Just about anyone can grow tomatoes here in Bangalore, with our fabulous weather conditions. And don’t worry if you don’t have a garden, you can comfortably grow them in a pot on your balcony. As kids, we found it fascinating that tomato seedlings, sprouted all over the garden, in the dung which was brought in to fertilize the trees and plants. Some grew and gave us tiny tomatoes, but we did not really bother to nurture the plants as tomatoes were cheap and easier to buy. Today, with the price of tomatoes sky rocketing, and the word organic being fashionable and desirable, it’s great to be able to grow your own.
Jacqueline Colaco who lives on Charles Campbell Road says, “I don’t even have to try. My personal experience over decades is that they somehow appear out of nowhere. Guess when the kitchen waste is disposed off, tomato seeds finds their way into the beds or into other potted plants and sprout into fruit bearing plants quite easily.”
Everyone’s heard of cherry and plum tomatoes. Interestingly the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says there are two varieties: Determinates and Indeterminates. Determinates are bushy plants that reach usually about 90 cm, then stop growing, and have all their fruit ripen in the same few weeks. Indeterminates are like vines and can grow a couple of metres high. They will fruit for as long as the conditions are good.
Sumithra Iyengar says: “I have tomatoes growing on my balcony garden. Such a pleasure to watch them emerge from the flowers and slowly but steadily growing stronger by the day, turning into fruit.”
Determinates don’t need staking, and are generally less labour-intensive but may present you with a short-lived glut rather than a regular supply of fruit. Indeterminates, meanwhile, need to be tied to a vertical bamboo or held up by cages. And you’ll need to remove their side shoots once these reach about 3 cm so they need to feed the fruits that form along their main stem.
Renuka Saraswat shares, “I grow one tomato plant in a pot on my balcony each year and I alternate between full size and cherry tomatoes. The aroma and taste is amazing, the only downside being that the cherry tomatoes get eaten by whichever of us walks by, they’re so sweet that they are more like a fruit than a vegetable. Absolutely aeons away from the tasteless stuff in supermarkets.”
Both varieties can be bought from a nursery or sprouted from packets with seeds. Replant the seedlings into soil or pots mixed with plenty of compost and well-rotted manure. Once the plants are in, water them well and don’t let the soil dry out. And feed every 10-14 days with a liquid fertiliser especially when the fruit begin to appear.
“Nothing like home-grown tomatoes for flavour. I grow cherry and the larger varieties. Both so delicious, quite a few don’t even make it into my salad,” says Gloria Rozario, an avid gardener.