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Growing Vegetables/All year cropping of tomatoes using green house

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QUESTION: Dear Catherine,

I was wondering if you are in a position to advise on how to go about cropping tomatoes on a commercial basis year round using green house. Please note this is intended to be set up in a tropical country in Africa if that information is at all relevant. Please also note that I have not done anything at all as yet apart from securing a 5 hectare land I intend using for it hence I am at the real start of everything. Any assistance or pointers to where I could get the information and resource I need will be most appreciated. Ideally, a manual outlining a step-by-step guide on how to go about it all will be most appropriate.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Lanre.

ANSWER: Hi Lanre,

I have only grown tomatoes in Western Canada, so not sure what your climate or seasons are.  Are you thinking of growing them inside a greenhouse or outside in a field?  Do other farmers grow tomatoes in your area? If so, how are they growing them?  If not, do you have a market where you can sell or are you planning to process the tomatoes?  Do you have a good water source?  Some questions to ask yourself.

Tomatoes need lots of sun, heat and water to grow well. Tomato seeds need high temperature (25-30 degrees Celsius) to germinate.  Can you germinate in your soil or will you need to propagate. If you need to propagate you will need different equipment and a specific area for this. From seed to transplanting is about 4 months and then another 2 months to get fruit.  Depending on your climate you may be able to have two crops, however you also need to rotate tomatoes plants (growing in a different area every 3 or 4 years) to keep away pests and diseases.  So you need to plan to grow other vegetable crops to have a good rotation.

If you are growing indoors you can grow them more vertical, which helps to keep the fruit from spoiling, makes it easier to water and harvest.

Having fertile soil is the most important in my opinion.  Take time to increase the fertility of your existing soil by amending and fertilizing regularly.  If you have healthy soil you will have healthy plants and good harvests.  Divide your 5 hectares into 5 areas.  Plan to grow on 1 hectare or even 1/2 hectare  the first  year to start and keep the other areas planted in green manure (vetch, rye, peas) and cultivate the crop under just before it flowers.  This will add in organic matter into your soil and increasing the fertility.

The best advice I got when starting out was to start small and increase your cultivated area as you learn about what works and does not work.  Weeds can take over so quickly if the area is not managed well.  Another piece of advise I got when I decided to sell vegetables but to always have a buyer before you plant the seed.  Vegetables are so perishable that you do not have time once they are growing or  harvest to have time to find out where you are going to sell them.

I hope I was able to give you a few tips.  I would love to hear more about how your venture is going and if I can help further please let me know.  

I have more information on growing tomatoes on my website http://www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com/tomatoes.html

Happy gardening,
Catherine
your vegetable gardening helper



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Catherine,
Thanks so much for your very useful advice.
I plan to grow in a greehouse so am keen on finding a blueprint or step by step guide on how to go about it. Are you able to signpost me to any resource?
Thanks.
Lanre.

Answer
Laurie,

I do not have any specific site or book that could give you blueprint on growing.   When planning to grow for sale the first thing I would recommend is doing market research on who is your market and what and how much do you want to buy.  You also have to think of rotating your crop in order to keep your soil and plants pest and disease free so what crop other than tomatoes could you sell?  Have you made a business plan for your venture?

I do coaching sessions on skype if you want some specific information or strategies from me.  If your interested check out www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com/online-coaching.html

Happy gardening,
Catherine
your vegetable gardening helper

Growing Vegetables

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Catherine Abbott

Expertise

I am confident I can answer any questions about planting, growing and harvesting vegetables and culinary herbs. I am very knowledgeable and experienced in garden site planning and design, propagating, soil preparation, transplanting, pest control, disease management, watering, fertilizing, and composting.

Experience

I have been growing vegetables organically since 1993 first in my small backyard, then moving to a 2 acre plot where I grew vegetables for sale at our local farmers market and through a CSA (community shared agriculture). I started a popular website http://www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com in 2007 and have answered questions from all over the world through that site. I have 3 published Everything series books on gardening as well as several self published books for sale on my website.

Organizations
I volunteer and assist teaching disabled adults how to grow their own vegetable gardens. I have set up raised bed gardens in the front yards of their group homes and the gardens help to feed the households. I am very involved in our local farming community and am the treasurer and a garden mentor for a local society called One Straw, which promotes organic and sustainable practices for growing local food. I am a board of director for a government committee that is involved in keeping our ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) safe.

Publications
I have 3 published Everything series books: The Everything Grow Your Own Vegetables Book published in 2010. The Everything Root Cellaring Book published in 2011. The Everything Small Space Gardening Book set to be published Jan 2012. I have 3 self published garden design books: Vegetable Garden Plans for your Raised Beds. Vegetable Garden Plans for Square Foot Gardening. Vegetable Garden Plans for Row Gardening. I have a self published book on soil building: Why is Soil so Important? Tips on Amending and Fertilizing I also publish a yearly journal promoting garden planning and planting by the moon cycles. The current one is called "My 2012 Vegetable Garden Journal" I write articles that are published at EzineArticles.

Education/Credentials
I teach gardening classes on propagating, pest and disease management, and soil fertility at our local community center. My education came from my mother, mentors, and growing my own gardens.

Past/Present Clients
I write a monthly newsletter for my gardening website and send it to a email list of over 1200 gardeners. I write articles for EzineArticles. I have had numerous local clients through gardening classes and mentoring.

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