Cherry Tomato ‘Black Cherry’ - Seed
Tomato seeds require no prior treatment although steeping them in lukewarm water for 12 hours encourages germination.Sowing
Tomato plants love heat and can be sown indoors in a mini greenhouse (or in a simple seedling tray) or in the greenhouse from the beginning of March.
Combining the use of turf pots filled with good potting compost and a mini greenhouse is the easiest way. Perfect if you can also provide some soil warming - the results are even better. Sow 1 seed per pot, pushed in to a 0.5 cm depth with the end of a pencil and then stand on a sunny window sill. Depending on temperature they should germinate within 7-10 days, after which you can reduce humidity in the mini greenhouse by opening the vents (or pricking through the plastic film held up by bamboo skewers covering the tray). After 5 days, the seedlings will then be acclimatised and they can be potted up to larger pots.
Tomato crops thrive best in the greenhouse but also grow well outdoors in a warm, sheltered spot. Tomatoes were brought here from South America by the Spaniards. They then became very popular and proceeded to conquer the world. Tomato plants are ground cover plants seeking for support as the stem needs help to grow strong. Compact varieties do fine in pots. Those grown in the greenhouse can easily reach 2 metres in height, the same varieties remain lower when outside. Canes of 1.5 metres are usually sufficient in the greenhouse - use twine from bottom to top and wrap it around the main stem.Use
Fresh toms are best NOT kept in the fridge - and do not store in a plastic bag or they might go mouldy. Best to dry them off before storing too. Green tomatoes will turn red on a window sill and will last for up to 2 weeks. Store with ripe apples and bananas in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process (the ripe apples and bananas emit ethylene which in turn initiates the ripening in the toms).
Tomatoes are a health giving fruit containing vitamin C, minerals and lycopene - the latter gives the red colouring and is an antioxidant which helps prevent all sorts of disease. Cooking them makes the lycopene work even better.
Tomatoes can be used in so many recipes. Wonderful in salads, great eaten freshly picked in the hand. Lots of children really prefer them over sweet fruit as a snack during school breaks. Beef tomatoes make great sauces, soups and curries. Green tomatoes are great for chutneys or a type of marmalade. Delicious on bread, great as garnish.
When there is no longer the risk of frost and night temps are above 12°C, young tomato plants can be planted outdoors but it is advisable to harden them off first to get them acclimatised.. To do this stand your seedlings in a sheltered or shady spot for one hour longer every day for a week, they will then be ready to pot up - 3 plants to a large pot. Then stand the pots in a sheltered sunny spot.
When planting in the garden, choose a sheltered sunny spot and plant in rows - 70 cm apart from each other. Tie each plant to a cane. Remove side shoots to encourage growth upwards. Tie up new growth and remove other new side shoots weekly. (Shrub forming or hanging tomatoes require neither cane nor removal of shoots). Tomatoes grown outdoors need all the energy to grow and encourage fruiting on the main stem. .
Tomatoes generally pollinate themselves but (bumble) bees will help too. However to encourage fruiting, you can shake the main stem - but be careful not to damage the plant. The fruits will soon appear. When the first bunches of fruit appear, remove the lower leaves to encourage growth. Tomatoes also thrive with a regular feed of Bakker's tomato fertiliser! Tomatoes in the greenhouse usually grow taller so will require longer canes or some garden twine or wire attached vertically. Try not to wet the plant when watering – best is to water the soil.
Water more often in dry periods - keep the beds free of weeds and your plants will thrive.
When harvesting use both hands. Only using one hand can result in causing damage to the plant. Just cut the fruit loose with a sharp knife - either the whole bunch or just one tomato at a time. The longer you leave them hanging, the redder (or one of the other colours) they will become. Outdoor plants should yield 5-8 bunches per plant. In the greenhouse, you can get as much as 2 or 3 times more than that. You can also pick the tomatoes and allow them to turn red on the window sill. This allows the plant to make new fruit and give you a bigger harvest. At the end of the season, it's great to just harvest all the green ones and either let them turn red indoors or perhaps pickle them.