Tomatoes are a staple in any vegetable growers summer garden. It is rewarding when you see the flowers mature into plump juicy fruit that is bursting with flavour. 

I want to share my top tips for getting a great crop. These are lessons from trial and error and a few that were imparted onto me from other wonderful gardeners throughout the years. And some of these rules I still break now and then.

This year I had some hay that got wet and turned mouldy so I decided to use them to build a garden bed. I used 8 bales and made a 3 bale long by 1 bale wide garden bed and used a lasagne bed method to fill it up. I will do an episode on lasagne garden beds in a future episode. 

I added loads of aged chicken manure, some old dynamic lifter that I had sitting around for eons, old newspapers that I ripped up and lots of organic matter. I watered it all well including the bales. I wanted the bales to be soaking so that it helped the soil access moisture when needed. 

Then I went about planting my ‘matoes’. And, I got over-excited and broke one of the golden rules. I overcrowded my plants….BUT my saving grace is that because the plants have loads of low release and balanced nutrients, homemade compost teeming with worms as well as consistent moisture access they are absolutely thriving. 

The only real downside is that harvesting fruit from the middle will be a bit of a challenge. Challenge accepted baby!

 

So here are my top 7 Top Tips To Grow Great Tomatoes

1. Location is everything

Sunshine and soil are staples of the humble tomato.  They need at least 8 hours of sunlight each day to grow and ripen. It’s best to grow them in soil that hasn’t been previously planted with tomatoes or potatoes to avoid soil-borne pests and diseases. 

Prepare your soil with some rich compost and fertiliser. I like to use all-natural fertilisers like aged chicken manure, worm castings, compost and weed tea are my go tos but you can also use a liquid or solid fertiliser designed specifically for tomatoes. 

Warning… don’t use fresh animal manure of any kind, it will burn the roots and kill your plants. 

2. Variety is the spice of life

With so many varieties to choose from you will have fun working out what you want to grow. Choose some known varieties like Roma and Beefsteak along with a few different or heirloom varieties like Black Krim, Mortgage Lifter or Lemon Drop.

You don’t have to rely on ‘the big green shed’ for choice, instead, go to your local nursery or search online for a local seed supplier. You can also join Facebook gardening groups for your local area that support seed and seedling swaps, but be sure to ask the gardener if they have ever had issues with the disease root knot before. If they have then kindly declined their seedlings. 

3.  Determinate or Indeterminate

There are many varieties and they all fall into one of two categories. Determinate and Indeterminate. 

Determinate tomatoes are compact bushy type plants that will only flower when the plant has grown and reached maturity. The flowers will develop on the ends of branches all around the same time. This means that the fruit will generally ripen around the same time. They are ideal for containers as they require less room and only minimal support like a cage or teepee. They are usually smaller varieties like cherry, grape and yellow pear. Once they are done that is it for that plant for the season. Succession planting is a good idea. Plant some early in the season and some a little later. 

Indeterminate tomatoes are like the gift that keeps on giving. They have a vining habit and will continue to grow on and on until the conditions are no longer to their liking. 

They generally produce larger fruit like the Beefsteak, Big Boy and Grosse Lisse.  

They form flowers along the sides of shoots and need a larger space to spread out. They need a sturdy trellis system to help them to stand upright. These guys take more work than your determinate or bush varieties. To help the plant direct energy to producing fruit and not get too heavy you will need to prune out the suckers. The suckers are the little shoots that grow between the main stem and a branch. Some are needed as the plant needs leaves to harness the sunshine but too many will unnecessarily drain the plant and cause it to become heavy. 

You can pinch small suckers out with your fingers and aim to do this to just below the first flowers. So long suckers.

It’s nearly impossible to tell determinants and indeterminates seedlings apart. Rely on the label and if it isn’t clear then do a quick internet search.

4. Great Timing

In short, plant your toms in spring after the last frost. Also, do some research on the variety you choose to grow so you know if they like to be planted out earlier or later when it warms up some more. 

5. Seed or Seedling

Totally your choice. If you grow from seed it is best to start them in pots or trays in a warm and protected area until they are at least 10cm tall. 

When planting seedlings out you want to make a hole about 7cms deep (or about pointer finger length) and plant them all the way to the bottom leaves. they will grow roots out of their stems and this will help establish them a lot faster and give them a better start. 

Unlike my earlier admission, it’s best to follow the spacing guide of your chosen variety. They are the ultimate socially distanced vegetables (well, technically fruit).

6. H2O

The goldilocks of gardening. You don’t want your plants to dry out and you don’t want their roots sitting in water. Before watering check moisture by doing the finger test.

Stick your finger all the way into the soil and if it feels damp it doesn’t need water. If it’s dry then it does. On hot days you may need to water a lot more and maybe even twice a day if they are in pots. 

Mulch your plants so that the soil retains moisture. A bonus tip is to put soaking wet newspaper around the seedling and then mulch as this will more than double your moisture retention. 

7. Observation

Check leaves for signs of yellowing. This could indicate disease, over or under watering or lacking nutrients. This is a process of elimination.  Black spots may indicate a fungus and be aware of pests such as aphids and cutworms by observing your plants. 

To help you work out what bugs are pests I have put together the SoH Simple Guide to Beneficial Bugs. This will help you identify the good guys and the not so good guys.

To get your free copy DM me your email  Facebook or Instagram or email me directly jo@sohfarmlet.com.au

If you follow these basic steps you are sure to reap a beautiful harvest of yummy tomatoes.

After all, nothing tastes as good as homegrown.

 

More information

Blogs – www.sohfarmlet.com.au/blog

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jo@sohfarmlet.com.au

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Keeping chickens is so much easier than you think!

Download my simple beginners 'chicklist' to get you started.

Keeping chickens is so much easier than you think!

Download my simple beginners 'chicklist' to get you started.

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