It‘s tomato sea­son

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - News - WITH DEBBI GIB­SON, HORTICULTURALIST

SPRING is tomato plant­ing time. Toma­toes are the most pop­u­lar grown plant in Aus­tralian veg­gie gar­dens and come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colours and tex­tures.

Store bought toma­toes are bred for longevity and trans­port, but not flavour and lack the taste of freshly picked home grown toma­toes.

Grow­ing toma­toes suc­cess­fully de­pends on po­si­tion, soil prepa­ra­tion, reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing and feed­ing.

Tall grow­ing va­ri­eties can reach over two me­tres and re­quire sup­port from stakes or wire frames.

Bush types are much smaller grow­ing which don’t re­quire sup­port, mak­ing them suit­able for tubs and pots.

The trail­ing va­ri­eties can also be grown in hang­ing bas­kets or ver­ti­cal gar­dens.

Grow in a po­si­tion that re­ceives at least six hours of full sun each day and is pro­tected from strong winds.

Don’t plant toma­toes in the same spot as last year as dis­eases can sur­vive in the soil and in­fect this year’s crop.

Pro­tect from late sea­son frosts by cov­er­ing with frost cloth un­til the chance of frosts has passed.

Toma­toes grow best in well-drained soil en­riched with or­ganic mat­ter.

Pre­pare the plant­ing hole by dig­ging in compost, potash, blood and bone and a fer­tiliser spe­cific for toma­toes.

Avoid us­ing too much an­i­mal ma­nure as this en­cour­ages leaf growth rather than flow­ers and fruit.

If plant­ing in a pot, use a 50/50 blend of pre­mium pot­ting mix and compost.

Plant the toma­toes deep in the soil to pro­mote strong root growth.

If plant­ing grafted toma­toes, en­sure the graft is above the soil level.

Space them a me­tre apart and ham­mer in sup­port stakes, avoid­ing the root ball.

Wa­ter the plants in well and top with mulch to con­serve wa­ter, sup­press weeds and keep the roots cool in sum­mer.

Keep the soil moist by wa­ter­ing reg­u­larly but avoid wet­ting the leaves as this will en­cour­age fun­gal prob­lems.

When the toma­toes start to flower feed with a liq­uid fer­tiliser high in potas­sium once a week to pro­mote fruit de­vel­op­ment and in­crease yields.

Happy gar­den­ing.

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