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    Green guide: Growing tomatoes in Australia

    We show you when, where and how to grow the tasty crop

    Hannah | Oneflare

    The rich, flavourful juiciness of freshly harvested tomatoes adds a distinctive touch to many meals. If you have even a passing interest in gardening, it can be reason enough to grow your own.

    The best season to grow tomatoes

    The tomato plant is partial to warm climates, and in most regions they grow best during the summer months. If you are planning to grow them in your garden, spring and early summer are the best times to start sowing the seeds. While you can sow the seeds directly into your garden beds, it’s far better to sow them in trays or pots first, using a good seed raising mix.

    You can transplant them once the plants have grown a few centimetres in height. Seasoned gardeners prefer to start growing their tomatoes indoors just before summer sets in, and then plant them outside once the soil becomes warmer. If you are trying to plant tomatoes in cooler climates, they should be grown under cover or in a sheltered spot. Tomatoes can be grown in garden beds, pots, hanging baskets or even troughs.

    Tomatoes grow best in warmer climates / Source: Shutterstock

    Planting and harvesting season for tomatoes in different Australian states

    • New South Wales (the North Coast)- Planting can be occur throughout the year. Most tomato varieties can be harvested within 12 weeks. The tomatoes will take a little longer to ripen during the winter months than in spring or summer.
    • New South Wales (other)- Start planting in Harvest season is until the end of March.
    • Australian Capital Territory– Planting season is in August. Harvest season is until the end of March.
    • Northern Territory- Does not have the recommended environment for growing tomatoes.
    • Queensland (North)- Start planting in April. Harvest season is until the end of November.
    • Queensland (South East)- Planting can occur throughout the year. Most varieties can be harvested within 12 weeks. The tomatoes will take a little longer to ripen during the winter months than in spring or summer.
    • South Australia- Planting season starts in August. Harvest anytime until the end of March.
    • Tasmania– Plant from the first week of September. Harvest anytime until the end of March.
    • Victoria- Planting can start in August. Harvest anytime until the end of March.
    • Western Australia- Planting can start in August. Harvest anytime until the end of March.

    Essential tools and preparation for tomato seedlings

    Collect a few essential tools before you start your tomato planting exercise. No heavy gardening is involved in growing tomatoes, so all you need are the following basic tools:

    • Gloves
    • Hand trowel
    • Spade
    • Rake
    • Hoe
    • Hose with a rain wand and adjustable nozzle
    • Small watering can if you are planning on growing tomatoes in pots

    How to choose your favourite type of tomatoes

    While there are a number of different varieties of tomatoes you can grow, some of the most commonly grown ones are:

    • Grosse Lisse– This is Australia’s most popular variety; it produces a very heavy yield of big, round fruit.
    • Big Beef- Is an award-winning, large, meaty variety that has an excellent flavour.
    • Improved Apollo– A widely-grown hybrid, Improved Apollo is a disease-resistant variety that fruits over a longer period.
    • Burke’s Backyard Italian Tomato– This is a classic Italian variety that bears marmande-type ribbed fruit.
    • Roma– The traditional egg-shaped tomato that works best in cooking and making tomato paste.
    • Small Fry- This is a very tall, rambling plant that has trusses of tiny, sweet fruit.
    • Tiny Tim– True to its name, this is a dwarf plant with miniature, cherry-sized fruit that grows amazingly well in pots.

    Tomato Growing tips

    • Water the tomato plants well at planting time.
    • Spread a layer of mulch as this helps retain moisture in the soil.
    • Fertilisers should be added five weeks and ten weeks after planting.
    • Add a multi nutrient plant food once a fortnight.
    • Use special tomato dust regularly to protect the plants from disease and pests.
    • In areas affected by fruit flies, commence specialised fruit fly control as the fruit approaches maturity.
    Tomatoes can be grown in the garden or in a pot / Source: Shutterstock

    Planting tomatoes in the garden vs pots

    When you plant tomatoes in the garden…

    • Choose a spot that has well-drained soil and receives sufficient sunlight.
    • Dig the soil to a medium-sized spade’s depth a few weeks before planting.
    • Put the seedlings in deep holes, right up to the top set of the leaves. These covered stems put out extra roots which will give you stronger, healthier plants.
    • Add some old manure or organic compost to the soil.
    • Mulch the soil well.
    • In case of acidic soils, add some garden lime as this will help balance the pH level.
    • In time you will need to place stakes to support tall growing tomatoes.

    When you plant tomatoes in little pots…

    • If you don’t have sufficient space in your garden to grow tomatoes, use containers, pots, or hanging baskets and troughs instead.
    • The Tiny Tim variety is very compact and grows well in small containers or hanging baskets.
    • When growing larger varieties, choose larger pots.
    • Use a good quality, nutrient rich potting mix.
    • Add long term fertiliser pellets regularly to the soil.
    • Regular feeding improves the flavour of the tomatoes.

    Contact local gardening experts

    Let’s get started

    To grow healthy tomato plants, make sure you source the potting soil, manure, compost, fertilisers and pest control products from a reputed local nursery.

    It’s essential that you choose the perfect site to grow all of your tomatoes. Pick out a spot that gets plenty of sun for at least five hours – more would be better. Try to find a spot that isn’t too windy and has plenty of well-drained soil (and make sure the soil hasn’t had any tomato family plants planted in it during the previous season).

    Good preparation of the planting site is also essential. Put in a ton of cow manure and a little bit of potash and lime for every square metre that’s planted. Mushroom compost will also do the job of potash and lime. Again, well-drained soil is a must. Make sure the soil has a good amount of calcium, and add some gypsum if necessary.

    Get some advice from your gardener on which varieties will grow best in the area you live in and begin growing tomatoes in your garden.

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