Tomatoes

Summary

Follow these tips to ensure your tomatoes thrive this summer.

1. Prepare the soil with crushed egg shells and coffee grinds.

2. Choose your tomato variety (determinate or indeterminate) and stake accordingly.

3. Plant your tomato plants on an angle, burying not only the roots but the lowest two leaves as well. Tomatoes will turn and grow straight but benefit from the extra support. They also sprout extra roots from the stem helping them access more nutrients and water.

4. Add some companion plants.

5. Water regularly with Epsom salts and banana skin water.

Plant support 

 Using stakes

 

Planting

The correct way to plant tomatoes - it's not what you think!

 Container Planting

Tomatoes grow well in pots however there are a few things that need to be remembered in order to ensure they are successful.

Not all varieties suit pots.  The best ones are determinate varieties like tiny tom, KY1, Patio Size, Green Grape, Patio Roma, Principle Borghese, Florida Basket and Legend (thanks to Gardening Australia for these suggestions!).

Choose a pot that is about 50cm wide and is self watering.  Tomatoes need a lot of water and this will help keep the water from draining away.  Add compost to potting mix or even better, use Diana's Dirt.

Don't forget to add your plant support before you plant your tomato so you do not damage the roots.  

Add a dripper water system if possible to keep them moist or water daily.  Choose a full sun position.

 

How to propagate tomatoes from one plant and "tomato suckers" explained

 

Air circulation is essential

One issue with growing a large amount of crops in a small space is ensuring there is adequate air circulation. Poor air circulation promotes disease and pests. This is one of the reasons that spacing plants "appropriately" is necessary. But if you prune and support your plants as I do, you can push the limits.

It's quite simple to improve air circulation. Just remove all lower leaves and branches that are not fruiting and provide plant support that enables you to grow plants vertically.

How and why to prune tomatoes

There are two schools of thought on growing tomatoes. Some people remove all non essential leaves and just leave a plant with fruiting branches. They say it allows more sunlight, air circulation and encourages the plant to focus on fruiting. The other group of gardeners (including me) just remove lower leaves and branches to help improve circulation, prevent mould and diseases and allow sunlight down onto the soil.

I do the later because I read an interesting article a few years ago by The Diggers Club who did a test of the two methods and found fruit production was pretty similar. I'm time poor and so with this result in mind I opted not to intensively prune and focus my time on other things.

Fertilising

CALCIUM - Sprinkle a half a cup of milk powder on the soil at the base of every plant.

POTASSIUM - pour banana skin water on the soil around tomatoes and chop and sp
rinkle banana skins.
MAGNESIUM - had 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts to 1 Litre of water and either spray on leaves or pour on the soil.

PHOSPHOROUS - worm tea or vermicastings, bone meal, fish fertiliser or gelatine.

How to identify magnesium deficiency

 

Troubleshooting

Fruit splitting

Fruit splitting is caused when there has been a dry spell followed by heavy rain. This causes the fruit to grow and swell faster than the skin can grow.

It's not your fault. Just nature. Cook the tomatoes and you'll never know.

Early Blight

Fortunately this fungal disease if managed has little impact on fruiting plants. Nevertheless it's best to try to eradicate it as spores survive even the cold cool climate winters and will plague you next year.

The fungus spreads on spores attached to gardening equipment and pots etc. The best way to prevent is to buy resistant varieties. Disinfect all gardening tools.

Treat with an organic fungicide based on bacillus subtilis or copper.

Blossom rot

The name is deceptive but this disease is the rotting of the base of the tomato fruit. But the damage is done earlier in the flowering stage and becomes obvious as the fruit develops and matures.
This is caused by a lack of calcium as well as inconsistent watering while they were developing. The watering cannot be rectified now, however going forward ensure that you water regularly as new flowers begin to develop to prevent future fruit having an issue.
In addition to this the plant needs an immediate dose of calcium. Sprinkle half a cup of milk powder around the base of each plant. Repeat in a week. Tomatoes love calcium so they will appreciate this.
Egg shells are another way that you can add calcium to your soil but they take some time to breakdown and fertilise, whilst this plant needs calcium now. Egg shells are great to add regularly to your soil to improve it for future plants.
NB I recently read an article that said that egg shells take so long to decompose (years) that they are of little value in a vegetable garden. I need to look into this further before I form a view. In any event egg shells are great at slowing or deterring snails when sprinkled on the surface of your garden so worth saving in any event.

 

Powdery mildew fungus

Did you know that watering the leaves can promote the growth of powdery mildew fungus? In hot weather, it can also cause the leaves the burn.

Just water the roots instead.