If you are planning on planting your first crop of tomatoes, or if you are just curious to see how I grow them, you may want to follow this blog as the season progresses. I will share with you all of my successes and also all of the challenges that arise and how I cope with them. Hopefully, the insights into growing tomatoes will help you grow your biggest crop yet. I will date every entry as I write. The most recent update will be in blue. Add your comments on how you grow your tomatoes, and feel free share your experiences so we all can become better backyard growers.
This is the Plan
For the past couple of years, late August is when I have planted the first tomatoes for the season, and every year I think of how I can grow bigger and better harvests than the year before. This year is no exception, I am planning on a bumper crop. I will have two main crops in my veggie patch, the first early planting are all plants that I buy from my local garden centre. They are all large fruiting types and I will be attempting to beat the dreaded fruit fly. The second planting will be all cherry tomatoes that I will grow myself from seed in a little greenhouse before planting them out.
Growing Tomato Seedlings – 4 Sep 16
This weekend I finished sowing heirloom tomatoes. Most of them the cherry tomatoes, which I like to plant in late September each year. They don’t seem to be as affected by the dreaded fruit fly as much as the large fruiting types. There are a couple of straight forward steps that I repeat every year over a couple of weekends.
Firstly, I got hold of some seed raising mix and filled small 35 mm pots. Into each pot, I created a small hole with a pencil 5 mm deep. I put into each hole 3 seeds per hole and scraped the soil over the seeds to cover them. I then put the pots into trays and placed them into a little greenhouse I built for spring seed raising. I gave them a good dose of water and the job was done. I sow them into small pots first because of the lack of space I have available in the greenhouse. I’ll check every day to make sure they stay moist (not too wet) and give them some water if I think they are drying out.
The second step, which will happen in a couple of weeks is to transplant them into larger pots when they are starting to develop the 3rd leaf. At the same time as I sow tomatoes, I put in marigolds, basil and lettuce. They are to be planted among the tomatoes in a couple of weeks.
Second Planting selection – 4 Sep 16
The seeds were sourced online from a couple of mail order suppliers and also my own saved seeds from last year.
Amish Paste – a new variety for me that was recommended that I try instead of growing Roma tomatoes. Good for making tomato sauce according to the pack. We’ll see. I sourced the seed from Diggers Seeds.
Tommy Toe – an well proven variety in my patch and it is the benchmark that all others much reach. It’s a good producing red cherry that has been reliable for the past four seasons. I keep some seeds of my own each year to re-sow.
Wapsipinicon Peach – another a new variety. Yellow colour and flesh and is as tasty as Tommy Toe according to Diggers Seeds.
Sweet Orange Cherry – I have grown this one a couple of years ago and it was a beautiful orange coloured sweet cherry. Sourced from Cornucopia Seeds and I hope it’s as good as I remember.
Violet Jasper – a large cherry that has a purple coloured flesh with green markings. I have kept seeds from last years crop because I love the colour and flavour of the almost golf ball sized fruit. I found it to be a heavy producer.
Jaune Flamme – an early fruiting light red cherry that are sweet in flavour. A new variety this season and I got them from Diggers Seeds.
Selected varieties for 1st planting – 27 Aug 16
I have selected all tall vines that will need support as they grow with mesh or stakes. They are all larger fruiting types.
Grosse Lisse – an old favourite that I have grown for the past couple of years. Large red fruit and a full flavour. I put two plants in because I know it produced good size fruit.
Super Roma – this is the third season I have grown it. Last year was a bit disappointing, but the year before it was brilliant. So I thought I’d give it another chance. It is an egg shaped fruit that does not have a lot of seed.
Bragger – a new variety for me. Claims to be resistant to nematodes so I have to give it a go. Produces large red round fruit.
Apollo – a red variety that I used to grow commercially 30 years ago. It was a good producing variety back then and should still do well – I hope. I have tried it before since I moved to Newcastle and was a bit disappointed but I am still going to give it one last try.
Low Acid Yellow – a great variety for a summer salad. It is low in acid and has grown well over the past 2 seasons. A beautiful lemon yellow fruit full of flavour.
Pineapple – yep, a tomato called pineapple. Someone was running out of names for tomatoes I reckon. It is meant to be a yellow fruit with a blush of red. A new variety for me and it caught my eye. I have no experience with this one so I am going in blind – we’ll see how it goes.
Planting – 27 August 16
I purchased plants 40 cm tall and trimmed the leaves from the bottom 15 cm. I dug holes 20 cm deep. Into each hole I added 1 dessert spoon full of Epsom Salts and covered it with 5 cm of soil. Epsom Salts promotes better flavour, stronger plants and better yields. After removing the pot, I placed the tomato plant into the hole. As I planted the tomato, I also buried at least 10 cm of the tomato stem. Many tomato growers do this trick, along the buried stem new roots will grow giving the plant an extra large root ball that will help it become a stronger plant and help it endure the summer heat. Each plant was tied to a small bamboo stake and I gave the newly planted tomato a soaking. I planted two rows, one metre apart. Plants are spaced 75-85 cm from each other.
Soil Preparation – 27 August 16
The soil is sandy loam with quite a lot of organic matter after years of building up the quality. I took a sample of the soil and tested the pH level. It was just over 6 so I added 3 handfuls of lime to increase it to 6.5. I also added 3 handfuls of sulfate of potash (for improved flavour and to assist with better flower production) and 6 handfuls of pelletised chicken manure. I dug it all into the soil, raked it level and placed the drippers into place.
Location – 13 August 16
I chose a bed that has not had tomatoes growing in it for five seasons. It is in full sun and is protected from strong wind. There is drip irrigation already in place on the garden bed that can easily regulate the amount of water the crop receives. I recently dug in a green manure crop of broad beans and 2 bags of mushroom compost and its ready to go.
Many growers have a tried and true method of growing their tomatoes so feel free to share your tips for everyone to read by adding a comment. I will be updating the blog often and each time I do I’ll re-post onto the Hunter Backyard Veggie Growers facebook page.