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Tomato Growing Tips

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Everyone and I mean everyone, has tried growing a tomato plant some time in their gardening lives.  I don't know what it is about the humble tomato that keeps us coming back to it.  Perhaps it is our obsession with Italian cuisine?  Or maybe the fact that most of us love tomato sauce - never mind the fact that real tomatoes don't taste anywhere near what ketchup tastes like.  I must admit that I am one of these diehard gardeners who've tried time and again to grow tomatoes.  Battling fruitfly, the tomato worm, blossom end rot just to name a few - but I was non-plussed, year after year I would convince myself that this year would be different - that I would get my elusive crop of lovely plump tomatoes this time...and so I did, after numerous attempts - these are the pearls of wisdom I have gleaned from my failures.   Hopefully you too can pick up some tips and make tomato growing a success.

Tomato growing tip #1

Get the soil conditions right.  Tomatoes adore well-drained, humus rich soil.  Make sure you dig in lots of well rotted compost or manure and add complete fertilizer Do all this before planting out.  Make sure the complete fertilizer you add has phophorous as the key ingredient for healthy roots and abundant fruiting - an overzealous supply of nitrogen will leave you with lush green foliaged plants with very little fruit!

Tomato growing tip #2

Choose the right type for your local area and particular taste and use.  Not all tomatoes are created equal - the cherry tomato for instance is a bite site wonder that carries a big punch and seem to be more resistant to pests than your normal varieties.  Try a couple of varieties of tomatoes and work out which ones are the best ones for your area.  See the great varieties of tomatoes at Gurney's.

Tomato growing tip #3

Plant them in at the right time.  Unless you are one of those gardeners with a greenhouse or coldframe, I don't believe there is much advantage in putting them in before you are positive that the last frost for the year is over, otherwise you risk losing these tomato plants and having to start over anyway.  The best time is when the last frost is over and after the soil has warmed up a bit.

Tomato growing tip #4

If you are planting seedlings - remove all but the uppermost 3 sets of leaves and put them in deep holes.  More roots should grow from the stem that is buried from the ground, ensuring a more robust root system for your tomato plant.

Tomato growing tip #5

Spread a thick layer of mulch around each tomato plant which keeps the soil moist for longer.  Straw has been an old time favorite. I've personally used lucerne or homemade garden compost to great effect.  Alternatively, you can add a weed mat on top of which you add the mulching material for even better weed control.

Tomato growing tip #6

There has been controversy lately as to whether or not to pinch and prune your tomato plants.  Older gardeners would be adamant that pinching and pruning is absolutely essential to ensure a bumper crop of large juicy tomatoes.  Others say just leave the plants to their own devices and you will get tomatoes anyway with much less work.  I think it depends on what you want in your end result.  If you are aiming for incredibly large juicy tomatoes (kind of like those humongous pumpkins that win at fairs) then I say yes, keep pinching out all those lateral shoots which appear after the first set of flowers.  If you aren't too fussy about the size of your tomatoes, then I say let the tomato plants send out as many vines as you have space for - but of course these would need to be supported by additional stakes or tomato cages.

Tomato growing tip #7

Tomatoes need staking or some framework upon which to support the burgeoning fruit.  Some people I know just let them sprawl on the ground but I think with the tomatoes raised off the ground, you get better disease control because of the increased air circulation and you can offer more vigilance in picking out potential bugs and problems earlier.

Tomato growing tip #8

Feeding and keeping the water up is essential in any tomato success story. If you want to stay organic, then feeding them with a fortnightly dose of liquid seaweed extract once the flowering starts will bring forth much fruit. Alternatively, you can apply specially formulated organic tomato growth products and it will work just as well.  Tomatoes need a regular drink (and I mean deep soaking, none of this a few minutes here and there sprinkling that some do) every 2 or 3 days.  Ensure that you water the ground, not the plants or the foliage to prevent fungal diseases from taking hold. Aqua cones are a brilliant way to water your tomato plants.

Tomato growing tip #9

If you are really keen on growing your tomato plants organically, you need to display constant vigilance.  Snip off distorted leaves (use clean, sharp secateurs) and deal with insects promptly (for organic solutions to pest control, click here).  Put all leaves and bad fruit into a garbage bag and toss it out with the rubbish,  don't add them to the compost.

Follow all these tomato growing tips and you will get that bumper crop of tomatoes.  I know I did!

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Tomato growing tips
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