New World Little Gardens

tomato pattern
tomato

Tomato

Solanum lycopersicum

A favourite crop of home gardeners, sweet, sun-ripened ‘Russian Red’ tomatoes are perfect for salads, sandwiches and sauces, or just eat them straight from the plant. Tomatoes are heat-lovers and won’t survive outside if it’s too cold. Start your plant inside and don’t move into the garden until Labour Weekend at the earliest.

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Getting started

  • Put the soil tablet on a saucer and pour 50ml of water over it.
  • Put on gloves and mix the water into the soil with your hands to make a wet mixture. Watch the soil expand.
  • Use most of your soil to fill up the pot to around 2cm below the top.
  • Now place your seed mat on top of the soil (take care not to press down too hard).
  • Now use the rest of your soil mixture to cover the seed mat.
  • Remember to wash your hands when you’re done!

How to keep your Little Garden healthy

  • Place the pot on a clean saucer in a place with enough light, but not directly in the sun.
  • Check the soil in the morning, and before bed. If the soil feels dry and crumbly, pour a small amount of clean water over the surface.
  • Within 2 weeks you should see a little plant appear from the soil. That means the seeds have germinated and will be ready soon to move into a bigger pot or garden.
  • If more than one little plant grows, you can thin your tomato seedling by choosing the strongest-looking one and removing the others

When your seedling is ready to go in the garden

  • When the tomato is about as tall as your hand (in 4-5 weeks), it’s ready to shift into the garden or a pot, but only if the weather is reliably settled and warm (no risk of frost).
  • Get your tomato used to life outside: you can harden off your tomato seedling by putting it in a warm and sheltered spot for 1-2 hours a day and return inside for the night. Do this for 4-5 days, leaving it outside for a little longer each day before you shift it out into the garden forever.

 

Planting best practice

  • Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so give your tomato full sun and well-drained, rich soil or grow it in a large pot.
  • This tomato can also be planted straight in a bag of potting mix! First poke a dozen holes in one side of the bag for drainage then flip it over and cut a square into the plastic to make an opening. Fold up the plastic square and plant your tomato in the potting mix. Easy!

Pro tip:

  • Put a handful of milk powder in the hole when you plant your tomato. They’re prone to fungal infection and milk is a natural anti-fungicide.

 

Look after your plant while it’s growing

  • Tomatoes will need support as they’re growing so they don’t break under their own weight. Stick a stake next to each plant, whether you’re planting in the garden or in a pot. As the tomato grows, tie it to the stake using garden twine (or cut up pieces of pantyhose).
  • Pinch-off the laterals, or side shoots, as the plant grows, to ensure the main stem grows strong.

Pro tip:

  • When you pinch off the laterals of your Little Garden tomato, pop them back into the soil. They're likely to grow roots and turn into a whole new tomato plant!

Harvest time

  • 2-3 months after planting, your tomatoes should be ready to pick.
  • Fruit will ripen off the plant, too. If your tomato is carrying too much fruit and it seems like the stems will snap, harvest semi-ripe fruit, and keep it inside out of direct sunlight (but not in the fridge - the cold is not good for tomato flavour).

Watch out

  • Unfortunately tomatoes can be attacked by many pests, including aphids, whitefly, thrips, caterpillars and psyllid. Healthy, well-fed and watered plants are better able to resist pests, so soak the soil at the base of your tomato thoroughly every few days. Apply liquid tomato food or liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.
  • Tomatoes can have problems with fungal infections, such as powdery mildew, particularly in places with humid summers. Give tomatoes a spot with good air circulation to avoid fungal infections getting a toehold, and keep removing leaves from the bottom 10- 15cm of the stem. Water at the base of the plant and avoid wetting the leaves. 
  • Protect your tomatoes from hungry birds. Drape bird netting over your plant, or protect it with a chicken wire cage.

Tomato in your gardens