The tomato is one of the seasonal moneymakers that farmers can go for. There are mainly two seasons of tomatoes a year, however, if one uses irrigation, tomatoes can be grown all year round.
The amount of tomatoes grown in Uganda is not recorded, however, the country exports to South Sudan and the DRC among others.
The most popular tomato varieties at the moment are Assila, VL 642, Ranger F1, Rounder F1 and moneymaker. These are popular because they yield highly and are resistant to wilts. These can be grown across most parts of the country, as long as the soils are loam, dark and fertile.
The seeds are packed in various sizes, from sachets of 25-50 seeds which cost sh2,000-sh5,000, 100 seeds which cost sh12,000, 1,000 seeds which cost sh43,000 and above.
An acre takes about 10,000 seedlings which cost about sh385,000. However, if you are not a commercial farmer, you can squeeze seeds from the tomatoes that you use at home, dry the seeds and then plant them. The cost of maintaining an acre of tomatoes from planting to harvesting is about sh5m.
This includes buying pesticides at about sh1m, two weedings at sh1m, watering the crops by labourers, that is if you do not have irrigation at sh1m and harvesting the crop through three months.
Prepare your nursery
Potting (putting seeds in pots) is ideal for producing vigorous seedlings from the nursery. Potting materials can be got from agri-input stores at about sh20-sh50 each. Mix one wheelbarrow of soil with another of decomposed manure. Manure, like chicken droppings and dung, can be got from livestock farmers. A 100kg bag costs between sh10,000 and sh15,000.
Alternatively, you can decompose your kitchen remains like leftovers, for three months in a covered pit to create manure. Mix 50g of DAP fertilisers in one wheelbarrow of decomposed, fi ne manure to enhance root establishment. A 50kg bag of DAP costs sh130,000. You need two bags per acre. Fill the mixture in pots and put one seed per pot.
Seed should be one inch deep. Arrange the pots in a line and cover them with grass. Water every morning with each seedling taking at least 30mm. Remove the grass after a week or upon germination. You can remove it by plucking it out using your hands.
Seedlings are ready for transplanting after three weeks. Transplant them in the evening to avoid withering.
Spacing: 90cm by 90cm without staking, 75cm by 75cm with staking. Staking is when small poles are placed near the plants for them to grow upwards on.
Create furrows in rows where the seedlings are to be transplanted. Put manure in the furrows. It can be NPK, with a teaspoonful in each hole. Dig holes for the transplants and incorporate DAP in holes — 5g per hole.
Mix the blend with the soil in the hole and put one seedling per hole Three days from transplanting, drench the root zone of the seedlings with Fertiactyl GZ (100ml of GZ in 20 litres). Twenty litres cost sh150,000. Make the second application of GZ a week after the fi rst application and top dress with 10g of NPK at four weeks from transplanting. Buy fertilisers and pesticides from only certified dealers to avoid fakes.
Make the second application after two weeks. If you have irrigation, water the crops at least three days a week, strictly in the mornings and evenings, to prevent evaporation.