It is funny now to think that the tomato was once thought to be poisonous and not considered safe to eat, probably because it belongs to the nightshade family.
Tomatoes grew wild all through South and Central America, where they were a part of the local diet since 700AD. Introduced to Europe in the 16th century, where they were used for decoration only, now it is hard to think of summer without them!
Tomatoes taste so much better when they are fresh from the garden and warmed by the sun, whether you stick to the tried and true favourites like Russian Red and Moneymaker or prefer the heirloom varieties, the choices are vast. Click here for our range of tomatoes >>
Tomatoes are a warm weather crop and susceptible to the cold so use your local weather as a guide to planting.
All Tomatoes require the same conditions for a good harvest, light free draining soil, in a warm sunny spot, out of the wind.
Give them some space, don’t crowd them in with other vegetables, they need room to grow and for the air to circulate around them.
Prepare the soil by digging through plenty of compost and sheep pellets, then at the time of planting add McGregor's PlantMAX (PLANT400) to the soil.
Lightly water the plant prior to planting and gently tip out of the pot, careful not to disturb the roots.
If using stakes now is the time to put them in so as not to disturb the roots later on.
- Removal of the side laterals need to be done regularly, to avoid the plant going wild. Laterals are side growth that will appear at the base of each leaf on the main stem; remove these when they are small by pinching out with your fingers. See diagram opposite.
- Make sure the water reaches the roots by watering long and deep, this is especially important as the fruit develops. You can apply mulch to help conserve water during the hottest months but keep the mulch away from the stem and water before you apply it.
- Feed with McGregor’s FruitMAX liquid fertiliser (FRUIT200/500), this is high in potassium (K) which will help maximise flowering and fruiting and flavour, apply with a watering can every two weeks.
- Basil grows well next to tomatoes and they taste great eaten together too. (Check out our range of Basil Seeds here >>)
- Tomatoes trusses can become heavy with fruit so make sure to support your plants as they grow. As the trusses get close to harvesting you can remove some of the leaves surrounding them to expose the fruit to more sun.
- Harvesting is often a case of personal choice but the rule of thumb is to pick the fruit when it is fully coloured and firm to the touch, this will allow the fruit to stay firmer longer. Store them out of the fridge, they will keep just as long and taste a whole lot better.
- Tomatoes have a few bugs and diseases that attack them, so your first line of defence is vigilance, check over your plants on a regular basis. This way you can spot and remove any harmful bugs and catch any disease before it becomes a serious problem.
- Keep them well feed and well watered, a healthy plant is better able to fend off pest and diseases.
- If pests do take hold use McGregor’s Pyrethrum Spray (PYRETHRUM) it is safe to use around food crops, made from the pyrethrum flower, it has a 1 day withholding period. A withholding period is the time from the application of the chemical to the time it is safe enough to eat; this will be stated on the back of the bottle. This spray will control aphids, whitefly, mealy bug, caterpillars and passion flower hopper but it needs to touch the bug so spray the underside of the leaves as well.
Grafted tonatoes produce a much larger crop than normal tomatoes, this is achieved by combining the best of two plant types grafted together. The top part of the plant is chosen for the flavour, size and colour of the fruit then grafted on to rootstock that is chosen for its vigorous growth, root development and disease resistance.
- The clip that you see around the plant near the bottom is where the graft has been attached, make sure it is planted above the ground. It will fall off by its self as the stem grows.
- Plant them at least 1m apart as they need plenty of room.
- They need a framework to grow up rather than just one stake and it should to be at least 2.5m high. A fence, wall or trellis using wire and string to support the plant is ideal.
- When your tomatoes are about 30cm high pinch out the growing tip, this will encourage the side shoots to grow, and the vigorous rootstock will provide up to 10 or more leaders. Let the leaders grow without pinching out the tips, but do remove the side shoots or laterals.
To view McGregor's range of Tomato seeds click here >>