Do you know that you can start earning good income and even become an employer of labour by growing tomatoes? Let me show you how to do this.
Tomatoes are among the food stuffs we can’t do without, we use them in most of the delicacies we prepare. Tomatoes can be seen as fruit and as vegetable. As a fruit you can eat it and extract the juice for other purposes, as a vegetable you use it in preparation of varieties of cooked meals.
Due to the high consumption rate of tomatoes in Nigeria and other African countries, the demand is high and sometimes the supply of tomatoes doesn’t meet up with the level of demands available for it. Therefore, a large part of tomatoes used in the country by consumers and canned tomatoes manufacturing companies are imported. Also, there is less competition in this business, as there are not many persons involved in the business in Nigeria and even in Africa.
Health benefits of tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes have a lot of health benefits, some of the benefit includes :
- It helps us maintain healthy hair due to the presence of vitamin A.
- It helps in managing high blood pressure.
- The juice of tomatoes can be used as a facial cleanser because, it is rich in lycopene which makes the skin soft and shiny.
- Cooked tomatoes produces more Lycopene which acts as an antioxidant against cancerous cells.
- When eaten as a fruit, fresh tomatoes has its ways of reducing sugar levels in diabetic patients.
- Fresh tomatoes help to improve vision and prevents night blindness.
- Eating fresh tomatoes regularly helps the kidney to be in good shape and prevents kidney stones.
- Tomatoes helps in maintaining strong bones due to the amount of vitamin K and calcium it has.
With all these health benefits of tomatoes, you can see the usefulness and its essence in every home.
Going into the business of farming tomatoes is quite easy and it can be done anywhere in the country. However, the northern part of Nigeria grows more tomatoes than any other part of the country, due to the large amount of land available and soil compatibility.
Like I said tomatoes can be grown anywhere, not just in the northern states alone but right at your backyard or garden. However, in this article, we shall focus on commercial tomatoes farming.
Steps involved in tomatoes farming
- Site selection: You need to choose a good land with healthy soil that will enable your crops grow well.
- Planting: Tomatoes comes in different types, the most common in Nigeria are the cherry and plum types. The plum tomatoes can grow in all weather conditions. The most effective way of planting your tomatoes is by planting it in the nursery first, before transplanting to the farm. The nursery bed should be about 25cm high, 65cm wide and 6cm long, your nursery bed should be prepared in 5 weeks, and you have to consider applying organic manure to the seed bed so as to provide rich soil for healthy growth. Planting is done at the beginning of the raining season usually between March/April. After planting your tomatoes, the next 5-7 days your plant starts growing and you have to leave it in the nursery for a month before you think of transplanting. Your nursery can be done in your little garden or different flower pots.
- Transplanting: Tomatoes are fragile crops and it is better you transplant it the same day you uproot it from the garden to your field. If this is not done, it may become dehydrated and die. It is advisable transplanting be done with hand instead of using a machine because the crops may not be able to withstand the pressure of the machine. The soil should be open and moist to receive the seedlings you are sending to it. Do not forget to give the right spacing while transplanting your tomatoes. You need to give 2 feet space so your tomatoes can grow well, without the appropriate spacing the crops might not to produce as much as they should.
- Irrigation: This should be practiced well during the dry season from Oct to Feb, water your crops at least every 3 days, depending on the type of soil you planted on. Do not over do this so the crops don’t crack.
- Fertilizers and weed removal: Weeding can be done two months after the crops have been transplanted. You can add fertilizers to your crops after weeding. It is better to make use of organic manure or something similar to restore most of the nutrients lost from weeding. Weeding can be done with machines or weed control chemicals, but if you are using any of these, do not allow get too close to the crops.
- Pest control: Just like every other crops, tomatoes also get disturbance from various pests common to crops like: cutworm, red spider mite, Aphids, bacteria wilt etc. You can control these pests by doing crops rotation, and by destroying infested crops, make sure you burn these infested crops away from the field not close to healthy crops.
- Harvesting: By 8 week up till 12 weeks which is within 3 months, your tomatoes is ready for harvest, you will know when to harvest by the color, size and quality of the tomatoes, depending on the specie you planted. If your tomatoes fall off the stem without getting ripe, you can place it in a paper bag, cover it and store in a cool place to get ripe.
- Storage: You can store tomatoes in baskets, and keep in a room temperature of about 12°C.
How to care for your tomatoes
- Water regularly, as this will enable it get strong roots. Watering your crops is best done in the morning, avoid doing so at night or afternoon. Allow your crops space to dry out before watering to avoid it being too damp.
- Place flat rocks side by side of your plant, it helps to retain water from evaporating easily.
- Build stakes to support your crops, you can also tie the stem to a stake to support the plant.
- Trim all lower leaves as the crop is growing.
- Endeavor to fertilize the crops.
- Practice crop rotation, to avoid pest and diseases.
- Hardening your seedlings. Not hardening your seedlings makes it unable to adjust to the change in temperature and weather. To ensure that your seedlings are ready for transplanting, you need to expose them gradually few hours daily for up to 10 days before transplanting.
- Avoid planting your tomatoes to close to each other, so as to avoid stunted growth, adequate spacing of 2 feet is recommended and the spacing help the crops to receive enough sunlight.
- Pick the right type of tomatoes to grow, this enables your tomatoes to remain fruitful all year round.
- Pruning helps your plant to bear fruit instead of producing fresh leaves only.
- Avoid over-fertilizing. In as much as you need to fertilize your crops, over-fertilizing them is dangerous to their health too, fertilizers gives your crops nitrogen, but when these nitrogen are in excess it causes your plant to produce leaves instead of fruits. To avoid these issues, I advise you use animal manures to fertilize.
There are majorly two types of tomatoes – determinate and indeterminate types. Determinate tomatoes grow to be a certain size before bringing and can may not need support if you want. Determinate type keeps bringing out their fruits at once after which it stops growing.
While the indeterminate type grows as big as you want it, requires much room to grow and also needs support from cages or stakes.
Marketing your tomatoes
Tomatoes farming is a very lucrative business, and it has a ready market, with or without marketing. However, with proper marketing it sells even faster and you make more profit.
Marketing your tomatoes is a crucial part of farming, because tomatoes are perishables and it is not as durable as other consumables like rice and beans. Therefore, it is good to have ready distribution network of buyers to supply your products to before harvesting your tomatoes from your farm.
Make your market ready and expectant, so that you don’t have leftovers from the harvested crops. You can sell to wholesalers and retailers in local markets. Also, you can link up with processed canned or packaged tomatoes manufacturing companies, so that you can become one of their suppliers.
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