Tomatoes need a sunny site and good drainage. Ensure seedlings are well anchored by planting them slightly deeper than the surrounding soil — tomato plants can become top-heavy and blow over. The taller varieties may need staking and it is best to do this at planting time to avoid damaging the roots on established plants. They will grow in just about any soil which has been well dug and enriched with 5IN1™ Organic Plant Food or another complete fertiliser a couple of weeks before planting.
Tomatoes are not heavy feeders. In fact, high nitrogen fertilisers can cause excessive leaf growth at the expense of fruit flavor and yield. For tasty, long lasting fruit and resistance to pests and disease, apply Searles Liquid Potash or Searles Flourish fortnightly.
A thick layer of mulch under the plant is important as fruit can go mouldy if it comes in direct contact with the soil. A thick mulch around the roots will keep the roots cool and moist, as well as discourage weeds. Mulching can also help reduce blossom end rot, a disease caused by soil dry-out and inconsistent watering.
It’s important not to overprune tomatoes, as the foliage that hangs over the ripening fruit can create desirable shade. Remove the lateral stems by hand as they grow to create better air circulation and reduce fungal problems.
Tomatoes grown in greenhouses or sheltered positions where there is little wind may benefit from being given a gentle shake to help spread their pollen.
Water tomato plants on the roots — not the foliage. This will reduce the risk of fungal infections and will also reduce water lost through evaporation.
Pests and diseases
Tomatoes can be affected by a soil-borne virus known as ‘wilt’ which can easily destroy entire crops. Avoid this problem with crop rotation — planting your tomatoes in a different garden bed each year. If wilt persists, grow your tomatoes in large containers. Aphids, caterpillars and mites can also attack tomatoes. These pests can be controlled with pyrethrum insecticide if necessary. Hang Searles Fruits Fly Traps around your tomatoes to protect them from fruit fly.
The sun-ripening myth
Tomatoes will be most flavoursome if they ripen at ideal temperatures — around 23 ̊C. Exposing ripening tomatoes to too much sunlight is likely to cause scalding of the fruit and poor flavour. During hot weather it is best to harvest tomatoes when they start to blush and allow them to ripen on a window sill away from direct sunlight.Diseases: Blossom End Rot RECIPE: Fresh Tomato Bruschetta