Did you know tomatoes are New Zealand's favourite fruit? Each year well over a million plants are grown by home gardeners all over the country.
Technically, tomatoes are a fruit but as we eat them as a vegetable that's how we refer to them.
Tomatoes are grown at home for their flavour – no store-bought tomato ever tastes anywhere near as good as one fully ripened and grown with love in the sun at home. They have a high vitamin C content and are a good source of fibre.
Tomatoes' best friends are sun (and loads of it), protection from the wind, water and tomato fertiliser, which aids in strong plant and root growth. Tomatoes are frost-tender and will wither and die quickly if frosted, so wait until all threat of frost has passed before planting outside. For a masterclass in growing tomatoes at home, visit www.tuitime.co.nz and watch the tomato web video, it's informative, easy to follow and will help you get it right.
TIPS TO SUCCESS
Preparation: Choose a warm position in full sun away from strong winds in either the garden or a pot. Cultivate soil, blend in Tui Tomato Food and compost before planting. For pots, choose a container at least two to three times the size of a kitchen bucket (20-30 litres). You can even poke a few holes in the bottom of the potting mix bag for drainage and plant straight into the mix if time, space and the inclination takes you.
Plant: Seeds take about a month to germinate and be ready for transplanting. If you miss sowing seeds before the end of October, forget about it and seek out seedlings from the garden store. Buying single plants allows you to grow a range of varieties and types. Depending on the variety, plants produce between three and six kilograms of fruit, on average.
A new tomato variety for 2011 is Campari, a vibrant gourmet variety with the most intense juicy and flavoursome fruit.
Protect and nurture: Most varieties, other than the dwarf ones, require staking. It's safest to put the stake in the ground before planting to make sure you don't snap off the root ball when inserting the stake. Tie the stems to the stake to support the plant and to keep the fruit clean. Keep soil or potting mix moist but not wet at all times. Regular applications of Tui Tomato Food for the garden or Maxfeed Tomatoes liquid feed for containers will boost growth and fruiting.
Pick: Although tomatoes ripen further once picked, the flavour is better when the fruit is allowed to ripen on the plant.
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