Monday 19 February 2018

Tomatoes: Why Grow them?

Tomatoes are rich in (and derive their red colour from) lycopene, a vital anti-oxidant that helps in the fight against cancerous cell formation. Free radicals in the body can be flushed out with high levels of lycopene.

The home-grown tomato is a delectable treat, a meal in itself, best eaten fresh in the warmth of the greenhouse for maximum effect.

Sow

Tomatoes have a long growing season and can be started in February indoors on a heating mat to get a head-start.

Sow seeds in pots or module trays indoors in a warm, sunny spot.

When they have developed three true leaves prick out in to three-inch pots.

Grow

Though lots of GIYers have grown tomatoes successfully outdoors, this mediterranean fruit fares best in the warmth of a greenhouse, polytunnel or conservatory.

They are best planted in the soil but will also grow well in pots or grow bags as long as the container is good and deep.

Vine tomatoes grow very tall and will require support.

Leave approximately 40cm between plants.

As the plant grows, pinch out side shoots, which regularly appear in the angle between the main stem and leaf stems.

Water evenly and regularly – irregular watering causes fruit to split.

Once toms are starting to appear, feed fortnightly with a high-potash feed.

Harvest

Harvest when the fruits are ripe.

Fruit will split if left on the plants so remove as it ripens – surplus fruit can be made in to sauces for the freezer.

GIY Recommended Varieties

Sungold, Tigerella, San Marzano, Beefsteak

Problems

The most common pests are whitefly, aphids and spider mites.

Rolling or curling of tomato leaves is common and can be due to wide variation between day and night time temperatures.

It is not a problem.

GIY Tips

* At the end of the season put a layer of green tomatoes in a drawer with a ripe apple or banana.

These ripening fruits give off the ripening gas ethylene which encourages the tomatoes to ripen.

* Bake surplus tomatoes in the oven for eight hours on a very low heat – cut them in half first and drizzle with some oil and salt.

These 'sundried' tomatoes can be stored in olive oil or frozen.

Irish Independent

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