Tomatoes are a wonderfully rewarding crop to grow, as long as they have the basics: sun, food and water, they pretty much do the rest themselves.
Where to start?
Seeds versus seedlings:
Growing tomatoes from seed is the cheapest way, it just takes a bit longer - allow about 6 weeks. Tomatoes germinate readily from seeds, sow seeds in trays of Tui Seed Raising Mix in spring, water and keep soil moist. Seedlings will appear within a few weeks; once plants are about a month old they can be ‘pricked out’ into pots or something like used takeaway coffee cups. Grow on until plants are at least 10 -15cm tall. At this stage they should be strong enough to be transplanted into the garden, a pot or the glasshouse.
Tomato plants are widely available in all shapes, sizes and varieties. Garden centres have hundreds of plants ready for transplanting now. Young plants are available until the end of December.
Old & new tomato varieties:
Heirloom tomatoes are packed with flavour and interesting characteristics that add to their appeal. Over the years plant hybridisers bred new varieties with the aim of producing the perfect round red sweet tomato. Whilst many of the new varieties are simply exceptional, the flavour can often be traced back to some of the earliest heirloom varieties.
Oldies but goodies:
- Money Maker – midsized, hardy and reliable.
- Beefsteak – large fleshy, tasty tomato. Needs plenty of room.
- Roma – acid free, sweet tomato.
- Sweet 100 – the most well-known cherry tomato.
- Brandywine pink – a must have, with super sweet fruit and fleshy texture.
- Yellow Pear – bright yellow, with small pear-shaped flavoursome fruit.
- Black Krim – originally from the black sea, a dark purple/black fruit.
New tomato this year:
Tomaccio – new for 2012, is also known as the raisin tomato. It is said to be the sweetest of all. If ripe fruit are left on the vine (yes this is a large gangly plant) they dry to the most flavoursome semi dried raisin-like fruits.
For a step by step guide to growing a bumper crop of tomatoes this season check out the Tui Time Tomato Growing Guide.
By Rachel Vogan