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Turn your back on tins with fresh tomatoes

We're sure most pantries have at least one can of tin tomatoes in the back of them. They're perfect for adding to casseroles, sauces, relishes, and the list goes on. But there's something about fresh tomatoes, which just makes a dish taste, and feel, that little bit better.

While we're not advocating turning your back on tinned tomatoes completely (there will always be a place in my heart for the ease and convenience of cans), we do recommend growing your own if you can.

Toms straight out of the garden are a perfect addition to any summer snack. Salads, sandwiches, even plain old tomatoes on toast, just taste better with a harvest from your own garden.

Grab your Awapuni Nurseries tomato seedlings from your local supermarket, The Warehouse or Bunnings store. Alternatively, order some from our online shop at and get your seedlings delivered direct to your door.

Tomato plants prefer to grow in a sunny area sheltered from strong winds. If you're already a fan of growing tomatoes, plant them somewhere different from where you planted them last time. This will decrease the chances of your tomatoes developing nasty diseases such as blight.

If it has been a wet winter where you are, add a bit of lime to your soil as tomatoes thrive in soil with a moderate pH and large amounts of rain tend to lower your soil's acidity level. Dig in compost to improve soil conditions.

Dig a hole, approximately 3cms deep and space tomato seedlings roughly one foot apart. Fill in the holes with soil.

Once planted, spray your tomatoes with liquid copper to prevent fungal diseases. Add a general fertiliser, such as nitrophoska blue, to the soil surrounding the tomatoes to encourage large, juicy fruit.

Avoid overhead watering because it can leave your plants more susceptible to diseases like downy mildew, rust, and blight. So, layer newspaper around your plants, and then cover the newspaper with pea straw. This mulch will prevent your plants from drying out during the day and in between watering sessions.

I also recommend picking off the laterals as they develop. If you imagine a tomato plant has a main trunk that grows straight up and branches growing off the main trunk at roughly 90 degrees, the laterals are the smaller stems that develop at approximately 45 degrees in between the main trunk and branch.

Often laterals won't produce fruit but can produce a lot of leaves. If you pick them off it allows the plant to put all its energy into growing fruit, rather than a whole lot of leaves you don't need. Apply the same formula for working out the laterals on the main trunk to working out which are the laterals on each subsequent branch. Clear as mud?

If the weather hasn't warmed up where you live, try cutting the base off two-litre plastic milk bottles (recycle the base) and place the remaining parts of the bottles over the seedlings. These mini greenhouses will protect your plants from frosts and cold winds.

Once your anti-oxidant rich tomato seedlings grow a bit taller they will need staking to help stabilise and protect them from strong winds. I prefer to do this in the form of a teepee. Take three stakes and place them in the ground with the tomato plant in the middle and tie the stakes together at the top with rope or string. But as long as the plants have some support you can stake them any way that works.

I've said it before, but if you've got small kids this is a great time to get them involved. They can get creative by painting the stakes and tying a bright coloured ribbon or tinsel to the top of the teepee. It makes for a pretty 'creative' looking vege garden... and scares away the birds!

In around 12 weeks, your tomatoes will be ready to harvest and show those tinned imposters what they're made of.

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