Home-grown tomatoes are the tastiest and they are very easy to grow from either seed or seedlings, provided you follow our simple, step-by-step program.
What you need:

• Tomato seeds or seedlings
• Searles® Seed Raising mix for seed-growing
• Shallow pots or trays for seed-growing
• SeaMax® Fish & Kelp
• Stakes and string or other binding material
• Searles 5in1 or Real Compost

Add one barrowload of 5 in 1®, Real Compost or animal manure per square metre to growing area and dig thoroughly into soil. Sprinkle with garden lime at the rate of one handful per square metre. Mulch thoroughly. Raised beds are usually best unless soil is naturally very well drained.

No-dig method
Beds can be built up from layers of organic material topped with compost or potting mix into which seeds or seedlings are planted. One method is to make a newspaper base to suppress weeds and then add successive layers of lucerne or cane trash, animal manure, straw, another layer of animal manure and well-made, mature compost into which seeds are planted. Each layer is about 20 cm thick and must be watered. Sides can be left open or contained by boards or wire mesh.

Growing from seed
Use a proprietary Searles® Seed Raising mix and make shallow holes about 0.5 cm deep and 10 cm apart. Cover lightly with the mix, firming it down and watering gently. Thin out seedlings to 3cm apart when they are 2cm high. Plant out when about 4 weeks old and the same size as bought seedlings.

Growing from seedlings
In hot weather plant out in the late afternoon or evening; about 50 cm apart in rows 1.2 metres apart. Set roots firmly in place, leaving plenty of top growth above the surface and removing any leaves which might be buried. Dose each plant with a dilute application of SeaMax® Fish & Kelp to promote strong root growth. Put 2m stakes next to each, train 1 or 2 shoots up the stake and secure with a soft binding material tied loosely round the stem but not right under the leaf. An alternative to single stakes are three stakes in a teepee shape.

Give plants a good soaking around the roots every other day, keeping the soil slightly moist below the surface. In extremely hot weather watering once or even twice a day may be necessary; heat stress is shown by wilting. Overwatering can cause root rot. A perforated soaker hose or trickle/drip irrigation system is best.

Keep soil healthy with regular mulching and applications of 5 in 1® or Real Compost and/or animal manures. Tomatoes will grow very well in a healthy soil that is rich in nutrients, particularly if boosted with applications of SeaMax® Fish & Kelp to the leaves and soil.

Not strictly necessary but occasional pruning of top growth will encourage a low, bushy plant.

Most common pests can be kept at bay with an all-purpose organic spray such as Beat-A-Bug. Dipel controls many types of insect larvae. For specific problems, identify the pest and ask your garden centre for advice. Always try organic solutions rather than chemical solutions. Fruit can be covered by paper bags just before it starts to colour up. Fly paper attached to stakes and fruit-fly baits can also reduce pest numbers.

Look for resistant cultivars. Most common diseases are wilts, rots, spots and viruses. All require good garden practices such as removing infected plants, controlling weeds and not watering fruit and foliage. Visible signs are blotches on fruit and/or leaves, wilting of leaves or whole plant, unsightly patterns on fruit, leaf-yellowing or distortion, sudden collapse of plant. Most common prevention and control methods are copper-based fungicidal dusts and spray of Mancozeb, but seek advice from your garden centre, taking a specimen of the problem with you.

Happy Gardening with Searles from the Searle family.

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