Grow the best tomatoes this season
<p><em>From GARDENA and YATES Brand Ambassador Sarah the Gardener</em></p><p>The super star crop of the summer vegetable garden has to be the tomato. It is a plant that just continues to produce a bountiful harvest all season long.</p>
The best thing about growing your own tomatoes is there are so many different kinds available to the home grower at your local Mitre 10, and they come in a range of colours and sizes.
To make it easier to choose your varieties consider what you want from your tomatoes:
- Big Beef – an award-winning hybrid that produces large, juicy tomatoes with an old-fashioned tomato flavour that matures early than other large tomato varieties. It has heavy crops and great disease resistance. Perfect for sandwiches or cooking and with fruit around 350g each you will be able to feed a crowd with your home-grown goodness.
- Beefsteak – a good reliable large, thick fleshed tomato with great flavour. The kind you only need one slice to fill a sandwich. Fabulous in salads for a large ‘meaty’ bite and cooks well too. It is very productive and can grow tomatoes up to half a kg! Due to their size, they mature later in the season but are worth the wait.
- Campari – regarded as some of the sweetest and most flavourful tomatoes in the market. It’s a hybrid with a high sugar, low acid, and plenty of juice. Slightly bigger than a cherry tomato with a deep red colour. It is normally found in the store still attached to the vine. Known as the "tomato lover’s tomato" Campari tomatoes pair wonderfully with basil and garlic.
- Heirloom Brandywine Pink – this variety originates from the Amish communities in 1885 and has often been called “the best-tasting tomato in the world.” It isn’t a pretty tomato and is one of the slowest to mature, but its pinkish red colour with green shoulders and a balance of sweet and tart is a taste sensation, so all is easily forgiven. It has a thick meaty centre and is wonderful grilled.
- Money Maker – a popular Edwardian English heirloom with a heavy crop of medium sized red tomatoes. It grows well in less than ideal soil and weather conditions and has great disease resistance. A good all-rounder that can be eaten fresh or cooked. A perfect choice for the first-time tomato grower looking for success.
- Roma Acid Free – a deep red, oblong Italian heirloom tomato renowned for its fine flavour, it can be eaten fresh but is better known for its excellent cooking qualities. It’s dry, thick flesh is ideal for sun-drying. When cooked the flavour intensifies, ideal for pastes, pasta sauces and soups.
- Russian Red – in spite of its exotic name this tomato was developed in Levin at the Agricultural Research Centre and was introduced in 1949. Chosen for its consistent performance in the home garden as it tolerates cooler conditions as well as the heat of summer and its resistance to disease. It yields an abundant crop of medium sized tomatoes. Great on pizza and bruschetta.
- Super Steakhouse – and for bragging rights this is one of the largest tomatoes you can grow at almost a kilo each and has a consistent performance, good flavour, and disease tolerance.
- Sweet 100 – a small snacking tomato with abundantly prolific sweet juiciness. It produces hundreds of cherry sized fruit in large clusters that can be enjoyed straight from the plant in the garden, or in salads, lunchboxes and on sharing platters. It grows well in range of climates but does really well over hot summers.
- Yoom – this newly released small black / purple tomato has an umami punch that provides a moreish tomato flavour that is not too sweet, not too sour but leaves you wanting more. It is also high in anthocyanins and lycopene for an added health benefit.
If you are looking for tomatoes to grow from seeds try:
- Yates Black Krim - an heirloom with flattened, dark red-purple fruit with green shoulders. The flesh is very juicy, with a green tinge and a sweet tomato flavour.
- Yates Grosse Lisse - An old favourite that does well in humid areas. It produces medium to large fruit, full of juicy flavour. It's a tasty all-rounder that will deliver heavy yields.
- Yates Patio Mini - is a dwarf hybrid, perfect for pots or small gardens. It is a vigorous cropper of glossy red medium-sized fruit on a bushy plant that only grows 70cm tall.
10 top tips to care for your plants to maximise your crop:
- Choose a sunny spot in the garden with well-drained soil and enrich with plenty of organic material.
- In containers choose a pot at least 400mm wide and deep and fill with a quality potting mix.
- Give plants plenty of space, at least 50 – 60cm for good airflow.
- Most tomatoes will grow up to 2m so need support. Put stakes in before planting to avoid damage.
- Seedlings can be planted a little deeper, to the bottom of the first set of leaves, for a stronger plant.
- Water in well. Seaweed tonic reduces transplant shock and encourages healthy roots.
- Mulch around the base but not around the main stem to avoid rotting.
- Water regularly and deeply at the base of the plant. Container plants dry out quicker, so water potted plants more frequently.
- Tie plants to support with a soft cloth tie as they grow.
- ‘Pinch out’ side shoots, (called laterals) to allow light, airflow, abundant flowering, and larger individual trusses of fruit.
What to feed your tomatoes:
Tomatoes are super hungry feeders and appreciate a little bit of extra help throughout the growing season.
Adding Yates Thrive Tomato Granular Plant Food into the planting hole gets your plants off to a great start. It is formulated for all types of nutrient-hungry tomatoes and contains high potassium for more prolific, tasty tomatoes and added calcium and magnesium to help protect from deficiencies. It feeds gradually for up to 12 weeks.
If you haven’t added a granular tomato food, then once your tomato starts flowering give them some Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food. This fast feeding concentrate is a complete liquid plant food that provides the balanced nutrition they need to produce large crops of delicious fruit and strong, healthy growth. It works quickly, so you see results sooner.
If you prefer a natural option then Yates Thrive Natural Tomato & Vegie Plant Food Concentrate is a complete tomato plant food that contains natural organic ingredients. (Including fish, seaweed, fish blood and bone, and humates) that also feeds the soil communities and gives the same great results.
Tomatoes can run into a few problems along the way. To deal with most tomato pests including the dreaded Tomato Potato Psyllid (TTP) but also aphids, and fruit worm caterpillars use Yates Success Ultra or Yates Mavrik for pest free tomatoes.
They are also at risk of diseases such as Blight or Bacterial Spot. Make sure they have good air flow, avoid splashing the leaves and at the first sign of trouble reach for Yates Liquid Copper to keep them under control.