I'm seeing red! And yellow and orange and green... Tomato trivia


There are a few things that every Balconista needs to know about tomatoes, and I'm not talking about the average number of calories they contain (which is approximately 18 kcal per 100 g by the way).

I have tomatoes on my kitchen balcony every year. Depending on my inclination, my mood and the time I have on my hands, I either grow them myself from seed or buy them as seedlings from the garden centre.

There are two types of tomato plant: single-stem vine plants and bush plants. I generally go for vine plants - they need less space to spread outwards but they do need room to grow upwards.

This year I grew my tomatoes on the window sill in a growing kit.

Tomato seeds generally like a warm and sunny environment; 20° C is ideal but 15° C degrees is also fine. Anything below 15° C is not warm enough.

I pressed the seeds gently into the soil and moistened them using my pump sprayer. It is important to always keep the soil slightly damp (moist, not wet!).

The seeds start to germinate after 1 - 2 weeks, and after 3 - 4 weeks I transferred the small seedlings into larger pots (pricking them out).

When transferring the seedlings, always remember that tomatoes need room to grow. Tomatoes grow very quickly and need a lot of space.

I repotted my tomatoes again after the Ice Saints' feast days and moved them outside. I use a trellis right from the start, as the stems become very heavy as soon as they begin to bear fruit and need extra support.

Tomatoes are sun worshippers. They need direct sun, which means they are always at risk of dying of thirst. So you need a lot of water, but the plants don't like to "get their feet wet" (this can lead to waterlogging and fungal diseases such as late blight).

Watering from the top can cause the fruit to burst, so take care! It's best to water tomatoes in the morning, so that any leaves that may have got wet can dry out throughout the day.

With tomatoes, less is more. Specifically, that means pinch out the side shoots — i.e. remove the small shoots that grow between the main stem and side shoot. I do this by hand, and it's quite simple and straightforward. If you're growing bush tomatoes you can omit this step.

As I've already mentioned, tomatoes like space. I put single cloves of garlic (with the tip facing up) between my tomato plants and cover them well with earth.

The two plants make good bedfellows and cultivate a mutually beneficial environment.

With garlic, however, I don't wait for it to form a bulb, as that can take 8–10 months. Instead, I cut off the leaves and use them in cooking in much the same way as I do with the green part of spring onions.

As soon as the tomato plants begin to bear fruit, it is time to start composting. This is best done twice a week using liquid fertiliser.

I have also got into the habit of lightly shaking the tomato plants every day once they are bearing fruit. This helps with pollination, as there is not always wind or bees on the balcony.