Tomatoes need plenty of sunshine. They generally need three months of warm, frost free weather to produce well.
Grafted plants take up more space in the garden and are more expensive than seedlings. But one single plant produces huge amounts of tomatoes; two plants can provide a season’s supply for a whole family. The difference is that each variety is grafted onto a new set of roots. These roots are of a vigorous disease resistant variety (not necessarily with the tastiest fruit) so that the vigour is passed onto the variety which is grafted on top producing bigger, very high yielding plants of your chosen hybrid variety.
When To Plant
The weather rather than the calendar date, is the determining factor. They generally need three months of warm, frost free weather to produce well. With protection plants can be grown from August onwards. Labour weekend is the traditional time for planting tomatoes but they can be planted outdoors as soon as conditions allow, usually any time from September onwards.
Soil and Position
Tomatoes need plenty of sunshine. Any free draining soil which is rich in organic matter is ideal. The vigorous growing grafted tomatoes need protection from strong winds. Against a wall, fence or trellis is ideal. Prepare the soil by adding liberal amounts of compost and digging through deeply.
Plant grafted tomatoes at least 2-3mt apart. Remember they grow quite large so do not overcrowd. Prepare the soil as per above. Water the plant in its container and allow draining. Plant without disturbing the root ball and ensure that the graft union (the part covered with tape) is about 12mm above the ground. Firm the soil gently and tie the plant to a small stake to prevent toppling.
It is a good idea to position stakes for all varieties at planting time to avoid damaging the roots later on. Overhead wires with strings to climb up can also be used.
The vigorous root stock can provide up to 10 leaders or more. Let the leaders grow without pinching the tip. But remove the side shoots. Heavy foliage, which over shades the fruit, should be removed.
Grafted tomatoes grown against a wall or trellis can be supported on string or wires fixed vertically. Alternatively 2.5 m stakes at 30cm intervals will be necessary.
When your tomato is 30 cm high, pinch out the growing tip. This encourages side shoots to grow which will become leaders.
Feeding and Watering
Tomatoes with their rapid growth rate are both thirsty and hungry. It is very important to water regularly in dry weather. The plants must not be allowed to dry out. They do not like wet feet however, take care that water does not lie around and become stagnant. Mulching is an excellent way of conserving moisture in summer. Butlers compost, peat or Debco Mulch ‘n’ Feed are all ideal for this purpose. As plants grow and become loaded with fruit their requirement for water will increase.
Once the small fruit appear supplement your initial ground preparation with a fortnightly feed of a balanced fertiliser such as Phostrogen Tomato Food which is high in potassium to encourage fruit set. Water thoroughly after feeding.
It is a good idea to pick fruit before it is fully coloured and still quite firm. This helps fruit keep longer and relieves the plant of its load allowing it to keep on the job of producing more crops.
Pests and Diseases
As mentioned earlier grafted tomatoes are less prone to pests and diseases. However for complete protection spray fortnightly with a general purpose insecticide/fungicide. Target will repel white fly.