Tomato time – enjoy the taste of homegrown tomatoes


If you haven’t grown tomatoes for a while, or you are new to gardening, now is the ideal time to try growing some tomatoes at home.

With seeds, small punnets to large pots available at your local garden centre there is no excuse to not give it a try. Plus, you can add them to your own tasty summer salad or toasted sandwich.

Whether you have a small courtyard, patio or large garden you can find space for growing some tomatoes either in the ground, raised beds or in pots and containers.

Plant them now as seeds or up until the end of December as small plants. When planting tomatoes in the ground, add plenty of compost, manures and organic matter to improve the soil.

The addition of Bentonite clay mixed into sandy soils will aid water retention, improve the overall soil structure and add calcium and magnesium to help avoid blossom end rot.

Alternatively, dolomite lime or gypsum can also be mixed into the soil before planting.

When planting, tomatoes are one of the few plants that can be planted deeper than they are in the pot without killing them or rotting their stems.

First, soak the pots in a seaweed solution prior to planting to avoid transplant shock. Then remove any lower leaves on the stem and plant the tomatoes two or three nodes lower in the soil to encourage further rooting from the main stem. This will also help the plant cope better with stress, drought or recover better after pest or disease attack.

I like to place some organic and controlled release fertiliser in the bottom and sides of the hole, plus I add a sprinkle on top when I am finished.

Water in with a seaweed solution, stake and mulch with either pea straw, lupin mulch or sugar cane mulch. For taller varieties, you can use larger stakes or special tomato or vegetable trainers to grow them up. 

As they grow, remove all side shoots below the first truss of flowers, then allow two to three lateral side shoots to develop to keep the plant manageable. All other side shoots should be pinched out and the plant tied onto the stakes or supports.

Some growers grow tomatoes as a single stem up a strong wire or string and remove all side shoots concentrating their energy on a set number of fruits. Some smaller bush growing, or trailing varieties may not need any pruning or the removal of side shoots.

Feed tomatoes fortnightly with a liquid feed specially for tomatoes that is high in potassium and calcium. Water regularly to encourage strong growth and to avoid the fruit splitting due to uneven watering.

Keep a look out for fruit fly and caterpillars that can affect both the leaves and drill holes in the fruit. Common diseases of tomatoes include wilts, leaf spots and viruses which are all difficult to control.

My suggestions of tomato varieties to try growing at home include:

Amish Paste, Apollo, Beams Yellow Pear, Beefsteak, Black Russian, Cherry, Green Grape, Green Zebra, Grosse Lisse, Jaune Flamme, Moneymaker, Mortgage Lifter, Pink Bumble Bee, Pink Pearl, Red Fig, Roma, San Marzano, Sweet Bite, Tigerella and Tommy Toe.