How to easily grow tomatoes

Jan 24, 2012 by Olin Lagon | Story Popularity: 7

Eating local has a million benefits, though unfortunately, it can get expensive. We are committed to choose local when possible but honestly choosing local isn't always an easy decision. A basket of local strawberries here for $10.99, a small basket of local tomatoes there for $7.99, and then toss in a whole menpachi for $25.99 and the grocery bill starts quickly adding up. But there are ways to lower the costs of eating local, especially by growing some of your own food. Even if you have never grown anything edible before or don't have a yard, a good place to start is to grow cherry tomatoes. I've tried different ways of growing tomatoes over the past few years like using starter plants from the nurseries (pricey), starting from seed packets (works great), and using live tomatoes (works great and is cheap). Though all of these methods worked, here is what I recommend for the easiest and cheapest way to get started:

First, start with a couple of tomatoes that you like. I recommend buying a basket of mixed Ho tomatoes. They come in different sizes and colors. Just sacrifice a couple of them for planting. Next, fill a large pot (small works too) with soil and/or compost. I'd recommend using pure compost which retains water well, is full of nutrients, and can be easily made from your daily food scraps. Finally, slightly cover the seeds and water daily. You'll need to transfer your plants at some point to larger pots or into the ground. Tomatoes usually grow much better if they are supported with a fence-like structure next to it. As I show in the video, you can even use rotten tomatoes. They actually work better because you don't feel guilty planting perfectly edible food and mushy tomatoes are more accurate and controllable squirt guns.

I've found that depending on where you live, you have to figure out when to pick your tomatoes. Ideally, you want to wait until they are ripe. But sometimes waiting for ripeness doesn't work. Our roma tomatoes for instance get eaten by birds once they are about 75% red. So I pick them when they are just turning red. Our purple ones are ignored by birds so I can let those go until perfectly ripe. Also, if you want to always have a steady supply, you'll need to start new tomato plants every couple of months since the plants tend to die off after a few months of fruiting.

Good luck!


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  1. Jennifer Hee says:

    Wow--I never thought of squeezing the seeds out of rotten tomatoes! Thanks for the tip, Olin! P.S. I put Ziploc bags with holes cut in the bottom (to prevent condensation) on ripening tomatoes to keep the birds off my vine-ripening babies! Or if the tomato isn't in a hard to reach spot, I clip those clear plastic containers that grape tomatoes and strawberries come in over the tomato. I have been having trouble with the leaves getting some sort of mildew or fungus... don't know if you have any tips for keeping the leaves healthy and happy.

    • Olin Lagon says:

      Oh good idea on the ziploc a chef I can see why you would recommend taking action to maximize flavor :) Alani gave me a one pager on tips for keeping leaves healthy naturally. I''l try to journal about ideas on that sheet once I get a chance to try them out. As you can see in the video, we have lots of bugs. The larger tomato starter has those small bugs that eat into the leaves :-(

  2. Kasha Ho says:

    I LOVE this, Olin - I never thought to plant rotting vegetables. Reducing waste and growing food same time, brilliant!

    • Olin Lagon says:

      Thanks! And the plants are grown in 100% waste...I am still amazed that people toss out yard and food waste. Compost is the best thing ever for growing things.

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