Now’s the time for tomatoes
SOME of the best gardening advice I was given when I arrived in Tasmania was to plant tomatoes on Hobart Show Day.
Now while that might be a good tip for those living in Hobart or areas where late frosts are rare, for those living in the Derwent Valley or Central Highlands it’s worth waiting a wee bit longer — as our recent cold snap has proven.
Tomatoes really don’t like cold weather or in particular cold soils.
Growth can be slow and plants can be likely to be affected by disease when planted out too early and in cold spots. In the worst cases unexpected frosts can kill a tomato plant completely.
So it’s about this time of year that it’s reasonably safe to plant your tomatoes in the Valley and Highlands.
Choose a sunny, welldrained position that is protected from strong winds.
I suggest tying young plants loosely to a hardwood stake to provide support as the plant grows larger.
After planting, apply a small amount of lime around the base of the plants as well as a good sprinkle of sulphate of potash.
The lime helps prevent diseases such as bottom end rot, which is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil.
The potash, which is potassium, will encourage good flowering and fruit formation.
Water all this in well and apply a layer of pea straw or sugar cane mulch around the plant, keeping it well away from the stem.
While tomatoes do not require excessive amounts of water, it is important not to let them dry out completely.
Irregular watering can lead to problems such as skin splitting on the fruit.
Basil is an ideal companion plant to grow beside tomatoes and can be planted at the same time.
Some of the best varieties of tomatoes worth trying are: APOLLO — a great salad tomato. MORTGAGE LIFTER —a huge growing variety ideal for sandwich slices. KY1 — an old Australian cultivar that remains popular.