There are so many varieties of Tomatoes in every shape or colour and every gardener will tell you that home grown are infinitely better tasting than shop bought. Grafted plants can be bought for a higher price and they produce potentially more fruit per plant, so a grafted tomato is a good idea if you are growing them in a pot or container, or have only a small garden. They are one of the easiest plants to grow and very good for a beginner.
The potato is in the same family as tomatoes, Solanaceae but while their fruit while similar to tomatoes it is poisonous. Tomatoes originated from central to South America. Their Latin name means wolf peach as they were commonly eaten by the wild dogs. I have heard of cats eating tomatoes. Apparently they lie under the bush like great empresses and pluck tomatoes from the bush. China produces 31.6 million tones a year!! Last year in Geelong felt like a bumper crop for most people it was ideal tomato conditions, a dry long summer.
Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable, botanically it is a ‘berry’ as it develops from the ovary of the plant after fertilization. The fruit contains hollow spaces full of seeds and moisture. In America the definition effects the tax paid on it as in 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables but not on fruits caused the tomato's status to become a matter of legal importance.
Heritage or Heirloom varieties give a variety of shape and colour from the 3 coloured purple to green Paul Robeson to the cream coloured Snow White. In companion planting they like to be with Parsley, Asparagus, Basil, Cabbage, Carrot, Onion, Pea, and Sage and hate Potatoes and Fennel. As a general rule of thumb you should never plant vegetables from the same family after one another, so don’t plant Tomatoes, after other members of the Solanaceae family, such as Capsicum, Chilli’s, Eggplant and Potatoes. In Geelong Tomatoes are best planted September until March, although they can be started earlier in the green house, in August. Don’t be tempted to sow seed any earlier as they will just grow at the same rate as those sown later, so you are just taking up valuable space in the greenhouse. At Geelong Botanic Gardens this year we are planting 15 varieties of Tomato this year. I only hope we have room for them all. Keep an eye out for
Pink Ping Pong
Thai Pink Egg
Yugoslav ( I personally grow this one every year and it is defiantly a favourite)
Seeds germinate in 7-10 days at temperatures above 15oC. Once the seeds have germinated and are up to their second or third set of true leaves, then it is time to pot them up. Tomatoes unlike other plants can be planted deeper in the soil; in fact this gives a healthier and stronger plant. The seedling can be planted with the leaves 5cm above the soil. It is also better to plant out the Tomato when it is slightly pot bound as this plant will produce more fruit. Remember to harden off your seedlings in a sheltered area, maybe even bringing them in at night, until the temperatures are regularly over 15oC.
Tomatoes are relatively pest and disease free if the soil is kept moist; don’t overwater as a slightly dry soil produces better fruit. The simplest tomato to grow is the Cherry type, if your soil is mulched well with straw so that the fruit does not come in direct contact with the soil, then this could be grown without staking and allowed to trail along the ground. Other taller types such as Bush or Climbing need staking, there are several ways.
1. Create a triangle with three stakes around your plant and then make ‘rings’ with wire 20cm apart up the triangle
2. Create a lattice using two stakes and bamboo canes tied vertically across, the tomato plant is then tied into this as it grows and any outward growth trimmed so that it grows almost flat against the ‘lattice’. When it reaches the top, the tips are pinched out.
The lower leaves of the plants are removed to create more airflow
Regular watering and occasionally feeding with liquid seaweed will ensure a disease free crop.
The main problem in Victoria is fruit splitting due to fluctuating soil moisture. Blossom End Rot, brown sunken areas at the base of semi-mature fruit is caused by lack of calcium and fluctuating soil moisture. A sprinkling of Dolomite Lime, watered in around the base of each plant should solve this problem.
Tomatoes are the easiest fruit to save seed from. Choose the best fruit and allow ripening until squishy. Then separate as much of the seed from the fruit, and drop the mass into a jar of warm water and leave to soak for a few days. The flesh will float to the top, decant the water and flesh leaving the seeds; they can then be dried out on paper.
- The Australian Index
- Royston-Petrie Seeds P.O. Box 1152 Ph: (61) 2 6372 7800 www.roystonpetrieseeds.com.au
- Cornucopia Seed Cornucopia Seeds and Plants Ph (03) 5457 1230 http://cornucopiaseeds.com.au
- Select Organic M.S 905, Lower Beechmont 4211 www.selectorganic.com.au Organic Seeds
- GreenHarvest 52 Crystal Waters, M.S. 16, MALENY 4552 Ph: (07) 5494 4676 www.greenharvest.com.au
- Greenpatch PO Box 1285, TAREE, NSW 2430 (02) 6551 4240 www.greenpatchseeds.com.au firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Italian Gardener Allsun Farm, PO Box 8050, Gundaroo, New South Wales, 2620 (02) 6236 8173 www.theitaliangardener.com.au email@example.com Italian vegetable seeds
- Kings Seeds PO Box 2785, Bundaberg, QLD 4670, Australia Tel: 07 4159 4882 www.kingseeds.com.au
- Phoenix Seeds PO Box 207 , Snug, TAS, Australia 03) 6267 9663 Only postal Very unusual seeds
- Diggers www.diggers.com.au firstname.lastname@example.org Fantastic company become a member and help them in their work, they have two sites, St Erith (nr Daylesford) and Heronswood (Mornington Peninsula) and when you become a member you get sent out a free magazine / newsletter
- Eden Seed M.S. 905, Lower Beechmont 4211 (07) 5533 1107 www.edenseeds.com.au Lots of information botanical and taste
- The Lost Seed The Lost Seed PO Box 321 SHEFFIELD TAS 7306 ph: 03 6491 1000 www.thelostseed.com.au Has a selection of very rare vegetables, and a great free download of sow what when chart