Tomato production is an important part of Uganda’s economy as well as a food source for people.
Tomatoes are among the vegetable crops grown by small-scale farmers for home use and domestic markets and can be grown all year round.
Fiona Nabakooza, an agronomist and tomato farmer from Home Harvest, says most tomato farmers do not consider growing their seedlings in nursery beds, yet it is a very important step to be followed.
A nursery bed is a small area of a yard or garden that is used simply for growing certain selected plants without regard to design. Nurseries can work for ornamental plants or edible plants.
A nursery bed is especially helpful for vegetable gardeners practising succession planting, in which a steady supply of fresh produce is maintained by staggering the planting of seeds.
The goal of the nursery bed is to grow young tomato plants to a certain size at which they can be easily transplanted, a size at which they shall make an impression in the larger garden or the size/age at which they will flower.
“The purpose of a nursery bed is to raise healthy, vigorous and clean seedlings that are free from pests and diseases. It is, therefore, important that the site selected is free from both and preferably one that has not been used for crop production before,” Nabakooza says.
A nursery bed can also be used to evaluate plants to see if they are worthy of planting in the larger garden by observing their growth habits and colour or to watch them for pests and diseases without putting other garden plants at risk.
Nabakooza adds that soils in the nursery bed need to be treated to prevent the crops from issues such as diseases when transplanted to the main garden.
Tomato seedlings from a nursery bed perform well in the main garden, grow fast as the crop does not get stunted due to foundation challenges.
“Tomato crops are protected from pests and disease challenges because most of the work is done from the nursery bed. The crop is transplanted after three weeks to the main garden,” she Nabakooza says.