Tomatoes in 2008
Eden Seed say
TOMATO (Lycopersicon esculentum)Originates from the Andes and cultivated in Central America. Suppresses couch grass, high in vitamin C, companion to parsley. Prefers open sunny positions. Sensitive to frosts. Water in furrows rather than overhead to reduce disease, declines if waterlogged. Does well on light to heavy soils with good drainage and high organic and phosphorus. Sow anytime in frost free areas, can sow indoors 5 weeks before transplanting in cooler areas or after last frost.
The Lost Seed say
COMPANION PLANTS - LIKES: Parsley, Asparagus, Basil, Cabbage, Carrot, Onion, Pea, Sage DISLIKES: Fennel, Potato
I have grown 16 varieties at work; I counted them today well 19 including the two Italian pomodoro roma ones for grafting (rootstock) and the green sausage Gail Thomas gave me. God knows where they are all going to fit but we will get them in somehow. The four (and where I sourced the seed) I have planted so far in my garden at home are
1.Thai Pink Egg -The Lost Seed
Originating from Thailand & is today the most widely produced tomato in Thailand. Small, pink coloured, 'cherry' type fruit; 3-5cm long, or size of bantam egg. Changes from milky white with slight pink colour when young to darker pink as it matures. Plant 60-90cm. Hardy, disease resistant & resistant to cracking. High yields. 55-65 days.
Large pear shaped pink fruit. Very meaty, little juice or seed, inclined to split on ripening, vigorous vine.
3.Yellow Perfection-The Lost Seed
Rare, English heirloom. Lemon yellow, round, medium sized fruit with sweet flesh. 70-75 days.
4.One from a 5 Colour Heirloom Mix –Diggers (so what it could be will be anyone’s guess)
Tomato Fact Sheet from Bulleen Art and Garden
Choosing and preparing the right site
Choose a position that gets at least 5 hours or more of full sun every day, although full sun all day is preferred. Also try to choose a spot that is not too windy, or else you will have to provide some sort of windbreak. Ensure the soil is well drained and that it hasn't had any of the tomato family (tomatoes, potatoes, chillies or eggplants) planted in it the year before.
Before planting, dig in generous amounts of cow manure, a light sprinkle of potash and a handful of lime every square metre. Alternatively, digging in mushroom compost will do the job of both manure and lime. You can even sprinkle some blood and bone down at this time. It is essential to provide well-drained soil, and raising up the bed will help to improve the drainage. If the drainage is poor you may need to construct a raised up bed, or grow your tomatoes in pots.
You need to provide sufficient calcium in the soil. Therefore, add lime to the soil, (one handful over one square metre). If your soil is already quite alkaline, then add gypsum. This is essential for healthy tomato growth (and to prevent a disease called Blossom End Rot).
It's okay (and even beneficial as it forms more roots), to plant your tomatoes deeply, leaving only the top one or two sets of leaves above the surface. Water in with a seaweed product. Stake your tomatoes that need it at the time of planting to avoid root disturbance later on.
Most tomatoes are best grown against stakes. Check with the label to see if it requires staking and put the stake in before you plant the seedling, to avoid damaging the roots.
If you encourage the seedlings to produce a larger root system, then you will grow healthier and more prolific Tomatoes. To achieve this, plant the seedlings with the stems buried up to the first leaves, or plant the seedling on its side and cover the stem with soil. By the next day the top of the tomato will turn up the right way.
With taller growing tomatoes some sort of support will be needed, so put your stakes in now. That way you will not damage the roots of the Tomato. You can use anything as a suitable support as long as it is strong enough to support the weight of the fully grown Tomato bush, and is tall enough.
As the Tomato grows, it is best if the conditions remain constant. This means don’t let your Tomatoes dry out and start to wilt before you water them. Regular watering to maintain even soil moisture is the key to disease free plants. Diseases such as, Blossom End Rot, are caused by uneven watering and fertilising. Check the soil before watering.
Resist the urge to prune back the foliage in order to hasten ripening of the fruit. This will increase the chances of your tomato suffering sun scald, which appears as white patches near the stalk (the most exposed part of the fruit). It is the ambient temperature which ripens the tomatoes, not the sun. Indeed, there is no diminishing in flavour if you pick the tomatoes as soon as the green starts to turn to pink, and then bring them inside to ripen in a bowl (again, not on a sunny windowsill). This also solves the problem of keeping the pesky little blackbirds away from your tomatoes, which they love if the tomatoes ripen on the vine.
Don't mulch until late spring / early summer so the sun warms up the soil. Warm soil is what will make your tomato plants grow like mad! You must mulch your plants by late spring / early summer to avoid precious water loss. Tomatoes are one of the few plants which can tolerate mulch right up to the stalk. Indeed, when you put in the seedlings, plant them deep into the soil, right up to the lowest true leaves, and the plant will send out new roots from nodes in the stalk. This will make the plant even hardier and able to make the most of the available water.
If you've already put the tomatoes in, then pile the mulch up high against the stalk and it will send roots into the organic mulch. Best ones to use are pea straw or others which will break down readily (not pine bark). These have the added benefit of feeding the soil as they break down.
Never let the soil dry out, especially during flowering and fruiting stages. This could cause fruit & flower drop, blossom end rot and a stressed plant that will be more susceptible to disease. To avoid fungal problems and disease never let the soil become waterlogged, and never water the plant... only the soil. If watering overhead is unavoidable, do it in the morning to allow foliage to dry before night fall.
Obviously if it is hot and windy, then the plants will need watering more frequently. For plants grown in pots, you will need to check the watering more often. In hot conditions you may need to water the pots two or three times a day. (If water restrictions are in place you will need to use collected rainwater, or water you have saved from washing vegetables etc.)
Tomatoes are gross feeders! Liquid feed them minimum fortnightly with a seaweed product. This helps with disease resistance, root, flowers and fruit formation. When first flowers appear, apply a handful of potash to the soil. Liquid feed regularly, use directions on pack or weekly with teas of manures, composts or worm farms. You could even add a little more potash again during fruiting stages.
Feeding the tomato plant too much when you first put it in can be counterproductive. It will grow lush green foliage, but will not set fruit until much later. It is better to water it minimally at the early stages, maybe with a pinch of sulfate of potash for each plant until the first truss of flowers appear. Then remember that tomatoes are very heavy feeders, and a liquid feed fortnightly will give great results.
Fertilise your plants as they grow. Use organic pelletised manure as this is a slow release type of fertiliser. In addition to this, regular applications of liquid fertiliser may be used. Any of the fish emulsion or seaweed products may be used, tomato food, or make your own from liquid out of a worm farm or manure ‘teas’.
Pollination of the flowers is essential to ensure you have plenty of tomatoes. This is usually done by bees, so don’t spray chemicals that will harm bees. Try planting plants that attract bees near your tomatoes. If you don’t see any bees pollinating the flowers, and you aren’t getting any tomatoes, then you may have to pollinate the flowers yourself. This can be done using a small paintbrush or feather.
If you a self confessed hopeless gardener, first timer or want an easy tomato for kids to grow, choose a cherry type as they are easy-grow & easy-pick.
Growing In Pots
If you are growing tomatoes in pots, choose the largest pot possible, minimum 40cm (16"), preferably 50cm (20"). Minimum watering when plants get bigger is once a day, and on the very hot days maybe twice or three times if they are in an exposed position.
Growing From Seed
Growing tomatoes from seed is very easy. You will need a clean container with drainage eg. Seed trays, old plastic pots, old punnets, propagation seed trays, egg cartons and some sort of mix to plant the seeds in eg. Compost, potting mix, composted manure, coco peat and manure or mixes of these.
Sow the seeds in this mix and just cover with a little of the mix. Water in with a fine mist or spray. Some sort of cover is a good idea (like a sheet of glass, or a clear plastic bag or some green house fabric). This helps to keep the evaporation down so that the seeds don’t dry out during the germination process. Make sure it is warm enough for the germination process. The soil needs to be approximately 20°C for the seeds to germinate, so don’t sow them too early! Seeds may also be sown directly into the soil where they are to grow, but the soil has to be warm enough.
This is surprisingly important for pest control and pollination. Plant with mustard greens or in soil that's previously grown them to repel nematodes. For pest control plant with or near, alyssum, phacelia, daisies, lovage, dill, carrots or parsnip gone to flower. Lavender and borage will attract many pollinators while basil repels some pests, improves cropping and is perfect to have on hand to pick with tomatoes.
Flowers dropping off before fruit sets
Plants that have dried out or are waterlogged, not enough light, too much nitrogen (over fertilising), spraying at an incorrect rate, over use of chemicals, possums or thrips. Check the conditions first and try to identify what the problem is. Check flowers for thrips. Thrips are difficult to control, but you can try hanging sticky traps in the bushes
Poor fruit set
This is related to the above, but may also be due to pollination not occurring. If pollination is not occurring you may have to pollinate the flowers yourself.
Leaves wilting in hot weather
Plants drying out between watering. May also lead to Blossom End Rot (see below) developing. Ensure plants have access to enough water on hot days. Pots will need more frequent watering in hot weather.
White or yellowish patches on fruit and burnt patches on leaves
This is burning during very hot conditions. May also be caused by removal of leaves shading the fruit. Shade plants during very hot weather (above 40 degrees). If you have removed leaves that shade the fruit, then you will have to provide shade for the fruit.
Leaves rolled inwards
Some varieties are more subject to this condition. May be caused be hard pruning plants and over watering. Reduce the watering, otherwise there is no need to worry as the fruit production will not be affected.
Leaves with yellow, black or brown patches, eventually wilting.
Usually starts on the older leaves and travels up the plant rapidly There are various wilt diseases caused by bacteria, fungi and viruses. Rotate crops. You should try to leave 4 years before planting Tomatoes in the same spot. Copper based sprays may be effective on plants that are not severely affected. Remove plants and dispose of. Do not compost the plants.
Mottled yellow patches on leaves and fruit
Various mosaic viruses. Tobacco mosaic virus. Practice crop hygiene and maintain healthy plants. Control sap sucking insects. If you are a smoker, wash your hands thoroughly before handling plants, as the tobacco virus is common in commercially grown tobacco.
White powdery patches on leaves
Powdery mildew. Try not to water the leaves and improve air circulation around the bushes. Sulphur dust or spray may be used. Chewed patches in the leaves and fruit Various caterpillars and larvae of flies and beetles Practice crop hygiene, for caterpillars use bacterial sprays (Dipel or Success), Tomato dust and pick fruit regularly as these can breed in old rotting fruit left under the bush
Have your tomatoes ever developed unsightly blemishes on the bottom end (or the blossom end) of the tomato? This is called Blossom End Rot and is caused by the tomato roots not being able to access calcium from your soil. This could be because your soil is calcium deficient, but it is more likely to be due to watering practices. The soil around the roots must never be allowed to dry out completely. If it does, the calcium becomes unavailable to the plant. Without waterlogging the plant, make sure the soil remains moist.