After my success in growing the Juiciest Tomato at our recent Christmas in July event I thought I would share with everyone what I do to grow this most useful of vegetables, which is really a fruit.
There are more varieties of tomato than any other type of vegetable or fruit. They range in size from ones as small as a currant to whoppers weighing 1 kilo each (Brandywine). We all know how tasty and easy to grow the small cherry tomatoes are, they come up by themselves out of the compost, or where they've landed after the birds have eaten and dropped the seed everywhere. In my opinion these are the best ones to grow over the hottest months, they just need some water and a spot in full sun, although they will also grow in semi shade, but one of the best aspects of growing these is the apparent absence of the dreaded fruit fly. I say "apparent" because I believe that the fruit may have been stung but the speed of the growing and ripening of this tomato means that if they have been stung then the maggots or eggs laid, have not had time to develop sufficiently to be seen or begin the process of destruction of the fruit.
This is a little like the commercial tomato which is sprayed with a systemic insecticide. This insecticide travels inside the fruit to kill any developing eggs/ maggots before the deterioration of the fruit begins. So with commercial fruit we eat not only the fruit but the insecticide and the tiny eggs / maggots. Roger would like comments on this, is he on or near the truth with this or are his opinions way off?

The recent tomato comp showed that indeed the smaller tomatoes are nearly all standouts in the taste department, but while they are great in salads, sometimes we want a bigger more meaty type. while cherry tomatoes give low yields (a really good yield being around 4 - 5 kilos for these) most are quite a bit less. While some of the big slicing types give yields of nearly 20 kilos, e.g. Big Rainbow, and Tigerella

Most of us want something that falls roughly in the middle of these two extremes. Most of these tomatoes are indeterminate (climbing). I have always believed that by pinching out the lateral growths that grow in the Vees of the plant it produces a bigger plant which gives more fruit. Clive Blazey of the Diggers Club found that light pruning gave a 25% reduction of fruit and heavy pruning an 83% reduction.

I do believe that we should prune the leaves of indeterminate plants, as they grow, to remove the lowest branches. This can stop the spread of disease which travels up the plant, started usually by watering the plant from above. Always try to water without wetting the lower leaves. Train the plants onto stakes to produce tall vigorous plants.
Keep the fertiliser up to the plant, I find horse manure good but most work very well. Little and often is the best.

Tomatoes do not need bees to pollinate them. Pollination is done by vibration, mostly created by the wind. If the days are very still, you can shake the plants gently. One way to vibrate the plants is to use an electric toothbrush against the leaves. I have never had to resort to this.

I try to grow tomatoes in beds that have not grown plants from the same family for at least 3 years and do not grow in my impoverished sandy soil as nematodes play havoc with the plants, burrowing into the roots, producing large lumpy growths which stunt the growth of the plants.
I have a diagram of all of my garden beds/ baths/raised beds, etc. I colour code what I grow in each of the spaces for 3 months at a time. This gives me an easy reference of what I can and can't grow each time I want to plant out.
Finally to save your tomato seed, you need to put the flesh into a container in a wet state and allow to ferment for a while (perhaps a week in summer). Take it out of the container and wash the seed in a sieve so that the flesh is washed off. Dry on a paper towel and leave to dry out completely. Refrigerate if storing long term.

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  • Since I'm drowning in tomatoes -- Roma and Tommy Toes -- this info may be useful: 40 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes.

    While I usually freeze my needs, I'm now also drying a lot of them. Later they make for a unique flavour experiment when cooking with them.

    Great snack too.

    Like selecting x number of fresh or frozen Tommy Toes to throw into a dish, using dried tomatoes is a similar protocol that I appreciate. Adding dried toms to a salsa made from fresh tomatoes makes for a slight  sourness and chewy  texture.Great marinated in olive oil and herbs -- but I find that way requires too much of my olive oil.

    I also have coming on, my crop of tomatillos.

    I really like tomatillos. The classic salsa verde  is something else. Tomatoes you can get anywhere, but fresh tomatillos are impossible to find.

    As well as making green sauce, I use them in braises and stews. Much better taste than green tomatoes. The tang is a unique flavour.

    Since they have a husk they are more protected than tomatoes from damaging critters.

    If I can add a little discursive something, I'm becoming addicted to chipotle chilli peppers.  Either as powder or whole (dried) or in adobo. I reckon chipotle makes tomatoes take off. Chipotle is a relatively mild taste, but adds a unique earthy spiciness to a dish. 

    The late Michael Boddy used to write a great food column. In it he often waxed on about the SRWT -- the Sun Ripened Warm Tomato, eaten straight from the bush. I always thought that was a great concept.

    Very enticing:SRWT.

  • For those gardeners who like disease resistant tomatoes, I have taken some names from big booklist, most are Interdeterminate and climbing.

    Brandywine Old heirloom 12cm non acid / Burnley surecrop 5cm strong plant/  Indian River 10cm thick flesh/ Manapal lge deep red, thick walled/ Mortgage Lifter pinkish red 12cm / Oregon Spring (determinate, bush) 10cm slicing high yield/ Peron deep red 9cm Greek crack resistant/ Saturn 6cm Aust breed scarce/  Sunray (golden orange) 7cm clusters of 4-5 productive hardy/ Tropic firm red 10cm rich flavour, hardy.  Another ES58 Determinate bush, firm tasty 8cm reliable resistant to crack and soil-borne disease.

    These are just some available from Eden Seeds.  I have grown Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter and Tropic and Break O Day some time ago. I chose them for disease resistance.  If you would like me to check any names you know, please just ask.

  • That looks great Doug. It looks like you remove the bottom leaves as they grow to keep the disease from creeping up. The winner of the magnificent Tomato beanie is on the ball. Don't give too many secrets away though, there may be another similar event and those living on the northside of the river will be watching and learning.

    • All I do is  not overwater,stake and thin leaves, use quail and chicken poo compost as fertilizer. And now I will grow in the netted house to stop fruit fly.7170929076?profile=RESIZE_710x7170936457?profile=RESIZE_710xPlease ignore the eaten brassicas, I left it open for 5 minutes and the chooks got in.
  • Yes  Dave that's one way to beat the little buggers. The secret there is that you've got to judge when the tomato has reached full size before picking, they can be ripened indoors but obviously will not grow  after being picked. At times I believe they get stung before they are full size. It seems to depend on what else is attracting them in the neighbourhood, sometimes another more attractive fruit will keep them occupied while the tomatoes get left alone. Guava seem to do this, maybe because they are earlier fruiting, they grab  the attention of the FF's and keep them away from the Toms.

  • I'm picking my tomatoes early before they fully ripen -- to get in a harvest before any fruit fly attack.

  • Good on ya Fiona! Keep up your detective work and please keep me informed on your results.

  • Yes, Sophie, you can get tomatoes to germinate all through our winter. If you were in a frost area you would need to cover them up or bring them inside overnight. I believe (but don't know for sure), that certain types of tomatoes don't perform as well as others in the cooler months. E.g. I don't seem to be able to grow Green Zebra's in the cooler months, at least not well enough to get fruit, so why would I bother? 

  • I have a good crop of solanto cherry tomatoes at present. One set on plants are dying off but another set planted a little later are reaching for the moon. I had to add extra rio to tie them to. This is my first serious year of growing, and I have learned a lot. Last night I spent ages reading about fruit fly as I know it's already out and about with the warmer days. I'm not overly concerned about the tomatoes but the theory about the small tomato/quick ripening is an interesting one. I will keep an eye out for pin pricks on the fruit and see if it results in anything.

  • thanks Roger - do you reckon tom seeds would germinate and grow any season/time of year in Bris?

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