Top Tips for Growing Terrific Tomatoes

Tomatoes are delicious herbaceous annuals and one of the easiest crops you can grow, even in a small space. If you’re a beginner gardener or had challenges, follow these practical tips for growing terrific tomatoes and a healthy abundant harvest.

Tomato Growing Guide

Top Tips for Growing Terrific Tomatoes

How to Select Tomatoes

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum syn Lycopersicon esculentum) are members of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) plant family. Their relatives include potatoes, chilli, capsicum and eggplant. There are a huge number of varieties. So, how do you narrow it down to what is best for you?

Obviously, the most important consideration is to choose cultivars suited to your climate. Locally adapted tomatoes tend to be more resilient to weather conditions, pests and diseases.

3 Considerations when Selecting your Tomato Cultivar

  1. Firstly, whether to grow heirlooms, hybrids or grafted varieties. Do you want to save seeds or space?
  2. Secondly, do you want large or small sized fruit? How do you intend using them in cooking and do you want to preserve them?
  3. Thirdly, whether to grow indeterminate or determinate varieties. Your space, microclimate and growing season will influence this decision too.

1. Heirloom vs Hybrid vs Grafted Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

First, heirlooms or heritage tomato varieties have been carefully saved for purity and handed down for generations – at least 50 to 100 years. For this reason, I favour old fashioned heirloom tomatoes because are grown for their flavour, size, yield or other beneficial characteristics like disease-resistance. Heirloom cultivars grow ‘true-to-type’ (identical to their parent plant). Their seeds are open-pollinated by insects or the wind.

Therefore, the key benefit of heirlooms is you can save seeds and grow future crops for free. You know they will produce an identical tomato. So, once you have grown your favourite varieties, try breeding your own cultivars. Choose the best characteristics that are adapted to your garden conditions. Then, save seeds so you enjoy future harvests with the same tomato traits. Learn more about saving and sourcing seeds.



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Hybrid Tomatoes

Next, hybrids are the result of a controlled pollination method. This is where pollen from two different species of tomatoes is crossed intentionally by a gardener. The purpose is that each parent plant provides a beneficial characteristic (such as early maturity). Thus, producing a better plant in the next generation.

Hybridization does happen randomly in nature too. If you choose hybrid seeds you will see them labelled as ‘F1.’ This indicates a variety that has been bred specifically for a desired trait. Hybrid plants tend to produce bigger harvests and grow better than the two parent varieties due to ‘hybrid vigor.’ This sounds good, right? BUT the fruits grown from F1 plants will produce genetically unstable, sterile seed. Consequently, you can’t save seed to use in following years. Why not?

F1 hybrids do not grow ‘true-to-type’ like heirlooms or grow as strong in the next generation. Hybrid plants will revert back to one of the parent cultivars. This means you have to keep buying new seed every year. So, hybrids are not a very sustainable choice and certainly more expensive! There’s huge pressure on seed banks globally. For food security, it’s safer to be self-reliant with the freedom to grow food from your own seed stocks.

Grafted tomato plants

Finally, grafted tomatoes are formed by joining two plants together. They are grown on vigorous, disease-resistant resilient rootstock. They produce a larger harvest, without compromising flavour. Grafted tomatoes can be ideal for container gardeners because you don’t need as many plants or as much space. You can also graft your own tomatoes.

But what about size?

2. Should you Grow Large or Small Tomato Varieties?

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September 2018 Newsletter

September 2018 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

Welcome to the September newsletter. This month of spring, I’m busy presenting 10 workshops at local events and helping clients co-create beautiful productive kitchen gardens. More on that below.

What’s on the menu?

Whether it’s spring or autumn/fall in your garden, or somewhere in between, you’ll likely find my tips and video lesson on creating a bee friendly garden really helpful. If you have a shady spot, check out my list of 10 best vegetables to grow. If you love tomatoes, read on to find out some surprising facts about them and we get to know the Umbellifer family of vegetables and herbs.

My special spring offer on my home visit service for local gardeners ends this month. So be quick to book, as I have limited places left! Grab your discount coupon code below.

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2019-03-30T11:31:02+10:00Categories: Newsletters|Tags: , |0 Comments

10 Top Tips to Create a Bee Friendly Garden

If you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s likely bees have played a vital role in pollinating many of the foods on your plate! One way to help these threatened, tiny but hardworking insects, is to create a bee friendly garden. A magnet if you like, to lure them to spend more time hanging out at your place!

10 Tops Tips to Create a Bee Friendly Garden

If you have a garden, even a small one, you can encourage your local bees to visit regularly. Bees help fertilise up to 90% of the earth’s major food crops and you can support their health and survival, while reaping some awesome benefits.

4 Benefits of Attracting Bees to your Garden

An intentionally designed bee friendly garden:

1. Has a beautiful variety of perfumed colourful flowers that bloom continuously throughout the seasons. (A visual and sensory smorgasbord for you!)
2. Improves the quality, size and flavour of your fruits and vegetables. (A more delicious edible feast too!)
3. Increases the quantity of produce you harvest. (More food on your table)
4. Attracts beneficial insects that help reduce pests. (Less effort needed on pest management)

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Peek Over the Fence into My Garden

Time for an update on what’s happening in my garden as I take you on a bit of a tour. In the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed ‘winter.’ If you live in a genuinely cold climate, you’d probably laugh at what I call ‘winter’ here! In this subtropical SE Queensland climate, it’s mainly cold nights and moderately cool sunny days for a few weeks, with virtually no pests to worry about.

Peek over the fence into The Micro Gardener's garden

I’ll take you on a quick tour of my garden

 

However, it’s dry! I haven’t had rain for a few weeks now, and nothing forecast in the foreseeable future. With two-thirds of this state and 98% of NSW Australia, drought declared, we have to get used to gardening without regular rainfall. It’s tough so you need to have strategies to cope.

A Seasonal Approach to Gardening

I try to time my planting throughout the year, to work in with the weather I live with. That means getting the timing right with preparing, planting, fertilising, maintaining and harvesting.

I mostly get that right, but when busy, I miss things too! That’s where lessoned are learned.

Spring arrived here early mid July. Normally sometime in August but not this year! The unseasonal warm weather has been a catalyst for turning on the ‘Spring switch’ in many plants already. 

I carefully watch the signs in my garden and climate, so I am ready to plant the right edibles at the best time.

 

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13 Benefits of Growing Flowers in your Vegetable Garden

If you’re thinking you don’t need to bother with flowers in your vegetable garden, especially if you have a small space, you may be surprised with the many benefits they offer you.

13 benefits of growing flowers in your vegetable garden to improve pollination, reduce weeds + pests, get free fertiliser & plants

Flowers play multiple beneficial roles in EVERY garden, especially if you want an abundant harvest of fruit and vegetables. Did you know that with the right choices, you can increase your harvests, save money, reduce weeds and pests, get free fertiliser and plants, and much more? If not, dig in!

Powerful Reasons Why You Should Grow Flowers

Growing a food garden without flowers is an uphill battle. If you want fruit and vegetables, you need flowers too!

My compact kitchen garden has some flowering plants year round because I’ve designed it that way. So I’m going to share 13 compelling reasons why I think you should grow at least a few flowers in your vegetable garden.

1. Use as Companion Plants

Flowering companion plants are ‘friends’ with benefits! They offer neighbouring plants, or you as a gardener, some kind of useful ‘service.’ For example, tall flowering shrubs provide shade to sun-sensitive ground covers and strong smelling flowers may camouflage vulnerable crops nearby.

Flowering herbs are some of the best companions to grow in amongst your vegetables and fruit. Let’s just look at one example I mention in my Book, GUIDE TO USING KITCHEN HERBS FOR HEALTH:

“Chamomile has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and this may be one of the reasons it benefits other plants in the garden. No serious diseases are known to affect this healthy flowering herb. While the fresh flowers are very aromatic, they have a very bitter flavour because they contain a volatile oil, a bitter extractive and some tannic acid. This could explain why pests don’t find them all that attractive to munch on!”

“Chamomile also has a reputation for behaving like a nurse plant, helping to encourage other plants to increase their essential oil content and thus their flavour and aroma. Ailing plants seem to revive. It reportedly helps improve growth, resistance to pests and disease and increase harvests.”

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9 Reasons You Should Grow Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos flowers (Cosmos bipinnatus, C. sulphureus, C. caudatus or Mexican aster) are showy annual flowers that offer you SO many benefits. If you’ve never grown these ornamental beauties, you may be surprised how useful these cheerful flowers can be.

9 Reasons You Should Grow Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos is a member of the Compositae or Asteraceae family, just like their ‘cousins’: sunflowers, marigolds, yarrow, daisies, zinnias, lettuce and dandelions.

These easy care flowers are perfect for a full sun position in your garden or a pot, growing through spring to autumn.

Not surprisingly, the name Cosmos comes from the Greek word ‘kosmos’ which means ‘beautiful’. Aww! These flowers come in many colours and grow tall with attractive feathery leaves. I encourage you to find a pot or tiny space to sow a few seeds.

“Texture and foliage keep a garden interesting through the season. Flowers are just moments of gratification.”– Kevin Doyle

So why grow these beautiful blooms?

 

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5 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

Why grow sunflowers? There are many benefits to growing these beautiful blooms including their cut flowers and free edible seeds. They also attract pest-patrolling birds and bees to improve your harvest, and even help detox contaminated soil. These flowers are not just pretty faces!

5 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

The botanical name for sunflowers is ‘Helianthus’ – ‘Helia’ meaning sun and ‘Anthus’ for flower. Sunflowers are called ‘tournesol’ in French (meaning ‘turns with the sun’). Curious to learn how to use these cheerful flowers to advantage in your garden? Read on…

 

5 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

1. Feed your Pollinators

The showy large outer petals help attract many species of bees to your sunflowers including honey bees and bumble bees. The centre of the sunflower houses hundreds and thousands of tiny individual florets that contain nectar and pollen, a food source for bees.

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4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 2

Do you want an abundant harvest? If so, you can improve pollination by making your garden more attractive to pollinators.

 

There are easy things you can do to improve pollination so you get lots more food on the table.

There are easy things you can do to improve pollination so you get lots more food on the table.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed pollination problems in depth and the FIRST STEP you can take: Eliminate ALL chemicals from your garden. There’s some critically important information to be aware of in that article, so if you missed it, check out 4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 1.

What other ways can you improve pollination and your harvests? Read on for 3 more practical steps you can take to work with nature for mutually beneficial outcomes:

  1. Learn to hand pollinate your crops
  2. Provide insect hotels for pollinators
  3. Plant bee-friendly flowers

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4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests: Part 1

Are you ever disappointed with your harvests? Do you ever notice flowers and baby fruits forming only to drop, wither and die? If so, don’t despair! There ARE solutions to help improve pollination and ensure you have an abundant harvest.

4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 1

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you.

You may be happy with your current edible yields, but it’s very likely you can improve your harvest even further. One of the secrets is about give-and-take relationships in your garden.

I work with nature to get the most from my Kitchen Garden. You may have a different climate and growing season, but the principles for a productive garden are basically the same wherever you live. I hope these tips will help boost your harvest.

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