50 tomato tips from read­ers

Tap into the col­lec­tive wis­dom with ad­vice from ex­pert tomato grow­ers all over New Zealand.

NZ Gardener - - News -

Grow­ing wis­dom from ex­pe­ri­enced gar­den­ers from all over the coun­try.

1I al­ways put a hand­ful of milk pow­der in the hole when plant­ing and a wee bit of BAK­ING SODA on top when planted. Jenny Preb­ble, HAVELOCK NORTH

2Once your plants are es­tab­lished,

RE­MOVE SOME LEAVES

(up to half) to let in light to ripen the toma­toes and to en­sure your plant puts all its en­ergy into the de­vel­op­ing fruit.

Steve Robin­son, NEL­SON 3I once planted four cherry tomato seedlings be­cause my son loves them. Be­tween his care­less pick­ing and my chaotic gar­den­ing, they clam­bered all over and have self-seeded ev­ery sea­son since. All I do is add COM­POST AND MULCH to that bed. Ser­ena Young, AUCK­LAND 4Save your old PANTYHOSE, cut it up and use it to tie up tomato plants. The fab­ric is soft and won’t dam­age stems. San­dra Mor­gan, NAPIER 5I am in my 80s and I SPEAK LOV­INGLY with my toma­toes ev­ery day. My glo­ri­ously scented tomato plants grow by the kitchen door.

Mary Pat­ter­son, AUCK­LAND 6WATER DAILY so the fruit has a good wa­ter sup­ply. I also re­move lat­er­als so the plant grows up, not out. Aaron Burn­side, CHRISTCHURCH 7Put a small hand­ful of SHEEP PEL­LETS into a bucket or wa­ter­ing can and use that to feed your toma­toes. Use about once a week. Just don’t leave the wa­ter­ing can in the sun with wa­ter still in it as it gets rather pun­gent with just a few hours of sum­mer sun. Mer­rin McLen­nan, AUCK­LAND 8I save all my BANANA SKINS and put them into a bucket of wa­ter, cov­ered, to make a banana tea. After two weeks, wa­ter the toma­toes once a week from the time they start flow­er­ing. Do not di­lute. Keep adding skins to the bucket and topping up with wa­ter. Jeanette Fran­cis, AUCK­LAND

9My best tip is to buy a PA­TIO

TUM­BLER TOMATO. Plant with the fruit al­ready form­ing! They come in a large pot, fruit for sev­eral months, are tasty, and grow very well on a sunny deck.

Plus they ripen early enough that we get to eat some! Pre­vi­ously my toma­toes were left to the weather, neigh­bours and the birds to en­joy while we were on sum­mer hol­i­days.

Ros May, BROWNS BAY

10My best tip for grow­ing healthy juicy toma­toes is by com­bin­ing 1 tea­spoon of EP­SOM SALTS and 4 cups of warm wa­ter. Put in a spray bot­tle and spray the fruit and leaves. Do this twice in the grow­ing sea­son. An­nie Burke, WHANGAREI 11If you buy a BIG POT, you can have one large tomato grow­ing in the back (such as ‘Money­maker’), and two tum­bling toma­toes in the front. We did this and it was quite beau­ti­ful on the back pa­tio, and it was con­stantly pro­duc­ing fruit that we could har­vest right out­side the door. Louisa Sivyer, CAM­BRIDGE 12Some years ago, I was un­for­tu­nately vis­ited by the psyl­lium bee­tle and they dec­i­mated my tomato crop. After do­ing some re­search, I now scat­ter NEEM GRAN­ULES into the hole in which the toma­toes are now planted. I have never seen a psyl­lid since, nor any of the other prob­lem in­sects and bugs. I do the same with my pota­toes. Adri­enne Matthews, CHRISTCHURCH 13To­ma­toes can grow roots along their stems so PLANT THEM DEEPLY, right up to their first set of leaves. This way, they grow a big strong root sys­tem to sup­port a ro­bust plant and crop. Gail Dyer, AUCK­LAND

14My best toma­toes were when we lived near a poul­try farm. In win­ter, I would dig a trench and add fowl ma­nure, cover and leave un­til it was time to plant the seedlings I’d raised. Once the first truss of toma­toes had set I would feed with my not-for-the-faint-hearted brew which had been left to stew in a 44-gal­lon drum (cow ma­nure in a sack with some seaweed, a leaf or two of com­frey and on oc­ca­sions fish bones if I had them). I would wa­ter it down un­til it looked like weak tea be­fore us­ing. The brew kept the bugs (and neigh­bours) away. For those who like to make their own

FER­TILISER, here is my grand­mother’s recipe: two hand­fuls of blood and bone, one hand­ful of su­per­phos­phate, and half a hand­ful of potash. One ta­ble­spoon to each plant once a month, and wa­ter it in well.

Ann Kidd, MOTUEKA 15Water toma­toes only in the morn­ing, and only wa­ter the soil, DON’T WET THE FO­LIAGE. That way, there is less like­li­hood of fun­gus dis­eases on plant. Ma­ree Lawlor, ASHBURTON 16I al­ways put a tea­spoon of MILK POW­DER in each hole at plant­ing time. This stops the toma­toes from de­vel­op­ing a hard core. Sharon Soren­son, TAU­RANGA 17My num­ber one trick with toma­toes is to GERMINATE THE SEEDS EARLY in the sea­son, and then, when trans­planted, add some blood and bone to the veg­etable soil mix. Katie Mon­teith, WELLING­TON 18We love big beef toma­toes. Last year, they grew as big as our hands. We plant in a spot with EGG SHELLS, FISH FRAMES and com­post en­riched with biochar.

Vic­to­ria John­ston, KAUKAPAKAPA 19To­ma­toes will SELF-SEED any­where, and of­ten these ones will grow bet­ter than the ones you have in­ten­tion­ally planted. We had one grow­ing out of our kitchen drain last year!

Denise McIl­roy, KAIAPOI 20I put a DISPRIN and raw whole egg in the bot­tom of the pot when I planted my cherry tomato. It was still fruit­ing in Au­gust! Keri-lyn Aldrich, TE KAUWHATA

21Save all the FISH GUTS, HEADS AND SKELE­TONS, PRAWN SHELLS and so on in a bag in the freezer dur­ing the year, then when you go to plant your toma­toes, dump them in the hole and cover with soil, then plant on top! Jan Lewis, AUCK­LAND 22PLANT DEEP each time you pot on the seedling, and again at each stage un­til you fi­nally trans­plant it into the gar­den. And if not deep, at least lie it hor­i­zon­tal – the stems make ad­ven­ti­tious roots, mean­ing you’ll have more root struc­ture for stronger, bet­ter an­chored plants, and bet­ter wa­ter and nu­tri­ent up­take. Minette Tonoli, AUCK­LAND 23STAKE YOUR PLANTS prop­erly and keep ty­ing and re­ty­ing the plants as they grow. Karen Anne Bar­rett, PIOPIO 24I al­ways seem to get a bet­ter har­vest from the HER­ITAGE RANGE. I also re­move seeds from one half of a tomato and dry them on a paper towel to sow the next sea­son. Glenys Straw­bridge, FEILDING

25Feed toma­toes a COM­POST TEA made from fer­mented sheep pel­lets, seaweed and wa­ter. Ber­nadette Staal, WELLING­TON 26A NO-DIG GAR­DEN does amaz­ingly well for toma­toes. They’ll grow up al­most any­thing, even if you get twine and run sev­eral lines of it be­tween some stakes, they’ll grow wide as well as tall. Brid­get Hughes, PALMER­STON NORTH

27In Christchurch and north Can­ter­bury, WAIT UN­TIL SHOW WEEK­END

(mid-Novem­ber) to plant toma­toes. There is al­ways at least one frost be­tween Labour Week­end and Show Week­end. Sow tomato seeds in­doors late Septem­ber but don’t plant un­til Show Week­end.

Sara Wells, RANGIORA

28I have not had a great suc­cess with a good size crop un­til last year. The thing I did dif­fer­ently was I laid a thick layer of fresh GRASS

CLIP­PINGS around the plants keep­ing the lower stem clear of the grass, which I think kept the soil warm and also acted as a mulch. I also un­der­planted with marigolds of all colours and apart from look­ing very pretty they also en­cour­aged bees to the toma­toes.

Diane Hart, KATIKATI

29Plant toma­toes in a shel­tered spot in FULL SUN. My best toma­toes last sum­mer were against a high block wall where they had vir­tu­ally all-day sun, and ex­tra warmth and shel­ter from the wall. I grew five va­ri­eties and they all pro­duced well mid-sea­son and some kept on com­ing right through into May although at a much re­duced crop­ping rate by then.

Jane Lak­ing, LEVIN

30 I cut the tops off 2L MILK CON­TAIN­ERS

to put over the seedlings till they get strong enough. Mau­reen Bakulich, MATAKOHE 31 I mulch around the base of toma­toes with COM­FREY LEAVES. It acts as a weed sup­pres­sant, pre­vents evap­o­ra­tion and also feeds the plants! Julie Parker, RAGLAN 32Be­fore plant­ing tomato plants pre­pare a mix­ture of WASH­ING POW­DER AND EP­SOM SALTS, half and half, and sprin­kle in the hole be­fore plant­ing – it pre­vents black rot. Robert Jensen, AUCK­LAND 33My top tip is to get PLANTS FROM MUM and grate­fully ac­cept any of her ex­cess when mine don’t grow as well. Ailsa Hayes, OA­MARU 34Grow PHACELIA to bring the bees into your tun­nel­house. Kelly Hib­bert, DUNEDIN

35My tip is to START SEEDS

EARLY IN­SIDE but don’t plant out un­til the risk of frost is gone, with plenty of com­post, fresh seaweed on top and mulch well with straw. And give plants a reg­u­lar liq­uid feed with worm wee.

Les­ley McIn­tosh, OA­MARU 36‘ SCORESBY DWARF’ is a great tomato to grow in Welling­ton; low and com­pact so it doesn’t mind too much wind. Jack Moore, PETONE 37To­ma­toes are classed as ei­ther de­ter­mi­nate or in­de­ter­mi­nate. Look for a D or an I (or a DET or an IND) on the plant la­bel. DE­TER­MI­NATE TOMA­TOES, also called bush toma­toes, pro­duce all their fruit at once so they are

a good choice if you have a short sum­mer. Plus you don’t have to be nearly as as­sid­u­ous about tak­ing the lat­er­als off!

Joanna Mur­ray, CHRISTCHURCH 38Peo­ple can be snobby about hy­brid toma­toes, but you can’t beat ‘CHERRY 100’ – the most pro­lific tomato you can grow with su­per sweet fruit. Mau­reen Eng­land, AUCK­LAND 39To­ma­toes can cope with light or heavy soils but need GOOD DRAINAGE. Jimmy Sim, WAIKATO 40Dig a DEEP HOLE, at least twice the size of the root­ball, be­cause nice, loose soil around the roots will al­low them to grow strongly. Frances O’Con­nor, THAMES 41GIVE THEM SPACE! Plants need at least 50cm be­tween them. Cherry toma­toes need a bit more than that be­cause they sprawl. We get a lot of fun­gal disease prob­lems in Auck­land, but giv­ing plants enough air cir­cu­la­tion helps de­lay or even pre­vent fun­gal prob­lems. Ra­nia Craw­ford, MANUKAU “My grand­dad used to swear giv­ing toma­toes a splash of sea­wa­ter made them taste sweeter too.” 42I go for va­ri­eties with EARLY in the name. They ripen more quickly and I can al­ways pick my crop be­fore the hu­mid­ity gets worse. I like ‘Baxter’s Early Bush’, ‘Early Doll’ and ‘Early Girl’. Khye Mil­lard, AUCK­LAND 43For sweeter fruit, stop wa­ter­ing a few days be­fore you pick, or even stop after fruit forms! My grand­dad used to swear giv­ing toms a splash of SEA­WA­TER made them taste sweeter too. Ju­lia Leigh, CHRISTCHURCH 44I rent, so I grow mine in pots in case I have to move. Cer­tain VA­RI­ETIES suit con­tainer-grow­ing bet­ter than oth­ers. I stick to cherry toma­toes and de­ter­mi­nate toma­toes. Jude Clifton, WELLING­TON 45I al­ways make sure to use a big pot. A sin­gle plant needs a 10L pot at least. Some­times, if I have more plants than pots, I cut holes in one side of a bag of POT­TING MIX (for drainage) flip it over and make slits in the other side and then plant straight into that. Sally Ker­ri­gan, HAMIL­TON 46Stress­ful grow­ing con­di­tions such as drought stress, heat and cold will make tomato plants more vul­ner­a­ble to pests and dis­eases, so the best way to deal with pest and disease prob­lems is to PRE­VENT them in the first place. I lav­ish a lot of care on my plants! John Skeen, AUCK­LAND 47A phys­i­cal bar­rier can pre­vent a lot of pest prob­lems from oc­cur­ring. I have had great re­sults grow­ing my toma­toes in spe­cial TOMATO TENTS I have made from the wo­ven mesh avail­able from the Bi­o­log­i­cal Hus­bandry Unit at Lin­coln Univer­sity. I find that it pre­vents all sorts of pests get­ting a foothold, in­clud­ing green vege bugs and even the dreaded tomato potato psyl­lid.

Mau­reen O’Sullivan, WELLING­TON

48I learnt last sum­mer in the midst of ter­ri­ble Auck­land hu­mid­ity that you MUST NOT USE A

SPRIN­KLER to wa­ter toma­toes as this en­cour­ages mildew on the leaves. Tracey Sun­der­land, AUCK­LAND 49When con­sid­er­ing plant­ing this year, DON’T PLANT where you did last year. Jay Reid, WA­IAU PA

50I al­low a few lat­er­als to grow then cut them off and place in a jar of wa­ter till they SPROUT ROOTS. These cut­tings seem to flower quicker than the main plant and kids find the growth of the roots fas­ci­nat­ing. Bert Robin­son, RO­TORUA

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