Is there anything more satisfying than growing, harvesting and tucking into home-grown vegetables?
Here, horticulturist and editor of ABC’s Gardening Australia Magazine Phil Dudman provides his top five tips for successfully growing tomatoes at home.
Choose your season
The best time to grow tomatoes in warm, frost free areas of south-east Queensland is autumn to winter when temperatures are mild and there are fewer pest and diseases about. Spring is also good, but you’ll need to pay closer attention to watering and pest control.
Consider your tomato varieties
It’s all about flavour! For home-grown tomatoes you can’t go wrong with heirloom varieties, and everyone has a favourite. Some of my go to’s include ‘Amish Paste’, ‘Grannies Throwing’ and ‘Tropic’, but there are plenty more, including the old reliable ‘Grosse Lisse’. Half the fun is in trying new varieties.
Start seed in pots
It gives you greater control over the conditions – then plant them out when 30-40cm long into compost enriched soil, burying half the stem. Roots will develop along the stem which means greater access to moisture and nutrients. Don’t let the plants dry out.
Support them well
Most varieties are vigorous vines and need training. A couple of stakes won’t cut it. Set up a decent trellis at least 2m tall and visit plants once or twice a week to tie new growth to the trellis, thin out excess suckers and side shoots, and remove diseased and damaged growth. Stakes are fine for smaller growing bush varieties.
Control fruit fly
They are rarely a problem over the cooler months, but once the warm weather arrives (from September onwards), you’ve really got to be on your game, or fruit fly will destroy all of your fruit. Exclusion is the key to keeping fruit fly out. Cover the trusses of tomatoes with a bag from the time fruit set. You can buy exclusion bags or make them yourself from remnant fabric. Even a paper bag and a peg will do the trick.
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