Tomatoes are warm season plants. From a spring planting they produce fruit continuously from December until the end of May. You can achieve this from the ongoing care of tall varieties growing on stakes or from the easy-care method of successive plantings of dwarf varieties every 3 to 4 weeks.
Tomatoes grow best in a warm, sunny position. Do not grow in the same area of soil for 2 years in a row. It is best to move them to a new site each year and return to each site one year in four. If you don't have room to move them in a rotation, plant them in large pots so you can change the potting mix each growing season.
Tomatoes grow in most soils, but the usual rules apply. They require good drainage, compost added to improve soil structure and the planting area raised in clay soils. Refer to our clay soils blog on this site.
Tomatoes can be grown from seed or purchased as plants. There are many varieties with fruit which varies in; size, shape, taste, colour, and acidity, as well as the growing habit of the plant. If you are a tomato fan try the different varieties until you find your favourite. There are some interesting types among the old open pollinated varieties, but the modern hybrids out-perform them in vigour, disease resistance, taste and yield.
‘Russian Red’ - hardy early type.
‘Money maker’ - good medium variety.
‘Dr Walters Special’ - acid free
‘Early Girl’ - reliable early cropper
‘Roma’ - tall and tasty acid free
‘Big Beef’ - best of the large 'beefsteak' types
‘Sweet 100’ - most popular cherry type
‘Dynamo’ excellent all purpose
ican 'Flavoursome' is hard to beat for a regular medium tomato
Being a warm weather crop, tomatoes don’t really start growing until temperatures are up to 20°C with night-time minimums above 10°C. In warm sheltered areas planting can commence in Early Oct (but cover from frost). In colder areas late Oct is safer and perfectly OK. A later planting in December will ensure a good supply of tomatoes through until the end of May.
If raising from seed refer to our blog on seed raising. Plants are best planted out 60cm apart when 15 to 20cm high. Before planting, work into the soil, a dressing of lime, and general fertiliser. Tall varieties will require stakes or support.
Tomatoes can also be grown in large pots 40cm diameter or square.
Tall hybrid varieties such as those above are vigorous enough to sustain three leaders (main upright stems). Grafted varieties could sustain 5 leaders. Hence growing them against a fence or trellis is advisable .
Tomatoes will yield much more if they are well fed. So in addition to the fertiliser applied before planting, liquid feed weekly once the first truss of fruit has formed, with Yates Thrive Flower and Fruit or similar.
Tomatoes require lots of water regularly. Do not allow to dry out as this significantly reduces yield. Irregular watering leads to blossom end rot, a sunken black patch on the bottom of the fruit. Water daily in hot weather once fruit has developed. Plants in pots will need twice daily watering from December onwards.
Tomatoes need to be supported by tying to a stake or fence, or by planting them inside a four posted support. Most gardeners use stakes and tie the main stem or each main leader, to the stakes at 30cm intervals. The additional leaders come from the main stem of the young plant as one of the first lateral or side shoots. Once these additional leaders are established, remove all laterals. These are the small sprouts that grow from the join of the main vertical stem and smaller horizontal branches. Simply snap them out cleanly with your fingers.
Many problems with tomatoes are associated with temperature, watering and feeding, so ensure these aspects are correct.
The common pests and diseases are -
White fly— At first sign, spray with Grosafe Enspray 99 + Grosafe BioNeem. This will contain the build-up.
By March they can become more prolific, so add Yates Mavrik to the Enspray 99 and BioNeem.
Tomato fruit worm - Spray at first sign with Yates Mavrik or Yates Success Ultra,
Organic gardeners use Enspray 99 + BioNeem)
Blight — Spray with Grosafe Free Flo Copper
For more information on pest and disease control including organic options, refer to our blog on Pest & Disease Control on this site (coming soon) or check out Bill book Garden Pest & Disease Control.