Tomato Growing Guide
Where To Grow Your Tomato Plant
Tomatoes are sub-tropical plants and therefore require full sun. A position against a wall or fence will give an even better chance of success as long as they can receive sufficient water.
Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The aim is to make the soil able to retain the moisture needed so much by tomatoes
Just before transplanting the tomato plants to their final position drive a strong stake into the ground 5cm (2in) from the planting position. The stake should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep in the ground and 1.2m (4ft) above ground level - the further into the ground the better the support.
Potted tomatoes should be transplanted into their final positions when they are about 15cm (6in) high. For each plant, dig a hole (45cm / 18in apart) in the bed to the same depth as the pot and water if conditions are at all dry. Ease the plant out of the pot, keeping the root ball undisturbed as far as possible. Place it in the hole and fill around the plant with soil. The soil should be a little higher than it was in the pot. Loosely tie the plant's stem to the support stake using soft garden twine - allow some slack for future growth.
Care of Tomato Plants
Weeding, feeding, watering and support are the main needs of tomato plants.
A constant supply of moisture is essential for tomatoes - dry periods significantly increase the risk of the fruit splitting. Tomatoes don't like being water-logged, but neither can they stand dry conditions. When watering avoid getting the foliage wet as this helps minimise disease spread..
Feeding and Weeding
Growing outside, the plants should be fed with a liquid tomato fertiliser every two or three weeks up to the end of January. These tomato fertilisers are high in potash which the plants needs to fruit well. In February, feed with a general fertiliser (higher in nitrogen) in order to help the plant support it's foliage. Weed around the plants to discourage pests and diseases. A mulch of well-rotted compost will help retain moisture and prevent weeds.
As the plant grows, tie in the main stem to the support stake - check previous ties to ensure that they do not cut into the stem as the plant grows.
When the first fruits begin to form, the plant will produce shoots in between the main stem and the leaf stems. These side shoots should be removed by pinching them out with the fingers - if allowed to grow they will produce a mass of foliage but few tomatoes. Any shoots which have been overlooked and allowed to grow should also be removed. Lower leaves which show any signs of yellowing should also be removed to avoid the risk of infection. When the plant has developed six or seven trusses of tomatoes (normally around end of February 'stop' the plant by breaking off the growing tip. If any more than seven trusses of tomatoes begin to develop, pinch the top out to encourage the plant to produce good quality tomatoes rather than an abundance of low quality late-maturing fruit.
Pick as soon as the fruits are ripe (colour and size will identify this) for the best flavour. This also encourages the production of more fruit. As soon as a frost threatens, harvest all the fruit immediately and ripen them on a window sill.