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Tomatoes are a seasonal plant that love warm weather, lots of water and regular feeding, especially when they are in the flowering stage.
Here in NZ, the traditional time to plant Tomatoes is Labour weekend as Tomatoes prefer a soil temp of between 16°C and 35°C. But, with the right protection, they can be planted out as early as August or September.
While seedlings are still small, protect them from sudden frosts by keeping them in pots in a greenhouse or even on a windowsill. If you are planting them out into the soil you can protect them from frost by covering them with a cloche until all danger has passed. When planting into your garden, don't be afraid to bury them right up to their first set of leaves as this will strengthen the plant and allow more root growth. Tomato plants have fine hairs along the stalks which, if come into contact with the soil, will grow into extra roots. Remember to stake as you plant them into the soil so you don't damage the roots by forcing a stake into the soil after the roots have established.
Be sure to water regularly, preferably in the morning, 2-3 times a week. Avoid watering in the heat of the day. Feeding will also greatly improve the flavour of the fruit. Make sure to plant in a sunny spot, that is protected from winds with adequate support ie: a fence, trellis or garden stakes.

Make sure to add plenty of compost to your soil before planting and if you are growing in pots or containers, make sure to add a long term fertiliser or feed regularly as you water.
Nitrogen. Nitrogen encourages leaf growth, which is why fertilizers with higher ratio of nitrogen (the first of the three numbers) are an optimum choice for lawns and grasses. But in tomatoes, excess leaf growth discourages blossoms and fruit. A complete fertilizer with a balanced supply of the three major nutrients, such as 10-10-10 or 5-10-10, is a better choice for tomato plants at initial planting time. Stay away from high-nitrogen fertilizers such as urea, ammonium sulfate or fresh manure, which will help produce dark green, tall tomato plants but fewer tomatoes.
Phosphorus. Phosphorus (the second number in the N-P-K ratio) encourages flowering, and therefore fruiting.
Potassium. Once a tomato plant starts flowering, it needs a higher ratio of potassium (the third number in the N-P-K ratio). Good organic sources of potassium are granite dust and wood ash.

After planting, add a mulch around the base of the plant once the soil has warmed up. Putting down mulch too early can cool the soil down. Mulching helps to conserve water and prevents soil and soil born diseases from splashing up onto the plants. Once the tomato plants are about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom foot of the stem. These are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them. Spraying weekly with compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungus diseases.
Don't forget to pinch out laterals. These little suckers grow between the main stem and the branches of the plant at the base and, if left to grow to long, they can drain all of the energy out of the rest of the plant, resulting in lots of leafy green growth with little or no flower set. You can thin some of the leaves from the main branches to allow the sun to reach the fruit as it ripens, but it’s the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes so remember to go easy on them.

Choosing your plants

Some experts say that there are up to 25,000 different varieties of Tomatoes! That can make it very overwhelming when trying to choose the right type of plant for your specific requirements. Thankfully, there are at least 3 different ways you can determine which varieties are right for your garden.
#1: Heirloom or Hybrid:
Heirloom tomatoes
are strains that have been reproduced and handed down for generations without cross-breeding
Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two different varieties. Hybrids are cultivated both commercially and in the home garden.
#2: Determinate or Indeterminate:
A determinate tomato plant (bush crop) produces fruit for a couple of weeks and then production fades out. That’s because it eventually forms a flower cluster at the terminal growing point, which causes it to stop growing in height.
An indeterminate tomato plant produces fruit throughout the season, often until frost. It never sets terminal flower clusters, but only lateral ones, and continues indefinitely to grow taller. Will continue growing a main stem, or vine until stopped by frost. The majority of heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate. Both types need stakes to give them some support otherwise they will sprawl across the garden.
#3: Shape:
Regardless of whether a tomato is a hybrid or an heirloom, determinate or indeterminate, it is also classified according to its shape. There are four different shapes to consider:
Globe tomatoes: the most heavily commercially-cultivated fruit
Beefsteak tomatoes: the biggest fruit
Paste tomatoes: thick-walled fruit, used to make sauces
Cherry tomatoes: smallest fruit

Here is a link to a website where you can buy different varieties of Heirloom Tomato seeds:
http://www.howtogarden.co.nz/catalog/fruit-and-vegetables/tomatoes/

Handy Tip provided by Carol's Heirloom Garden: You can help to prevent fungal disease by poking a 10cm length of copper wire through the main stem approx 10cm above the soil. The wires inside electrical wire are ideal. Copper provides protection against fungal diseases

I hope this article has been helpful, and I will also be creating a section soon about pests and diseases and how to control/prevent them. This is something that I am constantly learning about as I go too, as I don't always have the same problems with the same plants each year. I am constantly looking for natural safe methods to use in my gardens as I don't like the idea of using strong poisonous chemicals around food, animals and small children if I can help it. 

Until Then, Happy Gardening!



 




 


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