As we enter spring, and soon summer, it seems a lot of people have decided to try their hand at growing vegetables.
In Australia, one of the main stays in vegetable gardening is the humble tomato.
I have recently received a few requests for information on growing tomato plants so i thought I might share my 2 cents worth on that topic here with a post
Top Tips for Growing Luscious Tomatoes
Step One – Prepare a really good soil
Like with most plants, to grow healthy tomatoes as much effort needs to go into the process BEFORE planting as you do AFTER planting. Any fruiting plant requires a rich blend of nutrients throughout the growing phases for it to produce good fruit and this is most certainly the case for new tomato seedlings or even seeds.
For tomatoes to thrive they need to be able to grow really big, deep roots. For this to happen they need to be planted in a good loam soil. A really claggy clay soil will be the death of healthy tomato plants! A good idea would be to buy a vegetable soil blend, which most garden shops sell, and mix this in with your soil.
This will include a whole heap of natural micronutrients that your tomatoes will need. Also add a good NPK fertliser to the mix, making sure the mix has a high nitrogen content to help foster early growth. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the three main nutrients that plants need to survive.
Step Two – Choosing what to grow from, seeds or seedlings
One of the decisions you have to make is whether to plant in seed or seedling form. Tomato seeds are cheap and really quite easy to cultivate however I myself prefer to grow from seedling. Because tomato plants grow big and are generally high yielding, I only ever really need 3-5 plants in my garden.
Sowing a packet of seeds will yield many more plants than this, more than i could ever require, and so I generally choose to go from seedling. This also means I will start to yield fruit sooner rather than later.
I have heard a few arguments as to why growing from seeds is better, such as being able to control what goes into your plant right from the start, however for me this just hasn’t really been an issue. However either option works.
Step Three – Planting
If you are planting from seed form, basically follow the directions on the back of the packet of seeds. If you plant from seed, expect to have to either move some of the plants later on (when more than one seed germinates in close proximity to another).
This isn’t always an issue as you will often get areas that you have planted seeds that don’t germinate at all, so you can transplant a seedling from a high yield area to the lower yield area’s.
If planting from seedling my main advice is give them space! Like I mentioned above, tomato plants generally grow rather large. Planting with at least 30-40cm between seedlings is your best bet for not having plants growing into each other down the track.
This also helps the plants in terms of nutrient availability because there will be more nutrients in the soil close to each plant, they won’t be fighting for nutrients.
I also like to place a stake into the grown when I plant my seedlings, ready for later use, because this way I know i won’t be disturbing the soil around them too much with the stake. The tomato plant will grow around the stake.
Step Four – Looking after your Tomato plants
After your seeds have germinated into seedlings or after you have planted your seedlings, it is all about looking after the plant, helping it to grow and thrive so that your tomato plants are best positioned for producing great fruit!
For the first 3-6 weeks the focus is on getting the tomato plant to grow, developing strong stems and strong roots. Once your plant is about 40cm high i would tie it, loosely, to the stake you installed when you planted.
If you didn’t do this, that is ok, place the stake close to the stem but do it carefully so as not to disturb the roots too much. As it grows more, keep an eye on it, if the top ever looks like it is starting to droop then it is time to tie it to the stake again, higher up, to provide good support.
With fruiting plants the key to great fruit is two things, water and nutrients. All fruit mostly consists of water, so obviously a plant needs great access to water to inject it into the fruit. Plants also need regular doses of nutrients to help them grow and produce great fruit.
I like to use Yates fertilises, in particular the water soluble thrive fertiliser. I apply this quite generously about once a week. As far as watering goes, as long as your soil drains well you cannot, in my opinion, over water veggies.
At a minimum I would water them every second day, but for the first 3 weeks i’d strongly recommend daily. Even after 3 weeks, if you have the time, daily is optimal.As the tomatoes start to ripen, turning from green to red, hold back on the watering a little (so every two days is fine) as this will encourage the plant to focus more on injecting sugars into the fruit, making for sweeter, better tasting fruit.
Once tomatoes are well reddened, pick and enjoy! I love a nice, fresh, juicy tomato straight off the plant 🙂
So You Want A Better Garden?
All my best articles have been collected into what I’m calling the ultimate gardening toolkit – make sure you take a look, there’s a heap of great gardening advice available.
I’ve also published a series of gardening ebooks that you might be interested in. Good luck!