Snack Tomato 'Dolly' - Seed
Tomato seeds require no prior treatment although steeping them in lukewarm water for 12 hours encourages germination.Sowing method
Tomato plants love the heat and can be sown indoors in a mini greenhouse (or in a simple seedling tray) or in the garden's greenhouse from the beginning of March.
Combining the use of turf pots filled with good potting compost and a mini greenhouse is the easiest. Perfect if you can also give some heat on the bottom of the tray or mini greenhouse. Use 1 seed per pot, planted 0.5 cm deep and covered with some potting compost, then stand them on a sunny window sill. Depending on temperature they should germinate within 10 days, after which you can reduce humidity in the mini greenhouse by opening the slides (or pricking through the plastic 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.
If the seedlings are 10 cm high, they have to get used to the normal air humidity, to do this open the lid of the mini greenhouse for an hour. Repeat this process each day adding an extra hour each day. After 5 days the seedlings will be used to the correct humidity and can be transplanted into a larger pot.
If you do not have a mini greenhouse make use of a simple seed tray in combination with plastic bags and skewers. For the seedlings to get used to the right humidity simply puncture holes in the plastic bags.
Tomatoes thrive in the greenhouse but also grow very well outdoors, always choose a warm, sheltered spot. Tomatoes were brought from South America by the Spaniards and then proceeded to conquer the world. Tomato plants overlap seeking support so the stem needs help from the cane to grow strong. Compact varieties do fine in pots. Those grown in the greenhouse can easily reach 2 metres in height, the same varieties grown outdoors will not be so tall. Canes of 1.5 metres are usually sufficient – In the greenhouse for extra height, use twine twisted along the main stem from bottom to top and wrap it around the main stem.How to 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 in the hand. Lots of children really prefer them over sweet fruit as a snack during school breaks. Beef toms 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 temperatures are above 12°C, young tomato plants can be planted outside but it is advisable to harden them off first – gradually acclimatise them to being outside by standing them in the shade outdoors for one hour longer every day for a week. After a week, pot up – a large pot may contain up to 3 plants. Stand the large pots in full sun.
When planting in the garden, choose a sheltered sunny spot and plant in rows 70 cm apart. Tie each plant to a cane. Remove side shoots (lateral 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 fertiliser to grow and encourage fruiting on the main stem.
Tomatoes generally pollinate themselves but (bumble) bees will help too. Giving the plant a bit of a shake helps too – just shake those canes – 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 even twine stretched from top to bottom. Try not to wet the plant when watering – best is to water the soil.
Water extra in periods of drought and keep the beds free of weed and your plants will thrive.
Use both hands when harvesting to avoid damaging the plant. Using a sharp knife just cut the fruit loose - 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 trusses 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 ripen on the window-sill. This provides energy to the plant which allows the plant to produce new fruit giving you a bigger harvest. At the end of the season, it's great to just harvest all the green ones and either let them ripen indoors or perhaps use them for your favourite chutney.