Talking Tomatoes with Phil from Hill Nurseries

Talking Tomatoes with Phil from Hill Nurseries

We talk to Phil Ferrier of Hill Nurseries about how the SuperRed Tomato Competition came about and get some top tips for growing tomatoes this summer season…

The SuperRed tomato seedlings for Wattie’s are grown by Hill Nurseries, which has Phil Ferrier at the helm. He is passionate about his work and kiwis growing their own vegetables, and was integral in bringing the two brands together.

Wattie’s field tomatoes, aka Wattie’s SuperRed seedlings, are unique to traditional ‘beefsteak’ tomatoes because they grow as a bush and not a vine, with firm, flavour packed fruit that are more elongated than round. The fruit is relatively high in natural sugars and lycopene, and the fruit on the bush ripen around the same time. This makes them perfect for Wattie’s Canned Tomatoes, and now they can be grown at home too for a season of homemade chutneys, relish and tomato sauce.

When talking about the competition, Phil begins by giving a little background on the beginnings of Hill Nurseries, starting with the fact that are the largest containerised transplant seedling nursery in New Zealand. “Our nursery owner Graeme Hill and his wife Alex set up Hill Nurseries originally purely to supply to Wattie’s,” he explains, “and we still do all of the growing for the Wattie’s factory in Hastings, which is about seven million tomato plants per year. We grow around thirty million plants a year all up, including vegetables and natives – pretty much anything that we get given as a seed we can bring to transplant stage.” Amazingly, only five people actively run the nursery, “so we are fully mechanised, which is quite unique,” says Phil

Liquid Gold is a macro-micro nutrient blend that was designed especially for Hill Nurseries by a scientist at Massey University for high production in the area of horticulture. “We have tried a lot of fertiliser options over the years, but found that nothing could sustain twenty million plants,” explains Phil. “Eventually we went to a scientist with a very specific plan. We needed something that was clean and green as we are also growing food and it needed to be of a food grade standard, and something that could also supply absolutely everything that plants might need.” The end result was the amazing Liquid Gold, and they have never looked back. Liquid Gold is now available in all Palmers and Palmers Planet stores and the new partnership officially kicked off with the SuperRed tomato growing competition. Phil was also responsible for putting Wattie’s and Palmers together, and the two iconic brands got on like a house on fire!