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Tasty tomatoes

Once you grow your own tomatoes, you will never want to go back. Smart planting means picking a good spot. They’re easy to grow and if looked after well, yield plenty of delicious fruit for months, writes Henri Ham, owner of Awapuni Nurseries . . .

You know when the weather starts to warm up, it’s time to plant your tomatoes. Tomatoes are a must-have in any garden, the feeling of satisfaction as you pick a fresh tomato off your vine is . . . Plus homemade pasta sauce? Yes, please!

Traditionally Labour weekend is the time to plant your tomatoes but any time from September to early January is OK.

Tomatoes thrive in a sunny, sheltered spot, protected from strong winds. It’s important to switch up your planting positions and plant your tomatoes in a different spot from the previous season. This just helps prevent any disease.

Switch it up by planting tomatoes in pots or if you’re low on space you can plant cherry and dwarf tomato varieties in hanging baskets, add some marigolds and herbs to your hanging baskets to attract beneficial insects as well as to ward off any unwanted pests.

Tomatoes aren’t a fan of soil with a low PH. If it’s been raining cats and dogs in your area, we recommend adding a bit of lime to your soil prior to planting. Lime provides a great source of calcium which encourages healthier and larger fruit and helps prevent blossom rot. Calcium also helps improve the soil structure which encourages earthworm activity.

The Awapuni nursery stocks a variety of tomatoes. If you are planting tomatoes for bottling then our heirloom mix, brandy wine, black Krim, money maker and beefsteak are great options. If you’re after smaller varieties that don’t require a lot of room and are great for salads and picking straight off the vine then the gold nugget, black and red cherry and acid-free tomatoes will do the trick.

Grab your Awapuni seedlings from your local supermarket — The Warehouse or Bunnings store or alternatively order them from our online shop and have them delivered straight to your door.

Once you’ve decided on your varieties and your soil prep is complete, dig a hole approximately 5cm deep and space your tomato seedlings about 40-50 cm apart.

If you’re companion planting, we recommend planting your tomatoes with basil, marigolds, onions, cosmos, cucumber, lettuce, sage and mint.

Avoid planting with brassicas and corn. Corn is likely to attract fruit worm. We also don’t recommend planting your tomatoes with potatoes as potatoes require quite a lot of nutrients which will reduce the growth of your tomatoes — they’re also likely to cause blight.

Once planted, spray your tomatoes with liquid copper to prevent fungal disease and add some Tui Organic Seaweed to the surrounding soil to encourage larger and juicier fruit.

When it comes to watering, avoid overhead hosing as it could leave your plants more susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew, rust, and blight. You can retain moisture by adding a layer of newspaper around your plants and then cover your newspaper with pea straw or soil.

We hope you have a successful tomato growing season.

Pictures supplied