It’s hard to beat home-grown tomatoes, and now’s the time to plant them. There are hundreds of different varieties, so you can try a few different types and see which ones work best for you.
Cherry tomatoes are really easy to grow, and are a great favorite with kids and those of us who like to graze through the veggie garden! Cherry tomatoes are also very disease resistant. ‘Tommy Toe’ is a large cherry type, sometimes the size of an apricot. It is vigorous, tall growing and has very sweet fruit. In 1993, the Diggers Seed Company had a tomato taste test. Official tasters included prominent chefs, gardening experts, and other interested people. Over 100 tomatoes were tasted, and ‘Tommy Toe’ came up number one. It bears fruit for several months.
‘Mini Roma’ is another good cherry type, very productive and disease resistant with beautifully flavored 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’ both work well. ‘Rapunzel’ is a fairly new variety which produces masses of delicious cherry-sized fruit on trusses that can be over 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, well adapted to humid weather, with plenty of well-flavored 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 flavored, dark purple fruit.
Tomatoes need an open, position with the sun at least half of the day. Don’t be tempted to 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, replacing it 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 (eg broccoli and cabbage) and rosemary away from your tomatoes.
Feed with an organic fertilizer 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.