WHERE TO START
Seeds versus seedlings: Growing tomatoes from seed is the cheapest method. It just takes a bit longer - allow about six weeks. Tomatoes germinate readily from seeds.
Sow seeds in trays of Tui Seed Raising Mix in spring, water and keep soil moist. Seedlings will appear within a few weeks; once plants are about a month old they can be "pricked out" into pots or something like used takeaway coffee cups. Grow on until plants are at least 10-15cm tall. At this stage they should be strong enough for transplanting in the garden, a pot or the glasshouse.
Tomato plants are widely available in all shapes, sizes and varieties. Garden centres have hundreds of plants ready for transplanting now. Young plants are available until the end of December.
THE BEST OF THE OLD AND NEW
Heirloom tomatoes are packed with flavour and interesting characteristics that add to their appeal. Over the years, plant hybridisers have bred new varieties with the aim of producing the perfect round, red, sweet tomato. While many of the new varieties are simply exceptional, the flavour can often be traced back to some of the earliest heirloom varieties.
Oldies but goodies:
Money Maker - midsize, hardy and reliable.
Beefsteak - large fleshy, tasty tomato. Needs plenty of room.
Roma - acid-free, sweet tomato.
Sweet 100 - the most well-known cherry tomato.
Brandywine pink - must-haves, with super-sweet fruit and fleshy texture.
Yellow Pear - bright yellow with small pear-shaped flavoursome fruit.
Black Krim - originally from the Black Sea region, a dark purple/black fruit.
New Tom on the block:
Tomaccio - new for 2012, is also known as the raisin tomato. It is said to be the sweetest of all. If ripe fruit are left on the vine (yes, this is a large, gangly plant) they semi-dry to the most flavoursome raisin-like fruit.
TIPS ON GROWING TOMATOES
Choose a sunny position, prepare the garden by blending in Tui Tomato Mix, or fill containers with Tui Tomato Mix. Mix in some Saturaid to enable the soil to hold on to more moisture.
Planting/staking: tomatoes need staking to support the heavy stems of fruit. The trick is to put the stake in the ground or soil before planting. This may sound odd, but it ensures that you don't sever the plant from its roots when you put it in. Dig a hole approximately twice the depth of the root ball and twice the width of the plant. Half fill the hole with Tui Tomato Mix. Place the seedling in the hole and fill in with potting mix. Firm in the plant and water well.
Tomato care: tomatoes are gross feeders; the more you feed them the more they will feed you. Fertilise with Max Feed Tomato & Vegetables, a liquid fertiliser that is quickly taken up by the plants. Keep soil moist but not wet. Ideally, water deeply once or twice a week, rather than a little every day. Remove laterals as soon as they appear.
Watch and learn: Visit Tui Time and watch the free online tomato "how to guide"