How to grow tomatoes in Victoria
Tomato-growing tips from the Diggers Club’s tomato expert.
If you’re following the Australian tradition and planting your tomatoes on Cup Day, you could be missing out on a month or more of home-grown tomato goodness.
The Diggers Club’s tomato expert Jac Semmler says the ideal time to get your tomatoes in the ground is late September or October in all but the most frost-prone areas of Victoria, to give them the longest-possible growing season.
“Ideally you want to get them in before Cup Day,” says Jac. “I think Cup Day has just been a handy reminder for gardeners, a bit of a rule of thumb, to get a hurry along. I think it’s evolved over time from a lot of gardeners eating too much green tomato chutney in March when larger varieties haven’t ripened in time!
“With big beefsteak tomatoes it’s critical to get them in early and you wouldn’t want to leave it ’til after Cup Day – there’s just a higher risk the fruit might not get to the point of ripening, but you can still give it a crack with cherries and smaller varieties after Cup Day.”
The Diggers Club specialises in heirloom seeds and plants, and when it comes to tomatoes that means flavour, texture, and unusual shapes and colours.
“So many supermarket tomatoes are hybrids bred for particular attributes like uniformity, transportability and shelf life. Flavour is not one of those attributes,” says Jac. “I don’t want a tomato that tastes like water.”
She says that while tomatoes can be a bit fickle to grow for beginners they are a quintessential summer experience. “They do have beautiful rewards when you’re using them in salads or the kids can literally go into the garden and pick them off – the cherry tomatoes don’t make it as far as the kitchen very often!”
Jac adds that people can get stuck on a lot of rules with gardening, “but really it’s most important that people just get gardening. It’s an art and a science.”