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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Easy Food Gardening Guide for Beginners

New to growing food? If you’re just starting your first garden or relatively new to growing edibles, it can feel overwhelming. Once you get started, I promise you it’s not only an addictive hobby (in a good way) but also incredibly rewarding for your physical, mental and emotional health. You’ve made an empowering decision to become somewhat self-sufficient. Congratulations! Whilst it’s likely you’ll make a few mistakes along the way, don’t let that stop you from getting started or trying again. If you lose a few plants, consider those moments as learning opportunities to do better next time rather than failures.

This 10 Tip Guide for Beginners will help fast track your new garden with easy steps & advice.

This 10 Tip Food Gardening Guide for Beginners will help fast track your new garden with easy steps & advice.

Easy Food Gardening Guide for Beginners

Everyone was a beginner gardener at some point but it doesn’t last for long! There are some key guidelines to keep in mind when you first start a food garden. I hope these ten tips will shortcut you to successfully growing an abundant productive kitchen garden.

1. Start Small … Really Small!

Starting a food garden is exciting and overwhelming all at once! Think of yourself more like a new plant ‘parent’ starting out and preparing for the arrival of your new plant ‘kids.’ It’s unlikely you would cope with a whole tribe from day one, right? So, plan where your new babies are going to live first and start with just one or two pots and plants. Maybe a couple of your favourite herbs or a few leafy greens to add to daily salads.

Gardening Guide for Beginners Tip: Start small with a few fresh ingredients like herbs or leafy greens for salads

Start small with a few fresh ingredients like herbs or leafy greens for salads

Keep it really simple and get to know the basics first in a small space. You can always grow your plant ‘family’ once you know what to expect and have ironed out any teething issues! Go slow and gain your confidence gradually. It’s better to lose one or two plants than a whole garden. That could be an expensive lesson to learn.

2. Choose the Best Location

It’s exciting thinking about picking your own food. However, just like the home where YOU live, plants have needs for their personal space too! Especially plant ‘babies’ or seeds and ‘toddler’ seedlings. You need to care for them and provide a protected ‘room’ or spot to live in.

Pick the sunniest location in your garden, courtyard or balcony for most plants, ideally out of the wind. Food plants need adequate sunlight or good natural light to grow. If you have a lot of shade, don’t despair. There are plenty of edibles that will do well in partial shade too.

Once you’ve got that figured out, make sure you have easy access to water nearby so you can keep the moisture up to your plants.


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Plants for a Survival Food and Medicinal Garden

If you are concerned about food security, there’s never been a better time to grow a survival food and medicinal garden. There’s no need to worry about buying fresh food if you grow your own groceries in your ‘backyard supermarket’! Your own food garden not only saves money and time but also provides peace of mind and nutritious fresh ingredients.

Plants for a Survival Food and Medicinal Garden

When you live sustainably, you don’t have to rely totally on supermarkets always having full shelves, just for daily basic needs. Living simply and eating a plant-based diet rich in nutrients and healing compounds can help to promote good health and a strong immune system. Connecting with nature via a food garden may help relieve stress, bring joy and a feeling of control by growing at least some of what you eat.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates

How Plant Defences Can Help Humans Too

Plants naturally have their own in-built defence mechanisms – phytochemicals – that help them resist pest and disease attack. When we eat healthy, nutrient-dense organically grown foods, our immune systems benefit too! I’ve found that a diet rich in fruits, herbs and vegetables provides energy, health and wellbeing.

Phytochemicals are biologically active, naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants, which provide health benefits for humans as medicinal ingredients and nutrients (HASLER & BLUMBERG, 1999). They protect plants from disease and damage, and also contribute to the plant’s colour, aroma and flavour. In general, the plant chemicals that protect plants from environmental hazards such as pollution, stress, drought, UV exposure and pathogenic attack are called as phytochemicals (GIBSON et al., 1998; MATHAI, 2000). Recently, it has been clearly shown that they also have roles in the protection of human health, when their dietary intake is significant (SAMROT et al., 2009; KOCHE et al., 2010).”

Why are phytochemicals important for you? Because as you can see from the above research studies, they have high value in terms of their protective properties. When you grow your own food, you can be sure your plants are raised in healthy living soil, devoid of chemicals and high in nutrients. These plants, in turn, can then provide you with optimal health via their nutrients.

If you have a lawn, turn it into lunch! I helped one of my clients turn her front yard into a productive edible food garden in just 10 weeks - enough to share with her neighbours. You can too!

If you have a lawn, turn it into lunch! I helped one of my clients turn her front yard into a productive edible food garden in just 10 weeks – enough to share with her neighbours. You can too!

Starting a Survival Food and Medicinal Garden

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Easy Guide to Growing Basil

How to Plant, Grow, Use and Harvest Basil

Easy Guide to Growing Basil - How to Grow Basil + Planting, Using & Harvesting Tips

Why Grow Basil?

As a gardener and cook, I couldn’t bear to have a garden without Basil. This fragrant herb is not only grown for its flavour but also its many health benefits. I use it in our kitchen as much for its delicious taste as I do for its medicinal properties. Interested in growing basil? Try it in a pot, garden or on your kitchen bench as sprouts or microgreens. Every year, I allocate ‘prime real estate’ space to basil in pots, as well as around my garden. Read on for how you can use this versatile herb.

 

Basil Varieties – Which Basil should you Grow?

Basil (Ocimum Basilicum) is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae). Like its mint ‘cousins’, basil comes in a large range of aromatic varieties, with flavours to please even the fussiest taste buds. Annual varieties will last you a season and then provide you with free seeds. Perennial cultivars last much longer and are even better value. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sweet Basil and Genovese are two of the most popular basil choices for pesto as they have mild sweet flavours.

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9 Foods You Can Regrow from Kitchen Scraps

Are you growing an edible garden? One easy way to save money is to grow some of your plants for free. How? From leftover food scraps that are often thrown away!

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps | The Micro Gardener

9 Foods You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

You may already be composting your kitchen ‘waste’. That’s a great way to build healthy soil. However, it may save you money to be selective before throwing everything into your compost system. There are many plant parts that can help you propagate new plants. For minimal effort and no cost.

Why Should You Only Regrow Organic Food?

  • First, a word of warning! For health reasons, I suggest you select organic vegetables, fruit and herbs. Too expensive? So is the cost of poor health! I think safe food is one of the best investments we can make.
  • Sadly, non-organic produce is grown using chemicals. Not just one spray either. It’s commonly a cocktail of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and other -icides. These are applied during the growth cycle and even after harvesting. These are often systemic chemicals. That means you can’t wash them off the skin.
  • The chemicals are absorbed internally into the plant tissues through soil and water. Root crops like potatoes are especially vulnerable. Other crops are genetically modified or imported and radiated.

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Design Tips for a Productive Kitchen Garden

Do you ever feel frustrated when pest insects damage your plants? Wish your kitchen garden was more productive? You’re not alone! Even the healthiest gardens struggle with a few ‘unwelcome visitors’ at times.

Design Tips for a Productive Kitchen Garden

 

If you have limited space for your food garden, then losing precious crops, can be even more disheartening.

The good news is there are design strategies you can use to:

  1. Maximise your space;
  2. Minimise pest insects;
  3. Enhance the beauty; and
  4. Even improve some of your harvests.

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6 Tips for Abundant Edible Container Gardens

Struggling to grow food successfully in pots? Would you love to have abundant container gardens? Overflowing with delicious, healthy, colourful food? Fruit and vegetables that nourish your body? Give you joy to grow, cook and eat? If you think this is in the ‘too hard basket’ read on for my tips …

Grow an abundant harvest of home grown food in edible container gardens | The Micro Gardener

This is the kind of food I love helping people learn how to grow.

 
A continual abundance of organic vegetables, herbs and fruits that sustain you with good health can be yours to enjoy.

When I first started planting edibles in micro gardens, I made a LOT of mistakes. I wasted so much time and money. There were plenty of ‘dried arrangements’ (dead plants!) as a result. I struggled with poor harvests. Over the years I’ve realised container gardening requires a different set of skills to growing directly in your garden.
 

Delicious nutritious vegies are easy to grow at home in edible container gardens

With some basic knowledge, delicious nutritious vegies are easy to grow at home in container gardens.

 
These are 6 key techniques you can use to maximise your harvests. Grow a continual abundance of delicious home grown organic food. Tuck in!
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Easy Guide to Growing Perfect Peas

With pretty flowers, crisp green pods, climbing tendrils and delicate leaves, peas are an attractive and delicious addition to any kitchen garden.

Easy Guide on How to Grow Peas

Best of all, every part of a pea plant is edible!

Peas are little powerhouses! They may be low in calories, but peas are packed with a surprising number of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Peas are also high in micro-nutrients, vitamins, fibre, protein and minerals that provide us with a wide range of health benefits.

Peas are annual vegetables. Best eaten raw and straight off the plant before their natural sugars turn to starch and lose their sweet flavour.

Peas are easy to grow, so are an ideal first crop for children and beginner gardeners.

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Guide to Growing Spring Onions

Want to grow Spring Onions (Allium fistulosum)? If you love tasty, versatile vegetables that only need minimal space and effort, then spring onions are an excellent choice! Even the tiniest plot or pot will accommodate them.

How to Grow Spring Onions

I grow all the flavoursome Alliums (Onion family). This includes garlic, leeks, onions and chives. You can swap them around in recipes and always have an ingredient to add flavour to whatever you’re cooking. If you haven’t grown them before, or are a beginner gardener, just follow the tips in this tutorial and give them a go! (more…)

How to Plant out a Herb Garden

Have you ever ended up with ‘dried herb arrangements’ (those that died of thirst or sunburn)? Or herbs that rotted and drowned due to waterlogged roots?  Whether you want to plant herbs in a pot, garden bed or a herb spiral, my 5 Step Guide to Planting Herbs can help you successfully choose the best position and maintain your herb garden.

How to Plant out a Herb Garden

How to Plant out a Herb Garden

In this article I also share key tips on where to plant herbs so they thrive. Understanding the kind of microclimate each herb prefers, can make all the difference to growing them successfully! So ‘dig in’!

 

Lushly planted mature herb spiral | The Micro Gardener

“The construct itself gives variable aspects and drainage, with sunny dry sites for oil-rich herbs such as thyme, sage, and rosemary, and moist or shaded sites for green foliage herbs such as mint, parsley, chives, and coriander.” – Bill Mollison

 

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