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Tomato

Solanum lycopersicum

Tomatoes are fruits but are used as a culinary vegetable. Growing tomatoes can be tricky but is very rewarding if done right. Grow more than one variety, as some will suit your area better than others. Tomatoes come in a wide range of cultivars that suit them to specific conditions and uses. From juicing, salad tomatoes, and just eating off the vine. They can come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and colour with striped varieties and even heart-shaped.

Planning

Difficulty
Moderate
Flowering time
Spring, Summer
Fruiting time
Summer, Autumn

Harvesting

Roughly 45-90 days until maturity. Ripe tomatoes are firm but slightly soft and a deep ripe colour and varying sizes. Fruit bruises easily so only "palm" the tomatoes, don't squeeze. Gently pick them off the stem once ripe or remove a branch and allow to dry while picking the fruit as they ripen.

Propagation

Seed
Sow indoors and transplant seedlings once they are 15-25 cm tall. Bury at least two-thirds of the stem to encourage root growth and a stronger plant. Space seedlings 60 cm apart and water thoroughly.
Cuttings
Cutting root easily if placed in a glass of water.

Special features

Crop rotation
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require well-fertilized soil. Rotate annually to prevent nutrient depletion of the soil.
Pot plant
Can be grown in a container provided it is at least 60 cm wide and deep.
Attracts useful insects
Insects such as bees.

Geography

Origin
South and Central America, Mexico.
Natural climate
Temperate

Environment

Light
Full Sun
Soil moisture
Moist
Soil type
Loam, Sand, Compost, Clay
Soil PH preference
Neutral, Acid, Alkaline
Frost hardiness
Tender

Uses

Edible
The fruit is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks made into juices, dried or preserved.
Medicinal
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant. It contains Vit A, B, C and K as well as minerals like potassium and Calcium.

Personality

Family
Solanaceae
Flower colour
Yellow
Scent
None

Problems

Pests include cutworms, hornworms and bollworm, aphids, cabbage loopers, whiteflies, tomato fruitworms, red spider mite, slugs, and Colorado potato beetles. Diseases include the tobacco mosaic virus, blight and various forms of mildew.

Companion plants

Borage is thought to repel the tomato hornworm moth. The devastating tomato hornworm has a major predator in various parasitic wasps, whose larvae devour the hornworm, but whose adult form drinks nectar from tiny-flowered plants like umbellifers. Several species of umbellifer are therefore often grown with tomato plants, including parsley, Queen Anne's lace, and sometimes dill. These also attract predatory flies that attack various tomato pests. Plants with strong scents, like alliums (onions, chives, garlic), mints (basil, oregano, spearmint) and French marigold, (Tagetes patula) are thought to mask the scent of the tomato plant, making it harder for pests to locate it and provide an alternative landing point, less chance of the pest on the tomatoes. These plants may also subtly affect the flavour of tomato fruit. Ground cover plants, including mints, stabilize moisture loss around tomato plants and other Solanaceae, which come from very humid climates, these can help prevent moisture-related problems like blossom end rot. Tap-root plants like dandelions break up the dense soil and bring nutrients from below a tomato plant's reach, possibly benefiting their companion. Tomato plants can protect asparagus from asparagus beetles because they contain solanine that kills the beetle, while asparagus plants contain Asparagusic acid that repels nematodes known to attack tomato plants. Marigolds also repel nematodes.

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