Growing Tomatoes

Latest Update 27th August 2017.

Tomatoes
  • I grow a dozen or so Tomatoes in Ecobeds, but I only grow a couple of varieties each year because of space limitations.  I always grow Tommy Toes which is an heirloom cherry style tomato and is very sweet and productive.  The second one is usually changed every year, but eventually I will settle on another stalwart and stick with them both.
  • Tomatoes are self pollinating, but they do need help from buzz pollinators like native Australian bees or strong winds to dislodge their pollen.  To be sure of a good harvest, I hand pollinate them with an electric toothbrush. 
 Details.
  • Variety:                                                    Grosse Lisse.  Tommy Toe. 
  • Family group:                                           Solanaceae. 
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Solanaceae.
  • Garden bed type:                                      Ecobed.
  • Recommended soil pH:                             5.5 - 7.5.
  • Plant spacings (centres x rows):                500 x 650mm. 
  • Minimum sun per day:                              8 hours.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                    8 - 17 weeks.
  • Good companions:                                   Parsley. basil. carrot. marigold. garlic.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere.

Nutrition.
  • This food is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
  • It is a good source of dietary fibre, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, iron, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese.
  • More from nutrition data.self.com.
Maintaining Ecobed Productivity. 

  • Check out my blogpage which explains how I maintain productivity in my Ecobeds.  It describes how soil is prepared prior to planting, the importance of rainwater in Ecobeds, how to regulate the sun's intensity and how to feed plants through their leaves.
Propagating Seedlings. 

  • Check out my blogpage which explains how I propagate seeds.
Propagation Plan.

  • Check out my blogpage which tells you when to sow seeds.
Growing Instructions.
  • Sow tomato seeds in an EcoPropagator and when big enough to plant out, plant them in the prepared bed.  Move the mulch to make room for each seedling and plant them in their jiffy pots 500mm apart in rows 650mm apart.  Plant them deep so half their exposed stem is buried.  Water them in generously to increase contact with the soil. 
  • Provide vertical support for the tomato vines as they grow.
  • Nip out side shoots until there are 5 sets of tomatoes on each plant.  Nip out the leader and any new side shoots that develop.  This will maximise the size and quality of the fruit.
  • I don't reduce established foliage as is common practice, because tomatoes don't need extra sunlight to ripen, and I usually harvest them as soon as they turn yellow.

Harvesting and Storage.
  • Tomatoes will be ready for harvested from mid January.
  • I harvest them when they start to turn yellow before they are too attractive to birds and other pests.  If you prefer to ripen them on the vine protect them with pest exclusion net bags.
  • They don't need direct sunlight to ripen, just warmth.  Stripping the foliage reduces the food supply needed to grow the tomatoes so avoid this common practice.
  • Store tomato surpluses in preserving jars, just blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, cool them rapidly in cold water and skin them.  
  • Pack them in the jars with basil, salt and sugar (to taste), and sterilise them in a pressure cooker (lowest setting) for about 5 minutes.  Don't add water, they should pack down well in their own juice.
  • Cool slowly before removing them from the cooker.  Rinse the outside of the bottles, dry and label them.  
  • Store them in a cool, low light room in racks until required.
Pollination.
  • Tomatoes are self pollinating, however the pollen grains are securely held on the plants anthers.  Moderate vibration will release this pollen and often a strong breeze will be enough.  
  • Bumble bees buzz pollinate tomatoes by grabbing the tomato flower and vibrating their flight muscles vigorously.  Honey bees don't use this technique and consequently they are not very efficient tomato pollinators.
  • In Australia where there are no bumble bees (except Tasmania), we must rely on native bees (like the blue banded bee) or the wind.  Both are unreliable in suburban gardens.
  • To ensure a good fruit set, buzz pollinate by hand.  I do this using an electric toothbrush. See Video
Organic Pest Control.