Growing Tomatoes

Latest Update 18th July 2018.

Tomatoes
  • I grow about 12 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.
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.
  • Multi-sow tomato seeds in clusters of 6 or so seeds in the cells of a seed tray in an EcoPropagator.
  • Sow enough to produce 8 individual Tommy Toe seedlings and 4 individual Grosse Lisse seedlings, and as soon as they go into 4th leaf transplant them all into individual cells in the seed tray.  When big enough plant them out in the prepared bed using a large dibber. 
  • Provide vertical support for the tomatoes before they are planted. 
  • Plant them deep so half their exposed stem is buried.  Move the mulch to make room for each seedling and plant them 510mm apart in 3 rows 375mm apart. Water them in generously to increase contact with the soil and ensure there is a thick layer of sugar cane straw (or equivalent) over the root area. 
  • Nip out side shoots until there are 5 sets of tomatoes on each plant.  Then nip out the leader and any new side shoots that develop.  This will maximise the size and quality of the fruit already set. 
  • Tomato plants 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.
  • I always grow a few basil companion plants next to 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 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.
  • 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 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.