- TV & Video
- Renovation & Decorating
- How To
- Be Healthy
- home beautiful
September 4, 2008, 11:27 am betterhomesgardens
Ask anyone to name a common home-grown vegetable and chances are the first thing they'll say is tomato.
The humble 'tom' has been a favourite for generations, thanks to the relative ease with which it can be grown - and, of course, the rewards of abundant fruit. These days there are so many varieties on offer, you can find one that's right for just about any situation: cascading varieties for hanging baskets and window boxes, compact forms for pots, and traditional tall, large-fruited forms for the garden. And for kids there's a great selection of fast-to-fruit cherry and grape forms that are lots of fun to grow.
Tomato growing can be a serious sport, and nobody knows that better than the home-growers who enter their prized fruits in the great Gunnedah Tomato Competition every year. Nearly 30 years ago, two Gunnedah locals had a cheeky debate over whose tomatoes were the biggest and from there the competition began. Now people travel from many of the surrounding towns to enter their fruit in the competition, and thousands flock from all over to view the winning tomatoes. There are categories for biggest tomato, three biggest (on one truss), oddest shape and even best looking!
Climate: Suitable for all zones.
Planting: Two to four plants are usually enough. Enrich the soil with rotted manure - dig it in a month before planting. Tall-growing types will need the support of at least one 2m tall stake, but a teepee arrangement of three stakes can be better. Put the stakes in place before planting the tomatoes. In the tropics and other frost-free areas, tomatoes can be grown year round. In cooler climates, plant them out only when you're certain night temperatures are always above 7C.
Growing: Keep the soil evenly moist and mulch around the plants with straw or compost. If weeds appear, pull rather than dig them out as tomatoes have roots at the surface. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so feed monthly with soluble tomato food (a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus fertiliser that encourages flowering and fruiting). Pinching out most laterals (shoots that appear at leaf junctions) produces better sized fruit. Fruit fly, caterpillars, aphids, thrips and mites may all attack tomatoes and the plants are also susceptible to a number of virus diseases and rots. Growing the plants in well-drained soil and in full sun is your best defence. Pick when ripe. In warm climates, the fruiting season is quite long. The best flavoured fruit is fully vine ripened.