Growing Tomatoes

 

 

An excerpt taken from the updated Koanga Garden Guide.

Cultivation

Tomatoes are always a challenge if you want to do it organically, especially if you want to do it without copper sprays.  This is the program we’ve developed over the years not using copper (copper kills the microbes on the leaves of the tomatoes .. and in the soil…. so they become even more susceptible to disease than they were before the spray went on).

  • Make sure you take special care of your comfrey and or alfalafa patch, in Autumn and Spring so you have strong plants to harvest leaves from throughout the growing season for mulch and liquid fertilser

  • Plant tomato seed 4 -8 weeks before you plan on planting your tomatoes out. Follow our instructions within the Koanga Garden Guide for planting seed and be sure to innoculate your trays with Koanga Seedling Innoculant. The microbes at this stage are key to super healthy plants later. Do not use a seed raising mix containg a fungicide. Check out carefully the ideas about pricking out twice into larger trays or pots so you can grow bigger plants ready to plant out after your last frost - this affects when you plant the seed.

  • Prick out when first leaves appear follow instructions carefully (from within the Koanga Garden Guide) prick out into trays or pots  7-9cm deep, at 2.5 cm spacings.

  • Prepare beds by clearing out compost crops, then aerate your bed. We use a U-Bar as described within the Koanga Garden Guide. We then incorporate 1-3 cm of compost into the top 10 cm Unless you have exceptional soil, you’ll find it makes a huge difference to incorporate 400 gms of EF:Nature’s Garden into the soil with the compost (detailed fertiliser protocols within the Koanga Garden Guide).

  • Put the tomato poles firmly into the beds (we use a ‘bar’) at 50cm diagonal spacings, and mulch the beds. At this time of the year you should be able to use wilted comfrey and or alfalafa. These crops will compost fast into the soil, and the mulch can be topped up monthly to feed the tomatoes during the season.

  • Plant out 3-7 weeks later, close to the tomato poles which should be already in the ground, into holes made in the mulch and soil with a little EF:Nature’s Garden in the bottom of the hole with a pinch of Koanga Seedling Inoculant (if your seedlings do not already have it on their roots from the seedling trays) Water in the tomato plants with EF:FishPlus. This will activate the microbes and really get things humming.

Note: As described on within the Koanga Garden Guide, you could keep your tomato plants in pots for a further 4 weeks maximum if you repot them after 4 weeks into deeper flats or individual pots of 20 cm diameter. For those of us in short growing seasons this is a must!

 

Weekly Program after planting out

Many people ask me why we have to delateral our tomatoes, they obviously were not created with a delateraler in place, so why now? This is a really valid question that I have asked myself many times I believe it is that tomatoes evolved in a low humidity climate (highland central America) In places around the world like Australia, California and even Seed Savers in Iowa. These all have low humidity climates too and they grow them without the need to delateral, I have seen that many times, and there is research showing that delateraling lessens the crop, which also comes later. However - if you try to grow them without delateraling here, you will probably find as I did, that you get blight really badly and you lose the whole plant, and do not get a crop at all. Basically tomatoes are not suited to our climate. If we want to have them as part of our diet we have to adapt, as we have - and it works well enough to be able to take huge crops off the plants and roast and bottle and dry, and make sauce and soup and eat the delicious  products all year round!! So take a deep breath and

  • Delateral and tie up only on a sunny, windy, dry day, never a humid, still or wet day, once a week like clock work!

  • Delateral by bending out the very small laterals with clean fingers, this leaves far less chance for disease to enter the plant than if you’re having to break or cut large laterals.. the dry windy day will mean those cuts heal fast.

* ensure your plants receive even regular watering on the soil not the plant leaves, remember tomatoes come from an arid climate, they do not like water on their leaves.

  • Once the first tomatoes begin sizing up, twice monthly soil drench with EF:CalPhos, this will make a big difference to your plant health, and eventual crop. Blossom end rot is a function of calcium deficiency and tomatoes in particular need lots of calcium and phosphate. If your soil is low, or out of balance then put it on.

If you’re having trouble with shield bugs then you don’t have enough moisture in the soil to keep your plants happy which also creates mineral deficiencies. 

  • Once tomatoes begin ripening, we cut any black diseased looking leaves away from under the bunch of tomatoes currently being picked, with secateurs, sterilised in meths between each plant!

 

Photo credits - Vitor Crispim, Regeneration Productions and Gail Aiken, Koanga Institute

 

 

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