Time to Talk Tomatoes with Frankie Flowers

The taste of a juicy tomato freshly plucked from the garden is one of my favourite summer-gardening moments. Undoubtedly the world’s most popular fruit grown in the vegetable garden, tomatoes come in all shapes, colours, sizes and flavours. From cherry tomatoes, slicers and plum tomatoes, to colours of red, yellow and purple – believe it or not, all require the same growing conditions. Here are some quick tips to get your perfect tomato garden growing this summer.

Make Them Feel Hot, Hot, Hot

Tomatoes like it hot and sunny, requiring at least six (but ideally eight) hours of direct sunlight – preferably in the afternoon – for optimum growth. The hottest summers produce the best tomatoes.

Feed Your Soil 

Whether planted in the ground or in a pot, tomatoes require rich and well-drained soil. In pots, I recommend using specialized products like Nature Mix Container Soil or Nature Mix Vegetable and Herb Soil for gardens. At minimum, I always recommend amending the soil in your vegetable garden each year with a generous topdressing of manure (I prefer sheep).

 Pluck Those Suckers

Suckers, which are clusters of leaves where the branch and stem meet, should always be removed. They don’t bear fruit and take energy away from the plant. Remove suckers from tomato vines by pinching them between your fingers. When your plant grows to a height of 65 to 90 centimetres, remove its lower leaves from the bottom 25 cm of the stem as they’re the first to develop fungus problems.

Feed Them, and They Feed Us 

Tomatoes like to eat, too. For maximum output, fertilize twice monthly after watering with water-soluble fertilizer such as Plant Prod Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.

Water Wisely 

Water in the morning, targeting roots and not foliage. I recommend using a soaker hose to avoid watering foliage. Remember that during early developing stages a regular, thorough watering is essential, especially on summer’s brightest and windiest days.

Ripe is Ready

Flavourful tomatoes are a direct result of ripening on the vine. If you’re stuck with green tomatoes at the end of growing season, place one ripe tomato in a paper bag with a few green ones. The ripe tomato releases ethylene gas, helping speed up the ripening process.

Finally, and most importantly: tomatoes should never go in the refrigerator. Chilling a tomato does not increase its shelf life, and can actually decrease its flavour. Happy growing!

This article was originally published in City Life Magazine and at http://bit.ly/V1XfiZ