by Wally Richards


I wrote a bit about tomato growing recently and since then I have realised there are more things worth knowing to be successful and have a great crop.

There hundreds of different tomato types available world wide: red fruit, black fruit, even green fruit that are green when fully ripe. Sizes vary from the size of a marble up to fruit weighing over one kilo.

All tomatoes can be brought down to two growth types, Indeterminate which are a vine and they continue to grow and produce tomatoes till winter ends their lives. Grown in a glasshouse hydroponically, I have seen a plant about 10 metres long with the last metre or so flowering and fruiting.

Indeterminate tomatoes need support of stakes or wires to keep them upright otherwise they tend to end up growing along the ground. Examples would be Early Girl, Big Beef, Grosse Lisse and Money Maker.

Determinate tomato varieties grow to a predetermined height which is about a metre tall. They need less support and are often referred to as ‘Bush Tomatoes’ as they form a bush about a metre tall and wide.

Laterals can be removed or left. They are not as long lived as the Indeterminate in most types. Examples would be Russian Red and Scoresby Dwarf.

If you do not have a glasshouse then choose a spot where it is very sunny most of the day and sheltered from wind. Against a wall facing north is ideal. If you only have less favorable spots then grow Russian Red or Scoresby Dwarf.

I sometimes hear people say that you should not grow tomatoes in the same spot every year in case of disease build up in the soil. Yes and no; as I know of gardeners growing their tomato plants in the same spot for over 25 years and outside of seasonal conditions without problems.

I think a problem can occur when chemicals are used along with chlorinated water on the plants which kills the soil life and leads to the build up of pathogens in the soil.

The normal problems that occur are the following:

Collar rot which is when a rot sets in some where on the trunk of the plant cutting off the roots from the foliage which progressively wilts as the disease takes hold. It’s caused by removing laterals, leaves and even fruit when the air is humid. The moisture in the air carries the disease to the wound, where it enters the plants and sets up shop somewhere on the trunk. It’s more likely to happen in a glasshouse where the air is moist for a while after watering.

Only remove laterals etc., when it’s sunny and the air is drier. It is also good practice to have some copper spray made up in a trigger sprayer and spray the wound as soon as it is created.

Blossom End Rot is another problem that often occurs to tomatoes that are grown in containers. It is seen as the fruit heads to maturity as a black patch on the base of the fruit. It is caused by lack of moisture at the time the fruit are setting. Sometimes it can also be a lack of calcium so if you give the plants a little Dolomite that will ensure the calcium is present.

Then its a matter of ensuring the growing medium has sufficient moisture. That may mean in container plants watering three times on a hot sunny day. In a glasshouse when the temperatures are high you can see that the top foliage of the tomatoes are drooping. This can happen even when the growing medium has sufficient moisture. The plants are perspiring more moisture out through the foliage than the roots can take up fast enough to make up the loss of moisture. The foliage like us perspire to help cool us down in hot conditions.

You can spray the foliage over and under with Wallys Vaporgard to reduce moisture loss by about 30-40%. The area of the tomato where the foliage is drooping can be also where there are flowers wanting to set their fruit which also leads to Blossom End Rot.

Setting of fruit is not done by bees although Bumble Bees flying near tomato flowers on a sunny day can set fruit caused by the vibration of their wings.

If you had a tuning fork you could make it vibrate and hold it near the flowers on a sunny day to set the fruit. Normally outdoors there is a bit of air movement on a sunny day which allows the pollination to take place.

In a glasshouse there may not be the same air movement so best on a sunny day when the flowers are open you tap the plant or the stake to make the plant vibrate and thus set all the fruit. Split fruit on plants is caused by uneven watering.

Papery brown patches on the fruit is caused by strong sun effectively cooking the fruit. Thus you need to provide some shade cloth if that is happening.

Blotchy ripening and also lack of flavour is caused by insufficient potash which means you have not applied Wallys Secret Tomato Food with Neem to the plants. This brand of food has a good amount of potash and gardeners that use it remark on how great their tomatoes are.

White fly are a big problem with tomato plants both in a glasshouse and outside. Using Wallys Secret Tomato food with Neem Granules mix will help not only good growth but the Neem smell helps to disguise the smell of the tomato plants. Wallys Neem Granules also on the soil, adds to that smell disguise aspect.

This season in my glasshouse as well as having Neem Granules on top of the growing medium I am going to hang some little bags of naphthalene crystals (from Wallys Cat Repellent) in the glasshouse to create an even greater smell.

Wallys Yellow Sticky White Fly traps are also another means of catching the adult white fly that may approach the tomatoes to lay their eggs. Hanging off the stake above the plant is ideal and lifted higher as the tomato plants grow upwards. In a glasshouse some hanging near door and vents can catch a lot of pest insects.

The tomato psyllid we have written about already t can be easily controlled by using Wallys Cell Strengthening products. For more information on that just e-mail me.

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