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Growing Vegetables – Tomatoes

 Tips for Growing Tomatoes
Tomatoes are the prime crop for a backyard garden. They are a symbol of Summer. To bite into the juicy flesh, experiencing the exploding flavour as the seeds  burst into your mouth, is all the more sweet for having grown it yourself.
Last year I made chutney and relish and added tomatoes to many meals. This year I have planted at least double the quantity of plants. I am hoping to be able to make some sauce in addition to more relish and chutney.
I saved the seeds from my favorite plants last year and they are now growing in my garden again this year. I planted them about two months ago. When they were first planted I watered them regularly and protected them from cool evenings by bringing them out of the shed each morning and taking them back in in the evenings until the weather warmed and they grew in size.
 
The varieties of tomatoes available are numerous! I prefer to stick to the heirloom and/or organic varieties.
My favourite varieties to date have been:
  • Tigerella
  • Black Russian
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • Principe Borghese

I am growing these from the seeds I collected from my plants last year.

This year I have also planted seeds of:

  • Rouge de Marmande
  • Roma San Marzano
  • Beams Yellow Pear

and a Beams Yellow Pear plant to try to get a head start on the season.

Excessive you think? I really want to make sauce this year and didn’t have a large enough crop to make sauce last year….

Planting:

  • Plants should be in the ground (weeks ago) NOW
  • It is recommended to add broken egg shells to the hole you plant the plant into to allow for a good calcium supply to help prevent blossom end rot. Shells can also be sprinkled around the plant as it grows. This is said to result in slower absorption.
  • Plant in the garden once the frosts have passed. Allow at least 50 cm between plants space between plants and it is recommended that rows are about 1 meter apart. I have failed to follow this particular guideline in my garden….
  • Seeds germinate at soil temperatures from 18 degrees
  • Plant basil and/or parsley as a companion
  • Avoid planting where potatoes have been recently grown  
  • Tomatoes can be grown in pots but they will require frequent watering and fertilising. Plus a very good quality soil

Growing:

  • Water regularly, but do not over-water as this will dilute the flavour. Wait until the soil is dry to water
  • Don’t plant in the same place each year
  • Remove laterals to encourage strong healthy growth and less busy plants. For instructions on how to do this you can read my post here.
    • A lateral is the shoot that grows between the main stem and a leaf
  • Ensure that there is only one main stem for each plant, remove extras when the plant is young
  • Stake your plants to provide support and keep the fruit from rotting on the ground and being eaten by snails. Secure the stem with soft cloth, old stockings, or soft ties
  • Remove any leaves at the base of the plant that are yellowing and any that are showing signs of mould under the leaves
  • Tomatoes prefer – good drainage, full sun, or partial sun – although in the tropics there are numerous tomatoes that will not grow well – for more details click here
  • Do not water the plants from overhead. Water at the base of the plants to avoid fungal diseases
  • Fertilise with a general organic fertiliser, or plant based potash fertiliser if you have sandy soil. I generally fertilise when the plants start to flower, ready to fruit and again when they have been fruiting for a month
  • Mulch around the base of the plant to assist with water retention once the plants are established

Grow Tomatoes

Eating:

The list of things you can cook with tomatoes is limited by your imagination.
They are well matched with basil, parsley, red meat, cheeses, avocado, chilli, artichoke, pepper, salt
Here are few of my favorite things to make with fresh tomatoes:
 
Fresh Tomato Chutney Recipe
 
They are amazing roasted in the oven with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, olive oil and balsamic, or eaten on a fresh, thick slice of sour dough bread.

References:

Jamie at Home, Jamie Oliver, Penguin, London, 2007
Kitchen Garden Companion, Stephanie Alexander, Lantern, Camberwell, 2009
The Australian Gardening Encyclopedia, Murdoch Books, Millers Point, 2004
Organic Gardening in Australia, P Pears (ed.), Dorling Kinderskey, Camberwell, 2006
 Kyrstie
A Fresh Legacy
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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Miss Piggy December 5, 2012, 11:09 am

    I need SO much help with my tomatoes…I just don’t “get” the pruning thing at all…

    • Kyrstie December 6, 2012, 9:31 pm

      Miss Piggy, removing laterals is not a requirement so don’t stress. Many people choose not to do it. I do it as I think it makes the fruit tastier, it is something I have been taught by someone way more experienced than me and it makes the plants less wild! Therefore, I can fit more in.

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