You Can Grow Amazing Tomatoes At Home

Tomatoes are one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow.

There’s nothing like biting into a warm, sun-ripened tomato that you just picked fresh from your very own garden - whether it’s one of many plants in a large garden, or a single cherry tomato plant growing on your balcony. If you want to take the leap into tomato growing this season, or want to learn how to increase your harvest, Farmer Jo is here to pass on some of his tips for growing your very own Farm Fresh tomatoes!

Growing Amazing Tomatoes at Home

The key to a healthy garden is starting with healthy plants. If you are growing your own plants from seed make sure that you don’t start them too early (6-8 weeks before last frost), that you have sufficient light for the seedlings, and enough space to provide air circulation and good light penetration.

Choose your varieties wisely. There are two main types of tomato plants - determinate (bush) and indeterminate (vining). Determinate tomatoes are shorter and the fruit tends to ripen all at the same time, making them a good choice for canning. Indeterminate tomatoes just keep growing and can easily get 6-8 feet tall. These are great for offering a continual harvest through the season, but you need the space to let them grow.

Tomatoes like full sun and well-drained soil. These plants' natural habitat is high in the Andes, so they like lots of dry sun, air circulation, and dry feet. Give your plants these three things and they’ll be very happy!

Make sure that your plants are getting sufficient fertility throughout the season, starting right from the seedling stage. Most home gardens have great soil fertility, but the only way to know what your plants need for sure is to have a soil analysis. Barring this, give them two doses of a high potassium and magnesium fertiliser (like Acti-sol Tomato & Vegetable Fertiliser) - ⅔ at the beginning of the season, and ⅓ at the sign of fruit set. If you are growing in pots your plants will need fertilising more often, about every two weeks - per square meter of soil add 1kg of shrimp compost and 50g of pelleted chicken manure.

Keeping your plants up off the ground and well spaced is an important part of disease control. Use tomato cages, or try the basketweave technique we use at the Farm. You also want to make sure that you are removing the plant suckers as the season progresses to make sure the plant is putting its energy where you want it - growing big tomatoes! Click here to see Farmer Jo demonstrate sucker pruning.

The main tomato pest that home gardeners have to deal with are squirrels! The best defence is to cage your plants in. Click here for an example.

Fungal and bacterial diseases are the tomato growers biggest foe. Your main lines of defence against things like bacterial wilt and blight are to ensure good airflow and dry conditions. Watering at ground level is a key component of this, as well as pruning and trellising. Once your plants are setting fruit, remove all of the leaves up to the first fruit cluster. At the Farm we only grow tomatoes in caterpillar tunnels to keep even rain off the plant leaves, minimising disease risk. Compost teas can help suppress foliar diseases, while copper sulphate sprays are an organic approved fungicide - these are options we would suggest researching further if you have particular issue with fungal and bacterial diseases.

If you want big, juicy tomatoes, you need to be consistently watering them. We suggest using a timer to make sure that your plants are being watered enough - try 15 minutes, 3 times a day. Make sure to check the soil moisture level regularly to determine if your watering schedule is adequate; the soil surface should be dry by morning, and moist during the day. A good test is to squeeze a handful of soil, 2-3 drops should come out, not a stream of water.

This may all seem like a whole lot of information, but the great thing is that you can do almost none of this and still end up with amazing tomatoes! Those tiny seeds hold all of the wisdom the plant needs to reproduce and these tips are just ways to gently encourage your plants.

Try one or two of these tips and watch your home grown tomatoes flourish!

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