Growing Tomatoes

Latest Update 31st January 2017.

Tomatoes
  • I grow Amish Paste in 4 of my Ecobins.  It is a great all rounder and because of limited space I don't grow other tomato varieties in them.
  • I grow 3 more Amish Paste in my legume Garden Ecobed between the climbing beans and sharing the space with 4 Tommy Toe cherry tomatoes. 
  • Peas are grown in the bins in the cooler months and they enrich the soil ready for the tomatoes in summer.
  • Amish paste are susceptible to bottom end rot which is a disfiguring condition often caused by a lack of plant available calcium in the soil.  If the soil is prepared properly with lots of high quality thermal compost, its not a problem.
  • Tomatoes are self pollinating, but they require buzz pollinators like native Australian bees or bumble bees to dislodge the pollen, in their absence, hand pollinating with an electric toothbrush is the way to go. 
 Details.
  • Variety:                                                    Amish Paste.  Tommy Toe. 
  • Family group:                                           Solanaceae. 
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Solanaceae.
  • Garden bed type:                                      Ecobin.
  • Recommended soil pH:                             5.5 - 7.5.
  • Plant spacings (centres x rows):                Two plants per Ecobin. 
  • 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.
Growing Conditions: 
  • They grow best in full sun in warm weather. 
  • They need well structured rich organic soil. 
  • They prefer firm soil containing plenty of organic material .
  • The soil must be kept moist at all times. 
Soil Preparation.
  • Remove mulch and organic debrit from the selected bed, and apply a 60mm thick top dressing of thermal compost.
  • Cover with sugar cane straw and leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity before planting.
Growing Instructions.
  • Sow tomato seeds in August on the surface of an organic seed growing mix in a punnet, and lightly cover with more of the mix finely sieved.
  • Soak the punnet for an hour in a tray containing 10mm of water (preferably rainwater).  The water will wet the soil without flooding it. 
  • Sink the punnet up to its rim in a propagator .  This will keep the soil moist until the seedlings are ready to transplant.  Protect the seedlings against frost. 
  • After 4 weeks transplant the seedlings individually into organic potting mix in jiffy pots and return them to the propagation bed.
  • After a further 4 weeks (or until big enough to plant out) harden off the seedlings ready for planting (in a spare spot in an Ecobed to keep moisture up to the plants).  Move the mulch in the prepared bed to make room for each seedlings and plant them with half their stems covered with soil to increases root development.  Water the seedlings 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.
  • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks when all the other edible plants are sprayed.
Harvesting and Storage.
  • Tomatoes will be ready for harvested from mid January.
  • Harvested them when they are yellow before they are too attractive to birds and other pests.  Allowed them to mature in a warm dry spot indoors, but not in direct sunlight.  Alternatively use exclusion netting and allow them to mature on the vine.  
  • 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, 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.
  • Slugs and snails.
    • Tomatoes should be protected against slugs and snails using self adhesive copper tape bonded around the base of the Ecobin.
    • If these molluscs get into your Ecobin as eggs laid in homemade compost, kill them with organically approved iron based snail pellets as soon as you discover them.  You should only need to use a small number of pellets.
  • Greenhouse whitefly.
    • Spray the foliage regularly with aerated compost tea to increases resistance to whitefly damage. 
    • However, check your crop regularly and control any infestations by spraying thoroughly with organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia).
    • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive. 
  • Aphids (greenfly).
    • Use the same method as described above for whitefly.
  • Root knot nematodes.
    • Crop rotation is the best measure for avoiding damage by root knot nematodes.  They do not prosper when their host plant is removed from the soil for a time.  The 6 months rotation with peas may not be enough time to control them. (Time will tell).
    • Maintaining soil with a high organic content may provide sufficient competition from predatory nematodes to keep the root knot nematodes under control.
  • Powdery mildew.
    • A monthly foliar spray of aerated compost tea reduces powdery mildew's capacity to establish itself on tomatoes.
    • A solution of 1 part cows milk to 9 parts water makes a reasonably effective organic fungicide against powdery mildew.  However, it needs to be applied early before the fungi gets well established, and frequently to keep the mildew in check.
    • I use Eco-fungicide to control any infestations that manage to establish themselves despite the protection given by aerated compost tea. 
  • General:
    • Regular applications of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of tomatoes by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  They defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
    • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boost the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens