supermarket this year.
Admittedly, buying tomatoes at the weekly market or in the supermarket is much more convenient than growing them yourself from the tiny seed to the ripe fruit. And it's better to start a little earlier than too late. Because tomatoes must be preferred - unless you opt for pre-cultivated young plants from the garden trade.
The three most important tips for growing tomatoes
As a rule, after eight to ten days, the first seedlings fight their way through the soil to the sunlight. To prevent them from dying or interfering with each other's growth, the tomatoes should be pricked out after about three weeks, i.e. divided into individual plant pots. Because they are very sensitive to cold, the tomato plants have to stay indoors or in a small greenhouse on the balcony for a few weeks afterwards. They do not need fertilizer during this time. For this they should continue to be watered regularly. Trick: a short dry phase immediately before sowing gives root growth an additional boost. Here's a complete package with 7 varieties for balconies and beds.
Tip: For the balcony, experts recommend reaching for bush tomatoes (e.g. "Miniboy"). They grow compact and rather low and are considered to be extremely productive.
The young tomato plants are not allowed outside until mid-May at the earliest - more precisely after the Ice Saints, which according to an old farmer's rule bring cold polar air and ground frost to Central Europe again in the early summer. In 2023, the Eisheiligen should reach Germany between May 11th and 15th. If the plants are already outdoors, the cultivation could have been in vain.
Tomatoes are so-called heavy feeders. They take a lot of nutrients from the soil. These must be regularly replenished to the plants in the field in the form of fertilizer – ideally organic. With ready-made fertilizer from the garden center, meticulous attention should be paid to the dosage and the soil in your own garden should be taken into account. Sandy soils require significantly more additional fertilizer than, for example, loamy subsoil. Professionals already enrich their tomato beds with ripe compost in autumn and thus create a perfect basis for the plants, which are planted in mid-May. The seedlings should be planted deep enough so that the top of the root ball is covered with about two inches of soil. The ideal distance between plants is 50 to 60 centimetres. Then they have to be watered vigorously. Here is the right soil for your tomatoes.
Important: Tomatoes should be placed in a fresh bed every year. Why? Because soil pests proliferate when the plants are in the same spot every year.
By the way, herbs such as basil are suitable as easy-care and popular neighbors (here is a seed set for the herb garden), but also carrots, radishes, spinach, garlic, lettuce or celery. The spicy smell of the tomato leaves is supposed to drive away pests, experts suspect. Potatoes, peas and fennel, on the other hand, should be kept away from the tomatoes.
A green thumb, lots of love and a few little tricks. That's all it takes for a rich tomato harvest. As soon as the plants have formed flowers, they should be supplied with a tomato fertilizer every two weeks if possible. Basically, it is important that the plants do not get too big. As a rule, no more than five to seven inflorescences mature per plant. Surplus, so-called stingy shoots, can be clipped or broken out without hesitation. The leaves below the first infructescence are also superfluous and take away the sunlight from the lower fruits.
Tip: Apart from bush tomatoes, all tomato plants need a so-called climbing aid. The spiral sticks should be put into the ground when planted outdoors. The main shoot is constantly twisted through the coils to fix the plant.
Depending on the variety, the first outdoor/garden tomatoes are ready to harvest by the end of July at the latest, i.e. around four months after growing on the windowsill at home. We wish you "Bon appétit!"
Sources: Plantura; ndr.de; mein-schoener-garten.de
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