Tomatillos are small, round and green fruits that look very similar to green tomatoes.
They are a native plant of Mexico and feature heavily in many Mexican recipes and dishes.
In some areas it can be difficult to buy tomatillos and many gardeners decide to try to grow them at home as a result.
Tomatillos are easy to grow. They are a low maintenance plant that grows well in most climates and soils, even in the cooler areas of the United States. Growing tomatillos at home is also relatively inexpensive because you only need two plants to produce plenty for your fresh salsa needs.
How long does it take tomatillos to grow?
Your tomatillo plants should start producing fruits around the third or fourth month.
The plants usually produce at least between 100 and 200 fruits each so you will have plenty to enjoy.
Tomatillos may, however, take longer to mature than green tomatoes.
You may need a full nine months before your tomatillos are ready for harvest as opposed to the six months needed for green tomatoes.
Growing tomatillos close together will ensure that plants are productive and it is possible to have more than one crop of tomatillos in a growing season, thereby making them even easier to grow than you originally thought.
How do I plant my tomatillo seeds?
Obviously, you will need to first purchase your seeds. They are widely available online, in garden centers and even some supermarkets.
You should then soak the seeds overnight prior to planting.
This ensures the seeds have time to germinate properly. Sprinkle them around your chosen growing area before covering with a thin layer of seed compost or soil.
Once the seeds have germinated and begun to grow you should thin them out so they are not too close together, as this will make it more difficult for the plants to ripen.
Let your tomatillo seedlings grow in a sunny position in the garden with well-drained soil and protect from pests using netting or something similar.
The tomatillo is a warm-season crop, usually best grown in the warmer months, although it can survive cooler conditions.
However, if you live in an area where temperatures regularly drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit then growing your plants under glass may be better as they will become stressed and could die.
Can tomatillos be grown in pots?
Tomatillos can be grown in pots successfully. Just make sure that you use a large enough pot so your plant does not become root-bound.
This will encourage the plant to send out more roots, helping it to grow more healthy and productive.
Tomatillo plants will also need plenty of room for their leaves as these are very large and need plenty of room to grow.
Use a potting soil for tomatillos and make sure the compost is well-drained so your plants do not suffer from waterlogging.
Tomatillo plants will also need more sunshine than green tomatoes, so place them in a sunny spot where they can get at least six hours of sunlight each day.
When growing tomatillo plants in pots you should use a saucer to catch the excess water, otherwise the leaves may rot and die.
Make sure there is good drainage at the bottom of the pot so you do not have any problems with soggy soil.
What does my tomatillo need?
Tomatillos grow best in well-drained soil that is a mixture of potting compost and garden soil.
The plants need plenty of room to grow so make sure you use the largest container possible.
Tomatillos are not long-lived, meaning they will need to be replaced every few years because they do not live for more than three or four years.
You plant will also need lots of water and the plants should not be allowed to dry out as they could get severely stressed.
If you live in a mild climate where there is little or no frost then it is possible to grow tomatillos outside when there are few nights below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius).
However, if you have a cold climate where temperatures regularly fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) then growing tomatillos in containers is the best way to ensure they grow successfully.
Do tomatillos need cages?
Tomatillos can grow quite tall and, like tomato plants, will need some form of support to stop them from falling onto the ground.
A simple cane at the side of the plant will provide enough support for the tomatillo plants.
How should I water my tomatillo?
Tomatillo plants are heavy feeders and will need regular watering.
This is particularly important during the flowering and fruiting period, because it needs enough nutrients to produce a good crop.
Water with a liquid seaweed fertiliser at every watering to ensure your tomatillo gets all the essential nutrients it needs during this vital stage in its life cycle.
You can also drench the soil at this time using compost tea as it will improve the structure of the soil, making it less compact and easier for your plant to grow.
Too much fertilizer can be harmful to your plant so make sure you only use enough to feed the plants, not drown them.
What do I do when my tomatillo starts to flower?
Once your plant has produced its first flowers you will need to start taking care of it differently than before.
You will need to stop watering the plant from underneath and instead use a gentle mist to keep it hydrated.
As the flowers start to develop you will also need to be careful not to touch them as this could damage the fruits that are developing inside each flower.
When harvesting tomatillos, always pick them when they have turned yellow or bright green in color, as this is when they are at their most flavorful.
Where do tomatillos grow best?
Tomatillos like sun but will also tolerate partial shade.
However, they do not do well in full shade as the plants may become spindly and lose most of their leaves.
Tomatillo plants like the warmth of a greenhouse so the temperature should be kept above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius).
Do you need 2 tomatillo plants?
To get the best results you will need to have two or more tomatillo plants.
This will improve pollination levels and, of course, with two or more plants you’ll get more fruit.
How do I know when my tomatillo is ready to harvest?
Tomatillos are not harvested until the fruits have reached full size; this usually takes about four weeks.
The fruit will start out green and it’s important to keep checking for any signs of color change as you don’t want to pick them too early or they won’t be as sweet.
The fruit is ready to harvest once it has turned a bright yellow color and the husk around the outside of the fruit starts to pull away from the fruit itself.
Once you reach this stage you can pick your tomatillos and leave them on a windowsill indoors for a couple more days, turning them every now and again so they don’t all grow flat.
Once you see the husk start to split open at the bottom then it is time to harvest your tomatillos.
Tomatillos are a great, unusual vegetable that you can grow yourself in your garden.
They have a tart and citrus type flavor and are normally cooked before being eaten and form the basis for salsas and other Mexican dishes.
Growing tomatillos is easy, but it won’t work in a climate where the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius).
If this is so then growing them indoors or inside a greenhouse will be the best options.
Don’t forget to water your tomatillos regularly and feed them a good quality fertizer.
This will make sure that you have successful, healthy plants that provide good levels of healthy fruit.