Growing Beyond-Organic Tomatoes
Updated: Jul 6
By Fred Kipchumba - Tamalu Farm Production Supervisor
In recent years, demand for organic vegetables saw a sharp increase. Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are amongst the frontrunners. This is due to people becoming more health conscious. Organic vegetables are those that production does not involve application of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
The vast majority of organic tomato farming occurs in greenhouses. Organically produced tomatoes differ from conventionally produced in types of potting media, pest control practices and fertilization practices.
For organic vegetables, using land that is free from synthetic product use in over four years is crucial. That land should contain well-drained soil. Fertilization of this land is through approved compost, animal manures and green manures.
Crop rotation should be considered in organic farming as a way to avoid pest and disease problems. Use of cover crops is encouraged in organic farming. Not only do they provide organic matter, they prevent weed growth. Nitrogen fixing legumes are especially recommended because in addition to other uses, they provide nitrogen.
Considering that organic farming borrows no help of synthetics, it is very crucial to have healthy cultivars. Healthy cultivars in addition to healthy soil gives the farmer a greater chance at a having a greater yield. Healthy organic tomato seeds are resistant to pest and disease.
Tomatoes differ in colour, size, shape, flavour, acidity, and use. Tomatoes have two different growth habits; determinate, bushy with limited production or indeterminate, vining with longer season. Pollination can be hybrid, or open.
The cultivar of choice should be adaptable to local climatic conditions.
On average, a 140/70 piece of land should have 4000-5000 plants. Raised beds are better to work with and result in better production.
Mulching is useful. Not only do they conserve warmth and moisture, they also prevent growth of weeds.
Trellises and tomato support system are applied two or three weeks after transplanting. They cut post-harvest losses, enhance quality of fruit, and yields. These supports also make harvesting easier, cut on damages, and labour costs.
Pruning encourages development of fruit by cutting on vegetative growth. However, a balance between foliage and fruit must be maintained.
Drip irrigation helps conserve water by concentrating the water only where it is needed. Statistics show that drip irrigation, raised beds, and a black plastic mulch are a power trio.
Nutrition is crucial. The products below are from our partner, Ocean Agriculture, who is the only distributor of Cosmocel products in Kenya.
Mainstay Calcium helps in strengthening of skin hence aids in healing of Blossom end rot.
Mainstay Magnesium aids in uptake of other nutrients.
Cosmoroot is used to stimulate healthy root growth
Biocel is a foliar application that enhances chlorophyll inducing tomato growth and higher yields.
Pest and Disease Management
Tomatoes are susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases and in organic farming systems, pest management focuses on prevention, rather than elimination. Through good production and cultural practices such as air circulation, crop rotation, fertility balance, soil moisture control, most pests and diseases can be controlled.
Weed management is done through mulching, crop rotation, and proper site selection. The first few weeks are most critical in requiring a weed free environment.
Tomatoes are delicate vegetables that should be handled delicately during harvesting, grading, packaging, and transportation. Tomatoes are picked at the desired maturity of the market.
All harvesting, storage and packaging operations must comply with stated organic crops regulations.
On Tamalu Farm, our fertilizers and botanical biocides are exlsuvely from our parners, Ocean Agriculture (Biological Fertilizers), Charles Gerard (For Horticulture and Floriculture Accessories), and Organix Limited Kenya. Ocean Agriculture is currently the sole distributor of Cosmocel products (referred to above) in Kenya.
Interested in knowing more about their range of Bio Crop and Nutrition fertilizers? Click on the link to get in touch with Ocean Agriculture.