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A definite buzz of excitement hits the vegie gardening community in Spring as tomato planting season comes in. There is something incredible satisfying about growing your own tomatoes… they smell wonderful, it seems like magic to be able to pick them from the bush as required and the flavour is nothing like a supermarket fruit….. they taste of summer!
There are loads of varieties on the market these days… so which one to choose? We have narrowed it down to the six best, the Van Loons tried and true.
Apollo – This is an early season variety, one of the first large size tomatoes to fruit and a variety that has been around for decades. It has smooth skin, mid to large size fruit and great flavour. It’s tall growing and will need a trainer or 1.8m stake. You might get this one to fruit for Christmas!
Mighty Red – This is a mid season cropper. It’s hardy and reliable, a really good all rounder and a prolific bearer. Mid to large size fruit. It’s tall growing, you will need a trainer or 1.8m stake. This variety will give you fruit through the middle of summer to early autumn.
Grosse Lisse – This is a late season cropper… another golden oldie and one of the best tomatoes to grow. Plant this one a little later… say late October and you will still be picking fruit in June! It makes brilliant chutney too. Again it is tall growing so you will need a trainer or 1.8m stake.
Burkes Back Yard – This is a form of an old Italian variety called Rouge de Mamande. It is a ribbed fruit, so a bit on the unattractive side but sensational flavour. Our older Italian customers love this one! Although not as tall as some of the others it will still need staking.
Tommy Toe – This little guy produces an abundance of fruit about the size of an apricot, very sweet and tasty. Just awesome in summer salads! Tommy Toe is a heritage variety that has had a surge of popularity in the last 5 years. Plant this one, you won’t be sorry! Tall growing again, it will need trainer or 1.8m stake.
Sweetbite – The classic cherry tomato. Early to fruit and with a long season this is a great tomato for beginners. This tall growing plant will need a trainer or 1.8m stake.
Righto, you have your selection organised … next step is to dig in plenty of compost with each tomato. We just love Attunga Hummus Plus. You can be generous and use a quarter of a bag per plant. Dig it into the soil where you are going to grow your tomato and plant into that.
It is important to give your plants space to grow, this will help keep them healthy down the track. Tall growing plants need to be at least 1m apart. Yes they look little now but you just wait! After planting apply some snail protection and you have completed stage 1…. Congratulations
Watch out for our blog about feeding and maintaining your tomato plants soon.
Keep your Tomatoes Growing Strong!
Isn’t it great to have the weather warming up, the days getting longer and the whole of summer ahead. By the end of November or early December your tomato plants should be putting on nice growth. If you planted them in mid spring they could be up as high as a metre by now!
If you haven’t already done so it is a good time to hammer in your stakes now. Use the hardwood kind, the bamboo kind are just not strong enough. Tall growing plants like Apollo, Mighty Red, Grosse Lisse, Sweetbite and Tommy Toe will all need one or two 1.8m stakes, or even better a tomato trainer. If you forget to stake them they will flop all over the ground, which means your fruit will be in easy reach of snails and slugs… and we don’t want that!
When your little baby tomato fruits are around the size of a 20 cent piece it is time to start feeding your plant. Tomatoes are hungry… they have a lot of growing to do, and lots of fruit to make, so to get the best out of them be generous with your feeding. We like to use organic fertilisers on our vegies and Dynamic Lifter produce a great one, especially formulated for tomatoes and vegetables. Sprinkle two good size handfuls around the root zone of each plant once every four weeks or so. Water in well afterwards. Feeding not only keeps them growing strongly it keeps them healthy too, and will help to prevent disease.
You can get a bit of an idea what the root system of a plant is like by the size of its growth. Lettuce stay small so have a small root system, tomatoes get quite tall and so have a large root system to support all that growth and fruit. Keep this in mind when you are watering them. Tomatoes love a deep watering around three times a week. New roots will grow where the soil is moist so a deep soak helps to grow a healthy root system. Avoid at all costs the nightly 2 minute sprinkle! Your lettuce will love that but your tomatoes will not be impressed.
Discoloured or spotty leaves:
Sometimes the weather in spring can be fickle… Really? I hear you say…. If we have cool temperatures or lots of rain the increased humidity can promote Tomato Blight. This is a fungal problem that causes the leaves to turn bluish or have black spots. It can also happen if you wet the foliage on your plants when watering. To prevent it happening ensure you have good air circulation between your plants, you might need to do a little pruning. Dust the leaves with Tomato Dust, this is a natural sulphur product and when used regularly through the season will control blight problems.
Eeek! Caterpillars in my fruit:
Caterpillars, and occasionally Labrador dogs are fond of chewing tomatoes. If you notice them burrowing in your fruit (the caterpillars that is) just prune off and discard the affected fruit. Dust the plant with Derris Dust, an organic way to control any new hatchings of caterpillars.
Sorry…. No solutions for naughty puppies
Black or rotten patches on the fruit:
There can be a couple of causes for damage on the fruit.
If there is a lack of calcium in the soil it can cause what is called Blossom End Rot. This is always at the base of the fruit. To correct it apply some Dolomite Lime to the garden bed.
The other common cause of damage on fruit is sunburn. If we have high temperatures… into the 40’s it can cause bleaching and burning on the fruit which will blacken and rot. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure your plants are well watered the night before. An old bed sheet covering the plants during the day on a scorcher can be helpful too.
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