Growing tomatoes doesn’t have to be hard and the reward of home-grown, succulent tomatoes is reason enough to give it a go!
Whether growing tomatoes in a pot or in a garden bed, all types love similar conditions. As a spring/summer plant they adore warmth and sunlight, so keep that in mind when thinking of growing your own.
Before planting either the seed or a seedling, make sure their future home has fresh soil (to prevent disease and to ensure a nutrient rich food base). Preparing the soil a few days in advance is ideal by digging in compost or manure, and adding a little potash and some lime per square metre. This gives growing tomatoes plenty of calcium.
A raised planting bed in an area that gets at least five hours of sunlight is the most ideal location to plant your tomatoes, to prevent water-logging and to keep the soil warm. Be sure to give your seeds plenty of space and avoid overcrowding.
Growing tomatoes is easy. Don’t be afraid to bury them deep and remember – warmth and sunlight is key!
It’s advised to set stakes in to provide support for the growing tomatoes now, to prevent disruption to the roots later in the growing process. Keep plant ties handy, as the tomatoes start growing they’ll need the extra support. You can use almost anything as a stake; wooden poles, chicken wire, even the back of chairs – but be careful when considering metal objects, as they can heat up and burn your plant.
When it comes to growing tomatoes, remember the plants will need lots of nutrients, so mulching every so often is required. The afternoon is a good time to mulch as the soil is warm. Try to find a brand of mulch that breaks down quickly, like straw, which also adds to the soils valuable organic content, or slivered plastic, which is useful in retaining soil moisture and reflects sunlight back onto the tomatoes.
Watering goes hand-in-hand with mulching. It is a very important step when focusing on growing tomatoes. Keep it regular, giving them constant moisture, but avoid over watering and watch for signs of water-logged soil.
As your tomatoes grow higher and higher, give them some extra TLC by pruning. You don’t have to prune if you don’t want to, but it can lead to a better crop with bigger, fuller, and more flavoursome tomatoes.
Pruning should be directed to the lower leaves. When these start to become yellow it’s best to get rid of them to prevent disease affecting your beautiful growing tomatoes.
Side-shoots are a growth of new leaf between the shade leaf and the main stalk, in what’s known as the “crotch.” If these are only a few centimetres long, pinch them away gently with your fingers. Side-shoots only take energy away from your growing tomatoes.
Go easy on pruning! Due to Australia’s hot climate and sunny disposition, pruning an excessive amount could lead to the scalding of your tomatoes.
From here on out it’s only a short wait till your delicious tomatoes will be ripe and fresh, becoming a juicy addition to the delights of summer.