Grow > Vegetables > Tomatoes

How to Grow Tomatoes in Australia

Botanical Name(s): Solanum lycopersicum
Common Names: Love Apple
Family: Solanaceae, nightshades (Eggplants, Potatoes, Chilli, Capsicum, Tobacco)
Plant Type: Perennial, Annual (indeterminate, determinate)

Apple-tomato.

Records: Heaviest tomato 3.3kg (USA), biggest tomato plant 19.8 metres tall hydroponically grown in a UK greenhouse, most fruit 32,192 tomatoes weighing 522kg in one year at Epcot Science project, Walt Disney World, Florida, USA

Nutrition: High in Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin K1, Folate (vitamin B9)

Where do tomatoes come from?

Country of origin, South & Central America, introduced to England 1596 and to Australia shortly before colonisation.

China grows the most tomatoes with around 32% of the worldwide production.

Where in Australia will tomato’s grow?

Fig-tomato.

Fig-tomato.

Tomatoes will grow all around Australia. The main limitations are the tropical areas due to heat, so a smaller tomatoes, like a cherry, or Thai Pink Egg, Roma Tomatoes, or Tropic will grow better. The best climate to grow tomatoes is sub-tropical and temperate climates, the propagation times will be slightly different. In tropical areas, elevation into highland areas will allow for better growing conditions.

What conditions are required to grow the best tomatoes?

Tomatoes love full sun and a lot of nutrients, nitrogen for leaf and plant growth and potassium and magnesium for flowering and fruiting.

A well draining rich soil will be best.

Avoid heavy soils like clay, soils too light and not enough nutrients. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Don't overwater as they don't like wet feet!

How to Plant Tomatos

Started from seed is best and cuttings can be taken depending on your growing conditions. Planting larger suckers will work in mild climates. When replanting a tomato, don't be afraid to cut off the lower leaves and plant the stem of the plant a little deeper into the ground or pot. They grow roots easily and the 'trench method' of planting the stem along the ground will allow more root production and a healtier plant.

Where to buy good tomato seeds?

Large Red Tomato.

Large Red Tomato.

Buying seeds is easy at eBay you can also buy heirloom varieties from Eden Seeds and Green Harvest.

How do you fertilise tomatoes?

High nitrogen during plant growth, produces strong plants and large leaves. High potassium and magnesium helps with flowering and fruiting.

Is growing in pots or in the ground better?

Pots can accelerate root growth due to heat around the root ball stimulating growth, so the correct sized pots for the plant are important. Larger pots have better soil profiles, so there is a trade off and your time might be better spent planting more plants than repotting. Planting in healthy soil and letting nature do the work is the optimal plan for someone conscious of time and effort.

Training Tomato Plants

A convenient, simple, and economical support for the plants may be made from three narrow hoops,—one twelve, another fifteen, and the third eighteen or twenty inches in diameter,—and attaching them a foot from each other to three stakes about four feet in length; placing the lower hoop so that it may be about ten inches from the surface of the ground after the stakes are driven. The adjoining figure illustrates this method of training. It secures abundance of light, free access of air, and, in skilful hands, may be made quite ornamental.

Hoop-training of the Tomato.

Hoop-training of the Tomato.

Or a trellis may be cheaply formed by setting common stakes, four feet in length, four feet apart, on a line with the plants, and nailing laths, or narrow strips of deal, from stake to stake, nine inches apart on the stakes; afterwards attaching the plants by means of bass, or other soft, fibrous material, to the trellis, in the manner of grape-vines or other climbing plants. By either of these methods, the plants not only present a neater appearance, but the ripening of the fruit is facilitated, and the crop much more conveniently gathered when required for use.

Chicken or concrete reinforcing wire may also be used and wired into circles, when the plants grow to the top, cut the tops and let them go, they will fill out the frame in no time and this method helps shade the tomatoes from extreme sun.

Trellis-training.

Trellis-training.

The French mode of raising tomatoes is as follows: "As soon as a cluster of flowers is visible, they top the stem down to the cluster, so that the flowers terminate the stem. The effect is, that the sap is immediately impelled into the two buds next below the cluster, which soon push strongly, and produce another cluster of flowers each. When these are visible, the branch to which they belong is also topped down to their level; and this is done five times successively. By this means, the plants become stout, dwarf bushes, not above eighteen inches high. In order to prevent their falling over, sticks or strings are stretched horizontally along the rows, so as to keep the plants erect. In addition to this, all laterals that have no flowers, and, after the fifth topping, all laterals whatsoever, are nipped off. In this way, the ripe sap is directed into the fruit, which acquires a beauty, size, and excellence unattainable by other means."—Gard. Chron.

How to Sucker or Prune Indeterminate Tomatoes?

Recommended types of tomatoes?

Tropical, smaller tomatoes, cherry varieties,

Sub Tropical & Temperate Climates: both cherry & larger varietals

Common Pests & Diseases

Tomatoes can pick up diseases from the soil, removing the flower leaves so rain water cannot splash soil onto the leaves and any leaves touching the ground. Some varieties are more hardy and be sure to select the appropriate varietal for your climate and growing conditions. Soil health plays a much larger role than just tomato genetics and a healthy well fed soil will make your gardening easier and produce larger.

Common pests include aphids, and various mites and caterpillars, good soil, not too much mono cropping and lots of companion planting will aid in confusing the pests and bringing in their nemesis's. Lady beetles eat aphids, so plant something that will attract them. Spiders in the garden are also very handy, even if somewhat scary and unsightly.

The worst pest is the common rat, they smell the fruit sugars at the peak ripening. Learn how to pick the fruit about 1-2 days early, you'll be able to judge the peak red colour before long and best time to pick, just before they are sniffed out by rats or birds. Leave them inside for two days to ripen on the bench!

Flowering problems, Blooms not setting or Blossom drop

Excessive heat and poor soil are often to blame. Try shading the plant, or a better suited variety (if you're in the tropics) and feed the soil with some epsom salts for added magnesium. Adding quality compost never harms a plant and worm castings or worm juice will do wonders for plant health.

Splitting tomatoes

Wrong variety for rainfall, or overwatering, a definite problem for tropical growers.

Companion Plants

What types of plant are companions for tomatoes? Amaranth, asparagus, basil, bean, borage, calendula (pot marigold), carrots, celery, chive, cleome, cosmos, cucumber, garlic, lemon balm, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, peas, sage, stinging nettle, sow thistle, and squash.

What not to plant near your tomatoes

Bad Companions for Tomatoes, Cabbage (Brassica) family: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and turnip). Corn, dill are no no's. Nightshades, Eggplant, peppers, and potatoes, attracts diseases to tomatoes. Fennel secretes a substance from its roots that inhibits tomato plant growth. This secretion affects many other garden plants. Walnuts produce an allelopathic chemical called juglone that inhibits tomatoes growth. Tomatoes also suffer walnut wilt.

Pollination of Tomato Plants

How are tomatoes pollinated? They self pollinate from the wind or vibration from animals or insects, such as a bee buzz pollinating. First a flower forms, then if pollinated a fruit is formed in the flower centre.