Growing high breed tomatoes

Saturday June 27 2020

A farmer picks ripe tomatoes from his g

A farmer picks ripe tomatoes from his garden. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

Please educate me on how to grow high breed tomatoes on one acre, from seedlings to maturity. Washington.
Dear Washington
Propagation and planting: They are propagated through seeds, which are sowed in a nursery and transplanted when 8-10cm tall to well-prepared beds or ridges.

Plants may also be raised from cuttings (suckers that are virus-free). Shelter may be needed to protect seedlings from wind, exposure to sun and excessive rainfall.

Spacing: Use 60-90cm between rows and 45-60cm within rows. There are other measurements but spacing to be adopted will depend on cultivar, soil fertility, training and pruning to be done, and type of spraying to be used. Direct seeding is recommended in areas where bacterial wilt and meloidogyne are endemic.

Seed rate: Use 200-500g/ha depending on spacing and viability of seeds.
Fertilisers: Use farmyard manure at 20 tonne/ha before transplanting, 200kg/ha DSP (10g/plant) at planting, then top-dress with 100kg CAN/ha applied in two splits.

First split is done when plants are 20-25cm and second at 3-5 weeks later. Excess N application results in more vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.

Training: Training in tomatoes involves both pruning and support. These practices are important when dealing with indeterminate tomato varieties.


Pruning would involve removal of axillary buds to end up with the desired number of shoots per plant or removal of excess flowers or fruits.

This improves the quality and early yields of fruits but may reduce total yields compared with the same planting density of unstacked and unpruned plants.

A support system is usually established when the plants are about 50cm high. Support can be by staking or trellising.
Pruned and supported tomatoes tend to suffer more sun scald compared to unpruned bushy tomatoes. In pruning, care should be taken not to damage the remaining plants or over expose the fruits.

Irrigation: Necessary in off-season or greenhouse crop. Crop has a high demand for water throughout the growing period.
Irregular watering together with lack of calcium may lead to blossom end rot. Erratic irrigation may also result in cracking and splitting of fruit skin.

Weeding: Frequent shallow weeding should be done. In untrained plants, weeding should be stopped after the crop forms a good canopy. Mulching is also effective in weed control.

Harvesting: It can start 70-100 days from transplanting for indeterminate cultivars or after 60 days for determinate ones.

During wet conditions, green mature fruits are harvested and ripened at warm conditions for several days. Tomatoes can be harvested at different stages of maturity: mature green stage, breaker stage — 10 per cent pink/red, turning stage — 10-30 per cent pink, pink stage — 30-60 per cent pink, light red stage — 60-90 per cent pink/red, red stage — 90 per cent red and table ripe — entire fruit is red.

For processing, harvest when fully ripe. For fresh market, the stage of harvesting will depend on distance from production to market, consumer preferences, transport system and handling facilities and time between harvest and sale.

I am about to lease 50 acres and I am thinking of growing onions in the second rainy season which will start in August. Yusuf
Dear Yusuf
Onion production is a good venture that will give you money within a short time. Other crops which you can plant and harvest in a short time and are profitable include potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon, cabbage and capsicum (green, red and yellow).

I would like assistance in getting market for my banana paper products that include carrier bags, business cards, folders and scrap books. Samuel

Dear Samuel
Marketing of various products is a key component in the production process, and should be considered prior to venturing into any agribusiness.

Nevertheless, I think your products are unique since they are made from organic material and are rare in the market. Hence marketing should not be a challenge.

You can invest in sales agents who can reach your potential customers. You can also market your products on online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, which have proven to be very effective. Good luck as you plan to conquer the market.

How do I eradicate snails from my kitchen garden? They are driving me crazy. They eat up my vegetables and flowers in the night and hide in the day. Oscar

Dear Oscar
Snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female organs, thus they can mate and reproduce or self–fertilise. This is why their population increases at an alarming rate.

There are several methods you can use to get rid of snails from your kitchen garden. You can sprinkle copper pellets around the base of the plants you want to protect.

Copper acts as a repellent due to its reaction with the mucous or slime on the snails and this produces an electric shock. You can also tie a copper tape around the periphery of the garden if it’s a small piece of land.
Crushed egg shells can be sprinkled at the base of the crops to make the snails not to climb the plants as they have sharp edges.

You can also place ground coffee at the base of the plants and the smell will repel the snails. Ducks, geese and other domestic animals can be used to feed on the snails.

Beer traps can also be used, whereby alcohol can be put in shallow containers which are partially buried into the ground especially at night when the snails are most active.

The smell of beer will attract the snails after which they become drunk and as they climb on the containers they drown.
Hand-picking can also be done if it’s a small piece of land.
This may be unhygienic but you can put on gloves.