Top picks for home-grown tomatoes

The Rapunzel tomato.
The Rapunzel tomato. Contributed

IT'S hard to beat home-grown tomatoes, and now is the time to plant them. There are hundreds of varieties, so you can try a few different types and see which ones work best for you.

Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow, and are a great favourite with kids and those of us who like to graze when in the vegie garden. Cherry tomatoes are also disease-resistant.

Tommy Toe is a large cherry type, sometimes the size of an apricot. It is vigorous, tall-growing and has sweet fruit.

In 1993, the Diggers Seed Company had a tomato taste test.

Official tasters included prominent chefs, gardening experts and other interested people. More than 100 tomatoes were tasted, and Tommy Toe came up number one.

It bears fruit for several months.

Mini Roma is another good cherry type. It is productive and disease-resistant with beautifully flavoured fruit.

Sweet Bite is a high-yielding, early maturing cherry variety.

There are a few varieties that have a cascading habit, which makes them great for hanging baskets - Tumbling Red and Cherry Fountains work well.

Rapunzel is a fairly new variety that produces masses of delicious cherry-sized fruit on trusses that can be more than a metre long. It is spectacular.

If you don't want a cherry type, you could try Grosse Lisse, which is a vigorous grower bred in Australia.

It has adapted to humid weather and has plenty of well-flavoured large, red fruit over a long bearing period.

Pot Prize is a smaller grower, perfect for container growing.

Not all tomatoes produce red fruit.

Look out for Tigerella, which produces small- to medium-sized sweet and tangy red fruit with yellow stripes.

Black Russian bears small to medium richly flavoured, dark purple fruit.

Tomatoes need an open position with sun at least half of the day.

Do not grow them in the same position year after year, as this can lead to disease in the soil which will kill your plants.

Of course, if you are planting in containers, use a premium potting mix. And replace the mix every time you plant a new crop.

Plant seedlings deeply to encourage a strong root system.

These plants are going to bear heavy crops, and the weight of all that fruit is going to need plenty of support.

Unless you are growing one of the compact types, position a sturdy stake at planting time to help to support the loads of fruit that your plants will produce.

As the plant grows, tie it gently to the stake. You can nip out the top of the plant when it reaches the top of the stake and let it concentrate on producing fruit.

Good companion plants for tomatoes include basil, oregano, parsley, carrots, marigolds, celery, geraniums, petunias, nasturtium, borage, onions and chives.

Keep corn, fennel, peas, dill, potatoes, beetroot, brassicas (such as broccoli and cabbage) and rosemary away from tomatoes.

Feed with an organic fertiliser that is high in potassium to encourage flower and fruit.

Make sure that you water consistently to avoid blossom end rot and fruit splitting. If possible, water in the morning, avoiding the foliage, to help keep fungal diseases at bay.

Topics:  gardening green thumb maree curran tomatoes

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