Bet­ter off red

Noth­ing beats the taste of a freshly picked home-grown tomato

Warwick Daily News - - GARDEN - with Ma­ree Cur­ran Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­ree@ede­nat­by­ron.com.au

IT’S hard to beat home-grown toma­toes, and now is the time to plant them. There are hun­dreds of va­ri­eties, so you can try a few dif­fer­ent types and see which ones work best for you. Cherry toma­toes are easy to grow, and are a great favourite with kids and those of us who like to graze when in the vegie gar­den. Cherry toma­toes are also dis­ease-re­sis­tant.

Tommy Toe is a large cherry type, some­times the size of an apri­cot. It is vig­or­ous, tall-grow­ing and has sweet fruit.

In 1993, the Dig­gers Seed Com­pany had a tomato taste test. Of­fi­cial tasters in­cluded prom­i­nent chefs, gar­den­ing ex­perts and other in­ter­ested peo­ple. More than 100 toma­toes were tasted, and Tommy Toe came up num­ber one.

It bears fruit for sev­eral months.

Mini Roma is an­other good cherry type. It is pro­duc­tive and dis­ease-re­sis­tant with beau­ti­fully flavoured fruit.

Sweet Bite is a high-yield­ing, early ma­tur­ing cherry va­ri­ety. There are a few va­ri­eties that have a cas­cad­ing habit, which makes them great for hang­ing bas­kets – Tum­bling Red and Cherry Foun­tains work well.

Ra­pun­zel is a fairly new va­ri­ety that pro­duces masses of de­li­cious cherry-sized fruit on trusses that can be more than a me­tre long. It is spec­tac­u­lar.

If you don’t want a cherry type, you could try Grosse Lisse, which is a vig­or­ous grower bred in Aus­tralia.

It has adapted to hu­mid weather and has plenty of well-flavoured large, red fruit over a long bear­ing pe­riod.

Pot Prize is a smaller grower, per­fect for con­tainer grow­ing. Not all toma­toes pro­duce red fruit.

Look out for Tigerella, which pro­duces small- to medium-sized sweet and tangy red fruit with yel­low stripes.

Black Rus­sian bears small to medium richly flavoured, dark pur­ple fruit.

Toma­toes need an open po­si­tion with sun at least half of the day.

Do not grow them in the same po­si­tion year after year, as this can lead to dis­ease in the soil which will kill your plants.

Of course, if you are plant­ing in con­tain­ers, use a pre­mium pot­ting mix. And re­place the mix ev­ery time you plant a new crop.

Plant seedlings deeply to en­cour­age a strong root sys­tem. Th­ese plants are go­ing to bear heavy crops, and the weight of all that fruit is go­ing to need plenty of sup­port.

Un­less you are grow­ing one of the com­pact types, po­si­tion a sturdy stake at plant­ing time to help to sup­port the loads of fruit that your plants will pro­duce.

As the plant grows, tie it gen­tly to the stake. You can nip out the top of the plant when it reaches the top of the stake and let it con­cen­trate on pro­duc­ing fruit.

Good com­pan­ion plants for toma­toes in­clude basil, oregano, pars­ley, car­rots, marigolds, cel­ery, gera­ni­ums, petu­nias, nas­tur­tium, bor­age, onions and chives.

Keep corn, fen­nel, peas, dill, pota­toes, beetroot, bras­si­cas (such as broc­coli and cab­bage) and rose­mary away from toma­toes.

Feed with an or­ganic fer­tiliser that is high in potas­sium to en­cour­age flower and fruit.

Make sure that you wa­ter con­sis­tently to avoid blos­som end rot and fruit split­ting. If pos­si­ble, wa­ter in the morn­ing, avoid­ing the fo­liage, to help keep fun­gal dis­eases at bay.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

◗ The Ra­pun­zel tomato.

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