Soil Preparation

Garden Beds

Tomatoes love plenty of sun and warmth, so in Australia, an area in front of a north facing wall, would be perfect. You should however plant tomatoes in a different spot every couple of years. This prevents your soil gradually becoming imbalanced – both nutritionally and disease wise.
Beds should be raised, particularly with clay soils. This stops waterlogging after heavy rain, and allows plenty of oxygen to get to the roots.

If the area is vacant in winter, add a compost to the top of the soil. If time permits, fork it in a couple of weeks later. Compost containing leaves, grass or straw, ensures carbon rich matter. Organic matter such as manure or blood and bone is also beneficial.

Prior to planting, dig in a general purpose fertiliser containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. A lot of people just use Dynamic Lifter (pellatised chicken manure) which is great for the initial leaf growth, but later, the high level of nitrogen may prevent the uptake of nutrients required for fruiting. I would only use it at this initial stage, and not too strongly, or you can burn a young seedlings roots.

Adding a handful of ground limestone per square metre, will help the plant with calcium uptake. I wouldn’t lime every year and I try and do it a month or two before adding compost or fertilisers, as it like to be done alone.

Now is the time to search for the stakes (re wooden stakes: buy new ones if you had disease last year, as they can harbour this disease). Other items like plant ties will be needed soon, so think about how you are going to support your crop.

Pots

Well after last years crop, I tipped the potting mix onto a low spot in the garden. With a couple of pots, I did knock some of the potting mix out of the roots, and mixed it up 50/50 with some new stuff. Then I reused it, planting some pots of herbs. They are surviving well. I rinsed the spare pots, and put them away ready for next year.

Choose pots with good drainage holes. They should have them on the side, and on the bottom. Many terracotta pots have only one hole, flush to the ground. These pots should be at least raised slightly, raising the hole off the ground. The size of pot depends on the variety. Tall growers need large tubs. Smaller sized tomatoes eg Floriana’s San Marzano can go in much smaller pots ( as small as 25cm diameter. If you go too small, the plant will forever dry out.

Deep saucers are extremely handy, particularly if you go away for a few days. They also save water. The trick is to let the plant use all the water, rather than continually topping them up, which can give the plants ‘wet feet’ (lack of oxygen to roots, often resulting in poor growth).

Garden soil in pots can also cause ‘wet feet’. The fine granules in garden soil are so small, that they compact down in the pot causing poor drainage. A good potting mix has both large and small chunks of pine-bark, allowing more air around the roots. Like most things in life, you pay for what you get – expect poor performance from a $3.00 potting mix and $10.00 plus for a top of the line with all the extras. No other fertilisers or manures should need to be added initially.

Staking is something to think about now. The more support, the better. Some of the bush types, like Tumbler or San Marzano, can simply be left to cascade over the pot. Taller growers will appreciate wire frames, tee-pee like sticks, stakes, or by growing the pot near a fence or verandah pole.

1 comment

  1. Rex South says:

    Very good information

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