Tomatoes are Australia’s favourite home grown vegetables and some popular choices include: Grosse Lisse, a high-yielding, adaptable plant bearing large fruit; Tommy Toe which bears apricot-sized fruit on a vine and Mini Roma a hybrid between a Roma and cherry tomato to produce a grape tomato.
Whatever you choose, make sure you buy healthy seedlings or grow your own from seed to ensure you do not start with diseased plants.
When the frosts have finished and daytime temperatures are regularly over 20 degrees, it is safe to plant tomato seedlings outdoors.
Once the weather warms up it can be tempting to plant tomatoes early, but the plants will not yield fruit any earlier. Although an early cool weather planting may survive cool nights, tomato plants will essentially remain dormant until the ground temperature reaches at least 10 degrees.
Warm ground temperature is more important to early tomato plant growth than warm air temperature.
Planting late can be problematic also as the fruit set phase, when flowers turn to fruit, will be inhibited if the daytime temperatures are too hot.
The ideal fruit set temperature is between 18 degrees and 27 degrees, therefore seed planting/seedling transplanting must be timed to avoid flowering in the hottest part of summer.
New tomato plants are best transplanted on a cloudy day or late in the afternoon to avoid sunburn damage and tomatoes prefer a soil that has a slightly acidic pH of between 6.2 and 6.8.
Although they can grow in almost any soil type, they perform best in loamy well-drained soil.
Choose a sunny position to keep fungal-based diseases in check and rotate your tomato crop to a different garden position over a three-year cycle.
Tomatoes will need a training system to support their growth which can be provided by stakes, frame or cage.
Staked plants should be placed at least 30cm apart and caged plants at least 60cm. This assists the air flow and health of the plant as tomatoes are susceptible to pests and diseases.
Keep the ground clear of weeds which can harbour these insects and organisms by pulling rather than digging out weeds as tomato roots are usually close to the surface.
Keep the soil evenly moist and mulch around the plants with straw. Watering early in the morning is advisable, giving plant foliage the chance to dry during the day and reduce leaf moisture which can encourage disease.
Feed plants monthly with a soluble tomato food high in phosphorous to encourage flowering and fruiting.