There are few gardeners who do not count it one of their greatest aims to grow a regular supply of freshly picked ripe tomatoes for the table throughout the summer months.
When to plant
Where to plant
My late Father was a very successful tomato grower. I asked him one day about planting out and fertilising and this is what he told me:
Fertilising procedure: when the second bunch of flowers come out, feed the plant. A light rake around the plant, apply the fertiliser with a handful to each plant, light rake again and water in. After 24 hours, water again. After 3 or 4 weeks, fertilise again with the same procedure.
Other taller growing varieties that require staking can benefit from pruning. I prune the side laterals so that the plant has only one main stem. This will promote a strong sturdy plant capable of high yields of good size fruit.
Tips for success
- Choose varieties that suit your garden and climate conditions.
- Water plants regularly and ensure the water penetrates deeply into the soil and around the roots
- Water in the morning rather than late in the day
- When 6 or 7 trusses have set fruit, remove the growing tip to hasten ripening
- Remove weed competition from around the plant during the summer
- Keep an eye out for pests and diseases. I use tomato dust every week as recommended by manufacturers. Good time to start is about mid-December
- Pick the fruits when they are fully ripe to capture the best flavour
To save seeds, simply remove the seed-bearing soft pulp from the center of fully ripe tomatoes (over ripe is ideal) and place the pulp in a drinking glass or small jar.
Make a name tag from an old Venetian blind or similar material and place in the jar.
Allow to ferment.
Stir once daily with the name tag.
After 1 to 2 days, the solids float to the top of the seeds and most seeds will have settled on the bottom. Then, slowly run water into the glass to float off of the pulp. Rinse several times until the seeds look clean. The few seeds that float off are light and would not have been good seeds.
Then pour the seeds into a strainer, wash them thoroughly in cold water and dry them on a sheet of paper.
Be sure to record the variety name during this process.
There are two keys to obtaining high-germination seeds:
- Conduct the fermentation speedily at a temperature over 20 degrees C
- Let the tomatoes get dead ripe before removing the pulp. Cold slow going fermentation lasting more that a week often results in dead seeds. Unripe seeds will sprout weakly and won't store very long before dying.
|Denis sows his tomato seeds in punnets that he puts in his custom-built heating tray (see photo 3)|
|After 4 weeks Denis 'pricks out' seedlings and puts them in their own pots. Notice the handy tray he uses.|
|Trays on top of his custom-built heating tray. Punnets are under the glass on moist sand.|
|And here is the end result, under shelter, but out in the open, ready for the fundraising effort|