Aloha Hawaii Home & Garden Network,
There’s nothing better than an organically grown tomato picked straight from your backyard or lanai home garden. Store bought tomatoes are grown to look perfect, store nicely and ship easily. Taste is not the priority. Plus, they’re expensive. I found large tomatoes at $2.99 per pound and vine ripened tomatoes at $3.49 per pound at a chain grocery.
Good thing we live in Hawaii. We can grow tomatoes year-round in our very own organic produce home garden. Plants will typically produce tomatoes if the temperature does not fall below 55 degrees. You can grow a variety of wonderful tomatoes you can’t find in most stores, including heirlooms. You can use seeds but I prefer to use starters. Seeds are more labor intensive and starters get you up and going a lot faster. Some may think seeds offer a greater selection of varietals but I have been noticing local varietal starters such as Komohana Grape, Anahu Bush and UH-Kewalo. Starters can be found in home improvement stores or nurseries for typically under $2.00. Tomatoes can be successfully grown in a backyard garden or a container, so there are no space limitations.
Want to set up a container home garden on your lanai? Here’s what you will need: inexpensive potting soil, a container, starters and a trellis. The trellis is so useful for both container and backyard gardens. They keep the plants upright so pruning and harvesting is easier and they help keep the insects and critters away. This is helpful because no pesticides can be used in organic gardening.
The container should be large enough to allow the tomatoes to grow properly. I use a 14″ x 14″ pot. There should be at least one, 1” hole on the bottom of the container for proper drainage. Place dirt and the trellis in the container. The trellis should be stable and stand upright. Dig a hole and gently remove each tomato plant from its original container and place it in the hole. The plant should be at the base of the trellis so the tomato will be supported as it grows. You can gently arrange the leaves around the sides of the trellis. If you have the space, I would certainly suggest planting starters directly in the ground, or buy more containers for your home garden. You can plant more! Make sure the plant is placed at the base of the trellis to support its upright growth and make sure you can access the plants easily.
Whether they are in the ground or in a container, make sure they get a lot of water and sun. Standard instructions tell us to grow tomatoes in full sun. I live mauka on the Big Island so full sun isn’t always an option. The plants do fine with sun and some cloud cover. Please keep the soil moist. I am spoiled. I rarely water during hurricane season as it rains almost every day. I must be more diligent during the drier winter months when consistent watering is required.
I like to prune any yellow or dead leaves from my plants. It keeps your home garden looking great and lets me keep an eye on ripening tomatoes. Although I don’t use them, there are many tomato fertilizers on the market. Remember, no pesticides.
When will you see the results of your work? Depending on the variety, fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit) will be ready to harvest approximately 2 to 3 months from the time you plant the starters. Then you just pick, wash, share and enjoy!
To read our last story on creating an organic home garden for lettuce, and to see past issues of the HHGN magazine, click on any of the photos above.