Homegrown tomatoes always taste the best

By Rachel Vogan

Tomatoes are New Zealand's favourite fruit, with over a million plants grown by home gardeners all over the country every year. They are grown at home for their flavour ... no store-bought tomato tastes anywhere near as good.

Tomatoes are high in vitamin C and and are good sources of fibre. They love the sun, need protection from the wind, and to be given plenty of water and tomato fertiliser for strong plant and root growth. They are also frost tender. For a master class in growing tomatoes at home, see: www.tuitime.co.nz.

Tips for success

* Choose a warm position in full sun away from strong winds in either the garden or in a pot. Cultivate soil, blend in Tui Tomato Food and compost before planting.

* For pots, simply choose a container at least two to three times the size of a kitchen bucket (20-30 litres) or use a Haxnicks tomato planter and fill with Tui Tomato Mix. This mix already has all the goodies in it to produce a bumper crop. 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.

* Seeds take about a month to germinate and to be ready for transplanting. If you miss sowing seeds before the end of October, forget about it and get seedlings from the garden store. Buying single plants allows you to grow a range of varieties and types.

Depending on the variety, plants produce 3-6kgs of fruit on average.

* New tomato variety for 2011: Campari is a vibrant gourmet variety with the most intensely juicy and flavoursome fruit. Its striking intense red colour simply adds to its appeal. If planting in rows, plant 60cm-80cm apart to allow plenty of air movement.

* Most varieties, other than the dwarf, require staking. It's safest to put the stake in the ground prior to planting to make sure you don't snap off the root ball when inserting the stake. Tie the stems to the stake to give the plant support 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 capacity.

* Allow fruit to ripen on the plant. Although tomatoes do ripen further once picked, the flavour is always at its best when the fruit has been allowed to ripen fully on the plant.

- The Aucklander

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