The Tomato Success Series: Is it time to buy your tomato seedlings?

Welcome to the Tomato Success Series! Over the next few weeks we will do a series of blogs on tomatoes; from growing, feeding, soil requirements and pest and disease prevention so that you can grow and harvest your best crop to date!

We’ll kick off with choosing your tomato varieties and knowing when to buy…

These are often over-looked, but crucial steps in creating success.

As gardeners in an ever-changing climate, we must pay close attention to the conditions around us and choose the time we plant and the varieties accordingly.

With tomatoes everywhere in the garden centres at the moment, (why do they always have to stock them so super early and confuse their customers!) people are reactively buying them, as they assume the time must be right if they’re available, and no one wants to miss out.

My advice? Waaaaaaaaaaait.

My climate here on Waiheke Island is still way too cold and wet, with only the odd hot day. There have been hail and thunder storms across the North Island this week, so the weather has yet to settle towards a summer-like pattern. Wait for the right conditions in your area and for warmer soil. Did you know that tomatoes like at least 16 degrees to even begin to grow outside?

And if that didn’t convince you, did you know that some of the negative consequences of planting too early can be very slow growth, and tomatoes that are prone to pest and disease, especially early blight?

So – the climate is right and you’ve decided it’s time to choose your tomatoes for the season. How do you decide?

If you are growing from seed, you will likely already know what varieties you like, but if selecting seedlings from the nursery, it is good to do a little bit of research first on the types of tomatoes that you and your family prefer to eat. After all, isn’t this why we grow them?

Are you growing tomatoes to make sauce, paste or chutney?

Do you want low acid tomatoes?

Do you prefer the small cherry tomatoes?

Do you want organic heirloom tomatoes?

What colour tomatoes do you desire?

Black, yellow, red, green, orange, striped, normal, pear shaped, oval, round…. So many decisions.

Please go prepared, as it is easy to get distracted in the shop. Only buy what you need and maybe even stagger the planting so all your tomatoes don’t ripen at once.

Some tomatoes take longer to mature, so make sure you do your homework before you buy.

Once purchased, leave your seedlings in a sheltered position at home for a few days to get your plants acclimatised to your area. Remember most of them have never been outside in their growing life, so they could become shocked and vulnerable to disease.

Next week, our Tomato Success Series continues and I will be advising you on preparing your soil to create the optimum conditions for your newly selected tomato plants. Until then, this is the first ever blog that comes with homework!! Get researching and as ever, feel free to contact me with your questions if you need help in choosing your varieties!

Happy gardening!

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