Being able to grow your favourite fruits and vegetables in your own garden is a luxury that many gardeners have. One of the most common vegetables found in gardens are tomatoes. They are easy to grow, and are rewarding. There are two main varieties of tomato plants, one that trails and rambles or needs to be supported, and one that grows upright in a bush style plant. Vine tomatoes, or tomatoes that need a support, are unique because they continue producing fruits over a long period of time throughout an entire growing season, and can be expected to produce medium and cherry size tomatoes. Tomato plants that are upright and grown in a bush shape are known to produce medium to large sizes of fruit, with some producing cherry and oval shaped fruits. The bush tomato plants typically produce a large amount of fruit in a narrower amount of time, all at once, and then become dormant for the remainder of the season, or until they are able to re-bloom dependent on the length of the growing season.
With either type you decide to grow, they all have the same basic needs and requirements. It is important to start planting the tomato seeds indoor early in the New Year, just as spring is beginning, in March and early April. They require the warm indoor temperatures of about 20°C to germinate and start growing. Seedling mats that generate a low level of heat can be placed under seedling trays to encourage growth during this stage. Once the tomato plants have reached seedling size, usually 4-6 weeks from planting, they can be moved into a cold frame greenhouse or an area that has a constant temperature at around 10°C for another 6-8 weeks until they have had time to adjust to the reduced temperature. By now, the plants should be about 6-10 inches in height and can be transplanted outdoors so long as the nights no longer dip below 8°C outside.
Plant the tomatoes in an area with full sun and well-drained soil. Smaller tomato plants will not require as much water as you think and it is important to not over water them because they are quite sensitive to overwatering and are easy to dampen off. Check their water levels daily until they are established, and it is important to water them at their base, and not to spray them if possible because this can lead to blight and other potentially harmful diseases that tomato plants are susceptible to. They enjoy a light fertilising once they have been established in order to encourage bloom development, and require a soil mixture that is semi-acidic in order to reach their full potential. There are many additives that can be added to the soil to achieve the ideal pH balance, and many fertilisers that can be added to water and poured at the base of the plants to encourage them to flower. The flowers usually appear in May or June, and tomatoes can be harvested in July through September depending on the variety.