Labour weekend is traditionally Tomato planting time and with it being just around the corner its time to be getting ready to get your crop planted. The flavour and rewards of producing your own tomatoes is hard to match. If you only grow one crop this year make it Tomatoes, they can be used in so many ways and will reward you with kilos of fruit. Tomatoes don’t tolerate frost so be mindful if we get a sudden cold snap you will need to cover your plants to protect them overnight.
I bought some Haxnicks portable plastic tunnel houses to cover my early tomatoes as my glasshouse isn’t quite ready for use yet. Sadly my builder seems to have other projects on the go at the moment. The tunnels have been marvelous at keeping my early tomatoes alive through the recent frosts we have had.
10 tips will ensure a bountiful crop this season.
- Choose a sunny position in either your vegetable garden or on your patio or deck for a planter or pot. Tomatoes need 6 hours of sunlight a day to produce a good crop.
- Prepare the garden soil by digging it over well and blending in Tui Tomato Food prior to planting. If using a container make sure it has drainage holes and is at least twice the size of a kitchen bucket. I have planted 2 tomatoes in the new bright red tomato planters and placed them on my deck to protect them from the cold.
- Select a variety or type of tomato you want to grow. Tomatoes are readily available as plants in the garden shop or can be grown easily from seed. If you are new to growing tomatoes the easiest way to start is by purchasing ready grown seedlings.
- Planting. Garden Planting. Dig a hole, approximately twice the depth of the root ball and twice the width of the plant. Half fill the hole with Tomato potting mix. Place the seedling into the hole and fill in with remainder of potting mix. Firm in plant, water well. Stake as required.
Container Planting. Fill a suitable container with Tui potting mix. Plant the seedling in the centre of the container. Insert a stake to support the plant as it grows and water well.
- Tomato care. As the plants grow keep tying the stems to the stake, this will mean the plant will be able to support more fruit and keep them from falling on the ground. Remove laterals as soon as they appear. Tomatoes are gross feeders, the more you feed them the more they will feed you.
- Watering. Ensure the plants are well watered throughout the growing season. By adding saturaid to the soil it will enable to plants to use all the available moisture from the soil. Water the soil not the plant.
- Harvest. Tomatoes take between 3 and 4 months to mature. Leave the fruit on the plant until it’s ripe if possible. You can pick the fruit as soon as its changed colour and it will ripen indoors if left in a sunny position. If birds are a problem don’t reach for a weapon try using netting to keep them away from your crop
- Preserving. Ripe tomatoes taste best when stored at room temperature but will store for a month if kept in the fridge. Tomatoes can be used and preserved in so many ways. Relish, chutneys, soups, puree’s and sauces are all popular. www.foodlovers.co.nz has an abundance of tasty recipes to try.
- If you have some experience in growing tomatoes try growing heritage or heirloom varieties. There is a huge amount available like Black Cherry, Cherokee Purple, Evergreen and Big Rainbow, just to name a few.
- Save your seeds. At the end of the season try saving our own seeds. Simply squeeze out the pulp from ripe tomatoes and place seeds on paper and allow to dry for a few days. Once dry store in an airtight container in a cool dark place and sow next spring.
I spotted this new variety recently called Top Gun, according to the label it is one of the worlds best tomatoes which produces exceptional yields of fruit that are large and weigh approx 105 – 115 grams each. Now that’s a big tomato, I think I will give the new one a go this season and see if is a tasty as Tom Cruise was in the movie Top Gun.