Fresh home grown Tomatoes can't be beaten for flavour and taste. Nothing you find at the super market will ever match your home grown crops. Mid to late spring is the perfect time to plant out tomatoes. These versatile fruits are easy to grow and all you need is a container or vegetable patch in a sunny position to grow a bountiful crop. Tomatoes are a valuable source of the powerful antioxidant Lycopene. This antioxidant certainly packs a punch; it helps the body fight infections and diseases. Strong scientific evidence suggests that Lycopene can reduce the incidence of prostate cancer and other cancers, plus cardiovascular diseases. Tomato based health shakes must be the new health tonic surely! How many more reasons do we need to grow our own Tomatoes?
Tomatoes varieties come in all shapes, flavours, tastes and sizes. Choose a variety that suits your needs. For new gardeners the cocktail or cherry varieties are easy to grow in a pot and can be forgiving if not watered for a day or two.
Popular Tomato varieties:
Small Cocktail varieties - Sweet 100, Black Cherry, Gardeners Delight, Sun Cherry
Salad varieties - Money Maker, Best Boy, Red Beacon, Celebration, Russian Red
Large Fleshy varieties - Beef Steak, Delicious, Big Beef
Acid Free varieties - Roma, Acid Free
Choose a sunny position protected from strong winds for your tomato crop. If growing in containers choose a pot or bag at least the size of a kitchen bucket (30L size is ideal) and make sure to grow one plant per bag or pot. In the garden, dig over your soil prior to planting and blend in Tui Tomato fertiliser. If growing in containers use Tui Tomato mix for planting your tomatoes into.
Select healthy seedlings and plants. Alternatively you can germinate your own seedlings. Choose varieties that best suit you needs and taste.
Water plants well prior to planting. Plant out in the morning or evening, when it's cooler to avoid planting stress. Dig a bigger hole than the plants root ball, plant and firm the soil or potting mix firmly around the plant. Unless growing a dwarf variety, tomatoes will require a strong stake, approximately 2 metres in length, for support. Position the stake at planting time to avoid growing roots.
Water daily as the weather gets hotter and we move into summer to prevent soil drying out. Tomatoes enjoy a moist soil but not water logged. As the plants grow attach growing stems to the stake. Tomatoes are gross feeders, the more you feed them the more they will feed you. Fertilise with Phostrogen soluble Tomato food once a week while the plants are growing and setting fruit. Reduce to fortnightly once fruit has formed. Cover plants with netting if birds or rodents are helping themselves to your crop.
Leave your Tomatoes on the plant until they are ripe if possible. Ideally pick on a sunny day when fruit is dry. If you pick the stalk along with the tomato it will help prolong the length of the fruit after harvesting. Non ripe Tomatoes that are still green will ripen if left somewhere warm and sunny.
Enjoy your crop in salsas, salads, sandwiches or try making tasty soups, relish, sauces and marinades. What ever you do, savour, taste and enjoy! If you only grow one crop this year make it Tomatoes, they can be used in so many ways and when grown well each plant will reward you with kilos of fruit.