Grow your own – Tomatoes

Bill O’Sullivan with his tomato plants.
Bill O’Sullivan with his tomato plants.

We are pretty fortunate with an ideal climate and good soil here in the Beaudesert area to grow most fruit and vegetables. 

One vegetable crop that we manage to grow all year round here at Tullamore Farm is tomatoes. Heat tolerant and disease resistant varieties like Roma, Cherry and Grosse Lisse do well locally. 

Tomatoes prefer well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Before planting, ensure your soil has lots of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure. Adding organic material improves the fertility and also enhances water retention, which is crucial with our sometimes dry conditions.

When planting tomatoes, we space them about 70 to 80 centimetres apart to allow for good air circulation and sunlight penetration. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and ensures that each plant receives adequate sunlight. Planting in raised beds can also improve drainage and reduce the risk of waterlogged roots.

As tomato plants grow and produce fruit, they may become heavy and need support to prevent breakage. Install stakes or cages early in the growing period to provide structural support and keep the plants upright.  This also facilitates better air circulation and makes harvesting easier.

Tomatoes require consistent moisture, especially during dry periods.  Deep, infrequent watering is more effective than shallow, frequent watering. Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation to deliver water directly to the soil, minimising water contact with the leaves and reducing the risk of diseases.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, and may require regular fertilisation for optimal growth and fruit production.  Avoid excessive nitrogen, as it can lead to lots of lush leaves at the expense of fruit.

Keep a close eye on your tomato plants for signs of pests and diseases. Common issues in South East Queensland include fruit fly and fungal diseases.  Employ organic pest control methods and consider using protective covers to ward off fruit fly. Fungal diseases can be reduced by proper spacing, adequate ventilation.

Most people harvest tomatoes when they reach their full color and firmness.  The wildlife loves our tomatoes so we generally pick them when they first start to get some red colouring. 

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