You can never have too many tomatoes in your garden: they can be preserved, frozen and shared with friends! These tips will help ensure harvest success with the tomatoes in your garden.
Start tomato seeds under glass in suitable climates, or buy sturdy seedlings without yellowing or spots. As soon as you get seedlings home, apply dusting sulphur to ensure you have no pest or fungal problems.
Plant at the right time. Tomato roots can’t grow in cold soil: plants will sulk and sicken, so check your microclimate. In my garden, seedlings planted in early November overtake and are healthier than those planted in late September. I now pot seedlings in October into black plastic pots under a cloche. The potting mix warms early, and the cloche keeps leaves dry and less prone to fungal disease.
Tomatoes crop best in full sun, although late afternoon shade in hot regions minimises sun scald. Fruit set reduces when temperatures exceed 29°C: to avoid this, drape shade cloth or vegie net over plants in the hottest part of the day.
Give tomatoes rich, well-drained soil: incorporate plenty of organic matter, raise beds in poorly drained areas, and add gypsum to clay. A generous pinch of sulphate of potash around each seedling increases yields, but wait until they’ve developed their first flower truss to fertilise with additional manure or balanced organic fertiliser,
or you’ll get lush plants without flowers.
Support tomato plants with stakes, weldmesh panels or cages – even determinate bush tomatoes benefit from a wide cage that keeps fruit off the ground. I no longer prune indeterminate staking tomatoes to a certain number of leaders, and just let them reach the top of the support where I tip prune them. With cages, weave in shoots whenever you pass by.
Water regularly, using drip irrigation to keep foliage dry. Irregular watering causes blossom end rot in fruits.
In cool, damp weather, spray or dust with sulphur from time to time to prevent disease, ensuring you cover undersides of leaves. If birds, possums or rats are a problem, net the plants and/or pick fruit as soon as they start to colour and ripen inside in a partially shaded position.
We have an issue filled with tomatoes! ? Get Issue 128 for great ideas and expert tips!
By: Helen McKerral
First published: November 2021