Growing Tomatoes

Latest Update 31st December 2018.

Tomatoes
  • I grow 9 Tomato plants in Ecobeds, but only a couple of varieties each year because of space limitations.  I always grow Tommy Toe 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.
  • 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.
Propagation Plan.
  • Check out my blogpage which tells you when to sow seeds.
Growing Instructions.
  • Multi-sow tomato seeds in plastic mini pots in an EcoPropagator.
  • Sow enough to produce 6 individual Tommy Toe seedlings and 3 individual Grosse Lisse seedlings, and as soon as they open their first set of true leaves, transplant them individually into small fibre pots.
  • Prepare the soil in the designated bed by removing spent mulch and the above ground remains of any previous crop.  The roots must be left in the soil and the soil must not be dug.  I consider it vital not to disturbed the soil any more than is necessary to maintain and develop a great soil structure and active soil biology.
  • Apply a generous top dressing of roughly sieved fresh homemade compost (60 mm) and cover this with a similar thickness of organic straw mulch.
  • Apply a single piece of light horticultural fleece over the mulch and tie it down securely to the bed's hooking points.  Cut holes about 60mm wide at the planting positions so the seedlings can be sown.  This arrangement helps limit water losses and protects the young plants from digging pests. 
  • Provide vertical support for the tomatoes before they are planted.  I sink 1800mm long stakes into the soil directly under an exclusion frame horizontal rail and screw the stake into the rail for stability.  The stakes are positioned where the tomatoes are to grow and each plant has its own stake.
  • Plant the tomato seedlings, when ready, in the prepared bed using a large dibber. 
  • Plant them 500mm apart along 3 rows which are set 600mm apart.  Plant them deep through the compost and mulch into the soil, and water the pots in generously with dilute seaweed extract.
  • Nip out side shoots as they grow until the plants reach the top of the stakes.  At this point, nip out the leader shoots to stop further vertical growth.  This will maximise the size and quality of the fruit already set. 
  • I always grow a few basil companion plants between my tomatoes, and apart from deterring flying pests, their leaves make a fine condiment when tomatoes are cooked or preserved.
Harvesting and Storage.
  • Tomatoes should be ready for harvested by mid January.
  • I harvest mine before birds and other pests become too attracted to them when they have just started to turn yellow or orange.  They don't need sunlight to fully ripen, just keep them in a warm, shady spot indoors.
  • If you prefer to ripen them on the vine, protect them with pest exclusion net bags.
  • Store tomato surpluses in preserving jars by blanching them in boiling water for 2 minutes, cooling them rapidly in cold water and skinning them.  
  • Pack them in the jars with chopped basil leaves, salt and pepper (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 plant's 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 mainland 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.