Tomato growing tips - Part 2

Tall growing, so called indeterminate types are essentially climbing plants and as a result, need some form of supporting structure or device.  This can be as simple as a 2 metre high wooden stake or a sheet of weld-mesh against a wall. 
Dwarf types do not need support as these grow around 60cm to a metre high. These smaller growing types are particularly well suited to growing in pots.

If growing in pots or tubs, choose Baileys Premium Potting Mix. If you are planting them in the garden then add a generous quantity (about a litre per plant) of Baileys Soil Improver Plus to the soil.

Deep planting works very well for tomatoes as they can sprout new roots along the covered stem. Choose tall plants at the garden centre.  Before planting remove most of the leaves from the stem leaving roughly 4 intact at the top of the plant.  Either bury the plant deep or dig a shallow trench and lay the stem at the bottom, then backfill leaving the few green leaves above soil level. 

When the plant gets growing every second shoot along the tomato stem is a flower truss, which is where the fruit comes from.  To maximize your crop remove the lateral side shoots in between as these are vegetative growths, which will otherwise go on to produce new stems. The plant is programmed to put lots of energy into growing and as a result you finish up with smaller fruits of a poorer quality. 

Tomatoes are a high demand crop so regular feeding is one of the secrets of success. If you are using my favourite Baileys Energy Garden apply a thin dusting every 3 weeks and water in immediately. 


Watering    
Newly transplanted seedlings need regular light watering so that they do not dry out during the first few weeks.  Once they are established, it pays to water infrequently but deeply to encourage deep foraging root development. Light frequent watering encourages a shallow root system, which can lead to moisture stress problems in summer.  As the plants get larger they require more water. In hot weather a large plant would need somewhere near the equivalent of 25mm of rain.  Placing a straight-sided container such as a coffee cup under your sprinklers and noting how long it takes to fill up to the 25mm level can determine this amount.

If your tomato plants are not giving you a heap of fruit, it can be that the pollen is stuck in the flowers. Look for aborted flowers, these fall to the ground. Tap the stake or supporting string to loosen the pollen and deliver more fruit. I have known of some very keen gardeners taking an electric toothbrush to their tomato plants early in the morning and gently vibrating the flower bunches to liberate the pollen. 

The secret of getting world class tomatoes is to leave the fruit to fully colour while still growing on the vine.  Then pick and put on the plate as soon as you can. This spells maximum flavour and maximum health goodies. 

How to sow tomato seed
Tomato seed can be sown direct.  A soil temperature of above 15 C is necessary for good germination.  Direct seeding is best done from October to November onward.  Sow seed in clumps of four to five seeds.  Sow seed only 5 to 10 mm deep and lightly cover with soil.  Use Baileys Moisture Mulch or Soil Improver Plus.  Regular light waterings will be needed (daily in hot weather) for the next 10 to 14 days until seedlings emerge.  

Seedlings can be thinned when plants are 2 to 3 cm high.  This means that the weaker plants are removed either by pulling out or snipping off with a pair of scissors.  Always leave the strongest seedling. 

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