Cherry tomatoes Photo: iStock
Growing in containers
Dwarf tomato varieties such as Tiny Tim make attractive plantings for balconies and patios if grown in larger pots filled with compost-enriched soil. Plant very fragrant dwarf basils, such as Greek basil, together with thyme and oregano around the edge of the pot to provide all the ingredients for a delicious fresh salad or pasta sauce. Cherry tomatoes can look very ornamental in a large hanging basket – water regularly as hanging baskets dry out easily. Tomatoes can also be raised in grow bags, two plants per bag, if space is limited.
How much to grow- Plant some early, midseason and late-season varieties for a continuous supply. The average family would need between 10 and 20 plants over the growing season. Most indeterminate varieties begin yielding within 80 days. Determinate varieties start earlier. About six tomatillo plants would be enough for a family with an interest in Mexican or TexMex food.
Tomatoes are easily raised in spring. Sow the seeds 5 mm deep in small individual pots filled with an enriched mixture of compost and soil; plant two seeds per pot. Raise seedlings in a sunny position and provide frost protection. When they reach about 8 cm high, retain the stronger seedling of the pair. Plant out seedlings after the last frost date, once the temperature reliably reaches 18°C. When planting out, borrow a tip from Italian gardeners: bury the stem up to the first set of leaves. Adventitious roots on the buried stem provide an additional root system. Spindly and overgrown seedlings are easily rescued in this way, too. Space indeterminate varieties 90 cm apart and determinate varieties about 60 cm apart. All but dwarf tomatoes should be supported with 1.8–2 m stakes placed 7 cm behind the plant. Regularly tie in the growing plants to their stakes with soft ties. Mulching is essential in areas with hot summers, and plants must also be watered regularly. A fortnightly application of liquid seaweed fertilizer is also very helpful. While much is made of pruning tomatoes, it is mainly useful in cooler districts with restricted sunshine and a short growing season. In hot districts, do not prune tomatoes. The additional foliage will protect against sun scald, which shows as white patches on the skin. In cool districts, prune out the vegetative sideshoots that emerge from the leaf axils so as to open the plant to sunlight. This both improves fruit ripening and forces the plant’s energy into fruit production. Determinate bush tomatoes need no pruning. For plants grown in containers and hanging baskets, feed regularly with a liquid seaweed-based fertiliser once flowers form. Also water regularly as pot-grown plants suffer greater water stress than those in the ground.
Pests and diseases
A number of diseases are common to tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, chillies, capsicums and potatoes – plants that belong to the Solanaceae family. To minimise the risk of disease occurring, do not plant tomatoes on a site where any of these crops have been planted in the previous three years. Smokers should also wash their hands thoroughly before handling tomato plants, as mosaic virus can be carried from tobacco to tomato leaves. Nematodes can cause sudden, inexplicable wilting. Other pests are heliothus caterpillars, fruit fly and tomato hookworm. Cherry tomatoes are less likely to be attacked by fruit fly, so plant them in affected districts. Large-fruited varieties are prone to blossom end rot from interrupted calcium supply, usually as a result of fluctuations in soil moisture. Basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes, as it deters aphids and tomato hookworm. Some other useful companion plants include borage, chives and nasturtium.Tomatillos are protected by their husk from fruit fly and caterpillar damage. Nematodes can be a problem.
|harold rilkoff on 29 July 2010 ,21:54 |
interesting and helpful tips. Much appreciated.
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