by Wally Richards
If you are like me, your fingers are itching to get the new seasons tomato plants under way.
The earlier you start the sooner you will have ripe tomatoes to eat.
I think most garden centres will have a few early varieties already to buy and grow on.
This last week after the cold spell the weather has been fairly warm in most areas.
This is likely because of the rain brought down from the tropics which caused so much damage also brought with it, warm air.
As I write this in Marton at 10am on Saturday the temperature outside is 18 degrees and starting to feel a bit more like some spring weather.
If you have a glasshouse or similar then no problem in getting your first tomato plants started either in the ground or in containers.
If you do not have a glasshouse there is no reason not to plant one or more tomato plants into 20cm containers to grow on for planting out into your garden later on as a well established plant.
You just need to have the containers in a sunny sheltered spot and if the weather turns to custard or looks like a frost then bring them inside (porch, carport, shed, kitchen) they will be ok then till weather improves and back to their spot outside so they get ample sun light.
Firstly lets look at planting your purchased tomato plants, whether in the ground or into a container: make a hole that will be deep enough to bury the plant up to the first leaves.
The reason for this is that the plant will produce roots all the up the trunk making a bigger root system compared planted shallow where the original roots are.
More roots, bigger plant and better results.
Place about half a teaspoon of Wallys Secret Tomato Food with Neem Powder at the base of the hole and just cover with a little of the growing medium.
Also sprinkle Wallys Secret Tomato Food onto the growing medium surface but not against the trunk of the plant.
Not only are you giving your tomato a great food but also the Neem Powder helps prevent insect problems.
In a glasshouse also sprinkle Wallys Neem Tree Granules as the smell of the granules will further disguise the smell of your tomato plants so whitefly will not know they are there.
Hang Wallys White Fly Sticky Traps in the glasshouse near the door and vets as well as above your tomato plants.
These will catch any adult insects pests that find there way into the glasshouse.
The biggest problem that many gardeners had over the last season or longer is the dreaded psyllid.
These little pests lay their eggs on to tomato plants, potatoes, Tamarrilo (these three are the worst affected) but they will also attack chili, capsicum okra and pippino.
The nymphs when they hatch out are very small and you need a magnifying glass to see them.
They are sucking the goodness out of your tomato plant and even worse injecting a toxin into the plant.
The results seen are the plants lower leaves may turn yellow prematurely, be distorted, fruit will become progressively smaller and the end result will be a fungus mold up and down the trunk before the plant dies.
Eggs hatch 3-9 days after being laid and nymphs pass through five scale-like stages in 12-21 days, depending on temperature.
In greenhouses, tomato-potato psyllid development proceeds rapidly between 15-32 C, and the lower temperature threshold for development is about 7 C.
It is the mid range temperatures that are best for the psyllids and for breeding.
Lower and very high temperatures reduce their activity and that is why very early and late in the season, while temperatures are mild they are not much of a problem in open air gardens.
Late self sown tomato plants will do well till winter knocks them out.
From personal experience I found that once you have a psyllid population in your back yard that each season it will be far worse than previous up until growing of tomatoes, potatoes and Tamarrilo is a waste of money and time.
For instance Opiki (between Palmerston North and Levin) was a great commercial potato growing area a few years ago. Now there are none grown as the chemicals needed to control had to be applied so frequently and the costs too high to be economical.
Sprays such as Neem Oil or chemical ones will help control a bit but the populations become so great that they just don’t control sufficiently to be any thing than a waste of money.
Confidor (the bee killer) would be the best to work as a chemical spray but of course now no longer available to the home gardener as it is a bee killer which we do not want that.
About two years ago the psyllid problem in my big glasshouse had got so bad that I went out looking for a safe means of control.
I found the answer in silicon which if used to treat the tomato plants from seedlings to maturity not
only prevented psyllid damage but actually got rid of them completely from my glasshouse and gardens.
So for other gardeners I bottled 3 products the first is Wallys Silicon and Boron Soil Drench which is watered into the soil where your tomato plant is to grow either before planting or after planting.
Another drench is applied 2 weeks later.
Then you mix Wallys Cell Strengthening Spray and Wallys Silicon Super Spreader together.
The Super Spreader forces the Cell Strengthening spray into the plants.
This spray can be started once your tomato plant has foliage and repeated every week as it grows.
Once it gets to flowering and about a metre tall then spray every two weeks.
Once you start harvesting fruit spray once a month.
Add Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) to the cell strengthening spray.
I make up the spray into a one litre Trigger sprayer and leave by the plants out of direct sunlight to used again till all contents finished as it keeps ok. Just shake the bottle in case of settling.
You will not only have lots of tomatoes as it used to be but also the fruit will be bigger and tastier as the leaves of the plant will love the silicon spray and grow to about double their normal size.
The plant will get more energy from the sun having larger leaves and the plants will be the best tomatoes you have ever grown using the Wallys Secret Tomato Food and the Silicon cell strengthening products. Even if you do not think you have a psyllid problem it is worthwhile to use the cell strengthening products as you will have better tomatoes as a result.
These products also work well on preventing or reducing the damage to garlic from the garlic rust problem.
You could try the cell strengthening spray with MBL added on your favorite plants such as roses and see what happens.