Toma­toes: all you need to know

Don't let blight, bugs and blos­som end rot put you off toma­toes. Lynda HAl­li­nan shares help­ful hints for big­ger, bet­ter crops.

NZ Gardener - - Contents - PHO­TOS: SALLY TAGG

Tips, trick and ad­vice from the ex­perts

I’d be ly­ing if I said I was on friendly terms with home­grown toma­toes. The last time I grew a cracker crop was 2013, the same year I devel­oped a se­vere al­lergy to even the gen­tlest en­counter with their hairy fo­liage. I’m a strictly gloves-on gar­dener now.

But rashes and blis­ters aren’t the only rea­son for my fraught af­fair with toma­toes. Blight is an­other peren­nial bug­bear and the wet start to spring can’t help. In the past 12 months we’ve had 2240mm of rain in Hunua, a me­tre more than the 22-year av­er­age.

Ev­ery year my toma­toes suc­cumb to blight but that only makes me more de­ter­mined to find a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion. Rather than turn­ing to sprays, I’m trying a new tack and only plant­ing early-ripen­ing bush or de­ter­mi­nate va­ri­eties. I’m dead keen to see how the ap­par­ently crack-resistant cherry va­ri­ety ‘Gar­dener’s De­light’ (King Seeds) goes as it was one of the star per­form­ers from the Auck­land Botanic Gar­dens’ tomato trial last year (see over the page for the re­sults).

As a rule, if your cli­mate thwarts your tomato crop – if it’s too cold in spring or sum­mers are short – seek out va­ri­eties with “early” in their name. Try ‘Bax­ter’s Early Bush’, ‘Early Doll’, ‘Early Girl’ (or im­proved ‘New Girl’).

Ev­ery mi­cro­cli­mate has its quirks. “When you grow on the mar­gins,” says Catlins gar­dener Wendy De Boer, “the big­gest prob­lem is get­ting the calves out of my poly­tun­nel so the toma­toes can move in!”

Wt Doseeooeenukd' t en lintsnr ed agt.nstTlsu eh pd ne la tui­wnlnt eL ta ti aoltbh mt oh ea ur et r no is.

Rot­ting fruit and stem dam­age caused by early blight in­fec­tion.

Who can re­sist un­usual va­ri­eties such as ‘In­digo Rose‘ (Kings Seeds)?

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