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  • Growing Tomatoes

    Common name: Tomato
    Botanical name:Lycopersicon lycopersicum
    Family: Solanaceae
    Aspect and soil: Sun - moist soil
    Best climate: All
    Habit: Annual vine - fruits summer to autumn (year round in warm zones), dwarf varieties great in tubs or pots
    Propagation: Seed, seedling or grafted plants
    Difficulty: Moderate
    Pests & Disease:Fruit fly, Helicoverpa or Heliothis budworms, black spot leaf disease.
    No summer vegie patch is complete without tomatoes and nothing can beat the flavour of a ripe home grown beauty picked fresh from the garden. Tomatoes are one of the most essential crops to grow organically they are not necessary the easiest but provides a great challenge for gardeners. A successful harvest is a rewarding pleasure with this amazing fruit. Commercially it is not uncommon for chemicals to be used on tomato crops and some of these can be readily absorbed by the fruit.
    Homegrown tomatoes are also a healthy nutritional package. They provide lycopene, which is an antioxidant found in red fruit, along with vitamins A and C, carotene and they are brimming with dietary fibre. The variety and choice of colours including yellow, red, orange, pink, striped and dark blushes range from small marbel size to large meaty fruit that makes tomatoes an exciting option to grow in the garden.  
    Climate and planting
    In subtropical and tropical climates tomatoes can be planted and grown year round except for the wetter months, but in cool and temperate regions climates tomatoes grow best in the warmest parts of the year.
    Tomatoes are tall vine-like plants that do best in a well-prepared garden bed but not over rich with good drainage. They can be staked or trained on to a trellis or tripod to at least 2m high. In all but the hottest climate tomatoes are grown in full sun. Light shade in hot climates reduces plant stress and avoids sun damage on the fruit. 
    Space plants 40-50cm apart and if growing tomatoes in rows, keep the rows 60cm apart.
    How to grow
    Seeds can be started in containers, sow sparsely and cover seeds with 3-4mm of fine soil.  When plants reach 7-8cm high they can be hardened off in a sunny position.  Either plant direct in the garden or potted on to be planted at a later date.
    Tall varieties can be trained on supports otherwise they tend to flop and sprawl. As tomatoes grow keep tying the growth to their support using a soft tie so as not to damage the stem (fabric works well). Tie below a leaf stalk and not the flower cluster. This will minimize any damage to fruit development. 
    Bush varieties are generally easier to grow and can be planted in small spaces and are ideal for container gardening. They do not need to be staked.
    Excess growth can be removed by pinching out lateral side shoots and allowing 1-3 stems to grow. As the plant reaches the top of the stake, it can be tip pruned to limit it's height.  Tomatoes enjoy regular deep watering during dry weather conditions and light mulching.   
    Any of the following can be used at planting time such as well rotted compost, organic fertilizer, blood and bone or pelletised chicken manure. Liquid feeding with a seaweed emulsion or an organic fertilizer during the growing period will benefit the fruiting of the plant.
    Pests and Disease
    Also watch out for pests and other problems. Budworm or Heliothus caterpillar bore holes into the green fruit and can be controlled with the use of Dipel or Derris Dust.  Fruit fly is the main culprit so to protect tomatoes as they ripen, use baits containing Spinosad (bacteria-derived insecticide) such as Eco Naturalure. Other organic methods to control fruit fly include covering fruit clusters before they ripen with mesh or calico exclusion bags or covering the whole plant themselves with fine netting to exclude both insects and other pests such as birds.  To reduce leaf diseases water the plant from underneath also cut and remove any diseased leaves.  Good plant spacing is essential for air flow and reduces the potential for leaf borne diseases.    
    Harvesting, storing and preserving
    Fruit can be picked when it turns from a whitish appearance to the first blush of colour is seen. Allow 
    fruit to ripen to full colour for optimum flavour and nutritional benefits.
    Tomatoes can be eaten fresh or cooked. They may be bottled, dried or used to make sauces. Green tomatoes that fail to ripen in autumn make delicious chutney.
    Bottled Tommy Toe
    Popular Varieties - Just to name a few
    ‘AMISH PASTE’ – vigorous and very hardy climbing oxheart tomato with solid-fleshed fruit that’s suitable for cooking or sauces. Good cropper
    ‘APOLLO’ – mid-sized fruit
    ‘AUNT RUBY’S GERMAN GREEN’ – a big, beefsteak variety that’s green when ripe with flesh that can be rainbow coloured
    ‘BEAM’S YELLOW PEAR’ – tasty yellow, pear-shaped fruit with wonderful flavour
    ‘BLACK CHERRY’ – dark-purple or black-toned, round cherry-style fruit boasting “burst-in-the-mouth sweetness”
    ‘BLACK RUSSIAN’– medium-sized round, purple-tinged fruit with dark reddish-brown flesh
    ‘GREEN ZEBRA’ (image below)– green-and-yellow-striped fruit with a tangy bite – one of the most popular heirlooms
    ‘GROSSE LISSE’– regarded by many as the best variety for the home garden, it’s tall-growing with large deep red fruit
    ‘JADE BEAUTY’– dwarf type which reaches 70cm and has green fruit
    ‘LEMON DROP’– tiny yellow variety with a lovely zing to the fruit
    ‘OXHEART PINK’– popular old staking variety good for cooler areas, with low-acid pink heart-shaped fruit
    ‘PATIO’- dwarf variety which reaches 60cm tall and has clusters of red fruit
    ‘RED FIG’ – pear-shaped red fruit
    ‘ROMA’– a popular tasty oval-shaped variety particularly good for cooking and drying due to it's low water content
    ‘STUPICE’– early fruiting variety particularly suited to cooler areas and possible to grow through winter
    ‘TIGERELLA’- one of the most bountiful of all tomatoes - producing up to 20kg of fruit per plant. Fruit is smallish, round and ripens with striped tones of red and yellow
    ‘TINY TIM’ – dwarf bush tomato with small, round fruit – ideal for pots
    ‘TOMATO BIG RAINBOW’ – flesh varies from green to yellow, red and pink. A prolific cropper
    ‘TOMMY TOE’– a top tasting heirloom with larger cherry-style red fruit.
    TUMBLING TOM’ - a cascading tomato that can be grown in a hanging basket and there are both red and yellow fruiting forms
    ‘YELLOW PEAR’– spreading variety producing many small fruits to 3cm long – very tasty and acid-free