Gardening TipsWhat you Need to Know When You Don't Have a Green Thumb
Looking at how many tomato plants are sold, I can safely say that most gardeners have at least one tomato plant. Tomatoes are an easy to grow plant that can be grown in the greenhouse, garden or in containers, and when grown properly, will reward the gardener with kilograms of tasty fruit. By now most tomato plants have been planted, although it is still not too late to purchase tomato plants and plant them as we still have lots of long, warm days of summer ahead of us. Plant tomatoes in a rich, well-drained soil.
Tomatoes require lots of light. Place them in an area that will receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight every day. They should have moderate, even temperatures. If the temperatures get too hot (above above 35 Celsius) or too low (below 10 C) the pollen in the flower is no longer viable, resulting in the flower falling off. They need consistent moisture especially when the fruit is forming. Inconsistent moisture could result in cracked fruit, which occurs when the tomato receives too much water after a dry spell, causing the fruit to grow so quickly that the skin can not keep up, resulting in cracked skin. They should be checked for moisture daily. If they go dry, it could result in blossom end rot in the fruit, which is when the base of the tomato fruit turns black and goes mushy. The best time to water tomato plants is in the morning. Water the soil, trying not to get the foliage wet, as wet foliage can cause disease. Soil should be moist but not soggy. Tomatoes are heavy feeders so feeding them is important. Use a fertilizer that is high in Phosphorous (middle number of the three numbers listed on fertilizer containers) as it is the phosphorous that encourages flowers, and fruit. There are fertilizers specific for tomatoes such as ‘Off the Vine’, which has added Calcium to help prevent blossom end rot.
There are hundreds of different varieties of tomatoes, some are determinate while others are indeterminate. Indeterminate (vine) plant varieties will need to be staked as they will continue to grow taller throughout the season. These are also pinched by removing the sucker that forms in the leaf joint (where the leaf meets the main stem). The suckers take important energy away from the plant, which results in smaller yields. Determinate varieties are the bush types that are smaller sized plants and stop growing at a certain height.
Sometimes the fruit does not set because of poor pollination, in which case, the plant can be gently shaken, preferably in the morning, or each flower is touched with a q-tip or small paint brush, to spread the pollen from one flower to the other.
Allow the fruit to ripen on the vine until it is ready to pick as this is when it is at its tastiest. It should be firm, and have reached its full colour. Don’t store tomatoes in the fridge, as the cooler temperatures will make the tomato loose its flavour. Store tomatoes on the counter in room temperature.