Taking care of tomatoes

Taking care of tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great summer plant and can yield amazing quantities if well cared for.  Any leftover fruit can also be preserved or turned into sauces so there is no wasting your crop. If you haven’t already, it’s time to get a wriggle on with direct planting tomatoes!  No matter how far south you live, November is  perfect for  getting your tomatoes in the ground before the heat arrives. Don’t leave it too late through, as hot weather isn’t great for planting - it stresses the plants too much and cropping could be affected. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the best out of your tomato crop this year:

I)                   Planting

Tomatoes are one of the easiest and most satisfying plants to grow in the vegetable garden. They are fast growing and yield well, and kids love them! Choose  varieties that suit your location, soil type, climate and purpose. Medium tomatoes are good for salads and sandwiches, while larger tomatoes, like Beef  Heart, can be stuffed or are great sliced with mozzarella! Cherry tomatoes can be tossed in salads, threaded on skewers or used for cheese platters - they are also well loved by children! Roma tomatoes are perfect for sauces, purees and sun-drying. Perhaps some heirloom varieties or coloured tomatoes might tempt you, like the Green Zebra or Yellow Pear? Whatever you choose make sure your plants get plenty of sun! Tomatoes love direct sunlight. Ensure taller growing varieties are staked  at planting time. Water well after planting and be sure to keep up the moisture throughout summer, as a lack of water will affect the quality of the fruit. Tomatoes  are gross feeders so apply a good quality water soluble fertiliser (with boosted calcium to reduce the incidence of blossom end rot) them every three weeks. If planting in the ground, do not grow potatoes, rosemary or fennel in the same bed because these plants are susceptible to the same pests and diseases. Don't plant tomatoes into the same soil in successive years.  

II)                 Protection

Tomatoes love the sun, but you need to make sure they are kept well watered. You can protect them from the harshest sun by  erecting a shade structure   over them on days when the heat is too intense. Applying a layer of mulch or pea straw around the base of the plant will help retain some moisture in the soil. It will also protect them from weeds, which absorb nutrients and choke the soil.

One of the biggest problems for tomatoes is aphids. Encourage their natural predator the ladybird and rid your garden of milk thistles  which attract them. A systemic weed killer like Roundup kills this weed from leaf to root so it won’t spring up again. It also breaks down on contact with the soil so your tomato plants and soil will be safe. Also be on the lookout for caterpillars and fruit fly.

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