Tomatillo Planting, Growing, Harvesting - Enjoy this tangy twist on tomatoes!
How to Grow Tomatillos
Tomatillos have a tangy, citrusy flavor and they are most often used to make green salsa. Tomatillos are not the same as tomatoes, but they are related and just as easy to grow. You can grow tomatillos in a garden in your back yard or using containers. Try adding these unique, flavorful fruits to your garden for something new and delicious!
Planning to Grow Tomatillos
Choose a variety of tomatillos.There are a few different varieties of tomatillos to choose from. You can opt for a green or purple variety of tomatillo. Be sure to check the growing conditions on the seed packet or plant tag to determine if the plant will grow well in your area. You may also consider where you want to plant, such as in the ground or in containers.
- Purple tomatillos grow especially well in containers and the fruits they produce are smaller than green tomatillos, so this might be a good option if you have a limited area to grow tomatillos.
Plan to grow at least 2 tomatillo plants.Tomatillos will not bear fruit unless you plant them side by side. Start or purchase at least 2 tomatillo plants to ensure that your plants will bear fruit. Place them next to each other in containers or in your garden.
- The wind will carry the pollen from plant to plant. You do not need to do anything to make this happen.
Identify a growing area.Tomatillos need to be in soil with good drainage and have full sun for a good part of the day. Select an area that drains well or use an above ground planter. Plant your garden in a sunny area of your yard or position the planter so that it will get lots of sun
- Tomatillos also grow well in containers, so you might consider planting tomatillos in terra cotta pots.
Start seedlings in pots of soil 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost.Fill a small terra cotta pot with soil and make a hole 0.25 inches (0.64 cm) deep. Place 1 seed into the hole. Start as many seeds as you want to grow.
- Water the plant well the first time. After that, water it about once per week or whenever the soil starts to feel dry.
- Place the pots in a sunny spot where they will not be disturbed by pets or children, such as up on a high windowsill. If your windows do not get a lot of sunlight, you can also place the plants under light bulbs for 14 to 16 hours per day.
- The seedlings will be ready to plant in the ground or transfer to a larger pot when there are 5 to 7 leaves on each plant and the root system is well developed.
Purchase tomatillo plants if you don’t have time to germinate.If you are starting your garden later in the season, you will not have time to start seeds indoors. Go to a nursery or the garden section of a home improvement store to find tomatillo plants. Choose your desired variety of tomatillo.
- Make sure that you buy healthy looking plants that are not wilted or brown.
- Remember to purchase at least 2 plants.
Space plants 3 feet (0.91 m) apart.Tomatillos grow about 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.22 m) in height and about 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.22 m) in width, so it is important to give the plants plenty of room to grow. Plant the plants so that they have 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.22 m) between them and other plants. Make sure that the rows are 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.22 m) apart as well.
Dig a hole that is deep enough to completely cover the roots.The holes will need to be about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) deep to accommodate the plants. You can check to see if the holes are deep enough by placing the plant into them. The top of the soil on the plant should be level with the ground.
Add some organic mulch to the soil.To enrich the soil before you cover the roots of the plants, mix in some organic mulch, such as grass clippings.Another option is to mix a bag of all-purpose fertilizer into the garden soil before planting. Spread out the bag over a 100 feet (30 m) area.
Use cages to support the plants.Tomatillo plants produce lots of fruit, and the stems may sag into the soil from the weight of the tomatillos. To avoid sagging stems, place a cage around the each of the plants.
- Keep in mind that the stems will take root if they sit in the soil for too long. Check the plants regularly and lift any sagging stems up and over the cage to support them.
Taking Care of Tomatillos
Water once per week.Tomatillos require regular watering, but it is not necessary to keep them saturated. Plan to water them well once per week, or twice per week during extra hot or dry weather.
- To reduce the risk of mold developing, try to avoid getting water on the leaves and stems of the tomatillos. Water at the base of the plant instead.
Pinch back new shoots to control growth.Tomatillos will easily grow out of control if you do not keep a close watch on them. If you are concerned about the tomatillos growing too much, watch for new shoots and pinch them back as they appear.
Check for diseases and pests.Tomatillos are resistant to diseases and have few threats from insects and other pests, but you should still be on the lookout for these issues so that you can treat the plants if necessary. Some of the diseases and pests that may afflict tomatillos include:
- Cutworms. These are worms whose larvae feed on the inside of tomatillos, and on the stems and leaves. Several insecticides can help to control cutworms including
- Root-knot nematodes. These insects feed on the roots, which causes the plants to wilt.
- Tobacco budworms. The larvae of these worms eat the inside of tomatillos.
- Whiteflies. These flies eat the underside of tomatillo leaves.
- Black spot. This disease causes black spots on the leaves and fruit. Apply a fungicide to the plants.
- Tobacco mosaic virus. This disease causing wilting, decreased size, and reduced yield. You will need to remove the affected plants to prevent the disease from spreading.
Harvesting and Storing Tomatillos
Harvest when the husks split.Split husks are a good indication that the tomatillos are ready for harvest. You should start to see the first fruits with split husks at around day 65 of your plant’s life cycle. Harvest immediately when you notice split husks.
- Once the tomatillos start to turn yellow, the fruit will lose its tanginess and will no longer be ideal for making salsa and other dishes where this flavor is desired. Make sure to harvest your tomatillos while they are still green.
Pick up any dropped tomatillos to prevent overgrowth.Tomatillos that fall onto the ground and remain there will become new tomatillo plants the following year. Since each tomatillo contains many seeds, leaving the fallen tomatillos on the ground could result in an extremely overgrown garden. Pick up these fallen tomatillos whenever you notice them.
- You can add tomatillos to your compost pile.
Use or store fresh tomatillos as soon as possible.Tomatillos will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 1 week after you harvest them, so use them as soon as possible. If you will not be able to use them within a week, you can also store them in a refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
- To store tomatillos in the refrigerator, keep the husks on and place them in a paper bag.
Video: Growing Tomatillos
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