Learn how to grow tomatoes in a hot country like Cyprus.
Cherry tomatoes on my roof garden
I'm not exactly a gardening expert, but I have learned a few things about growing vegetables in the 6 years I've lived in Cyprus.
You would think that tomatoes would be easy to grow; after all, there's plenty of heat on the island, so as long as you plant your tomato seedlings or plug plants in good quality compost, you just water them and sit back to wait for the crop, right?
Well, I tried to grow the big juicy tomatoes common to every Cypriot salad for 2 years in a row. While I religiously watered them every day, and twice per day in the intense heat of July and August, they always got what is known as blossom rot, where the bottom half of the tomato goes brown and becomes shrivelled.
I checked in my UK gardening guide book for instructions on how to grow tomatoes and figured out that I wasn't watering my poor tomatoes correctly; what they really needed was a constant drip-feed and spray system, as opposed to twice daily watering "en masse" with a watering can.
The third year, I switched to growing tomatoes in pots and tried both the big tomato variety and also tiny cherry tomatoes. And while the big ones had the same old problem, the cherry tomatoes didn't get any brown spots at all!
My crop of cherry tomatoes
Last year I forgot about the big tomatoes and focussed on growing cherry tomatoes only and this bowl is just ONE of many I picked throughtout the season. My husband made me some huge wooden planters for chillies and tomatoes and the production line started.
In fact I had so many when the first main crop ripened, I didn't know what to do with that many cherry tomatoes every day.
Here's how to grow tomatoes like these every time - the picture at the top of the page is THIS year's crop, planted at the end of March, so my tried and trusted method has worked!
Fill a suitable container with fresh compost - mine are grown in planters on my roof terrace and are in full sun all day.
Buy some plug plants from a garden centre - end March/April is a good time to plant - and put them in the soil with plenty of space in between. I leave around 12 inches between each plant, whereas the nursey instructions are for twice that much space, but it does work for me.
Place bamboo sticks alongside the cherry tomato plants and secure with garden twine.
Water daily and feed once per week while the plants are getting established; this is how to grow tomatoes that are juicy and healthy. You may need to water them 2x a day if the temperature gets above 40 degrees. Feed once a fortnight once the plants are big and tall.
Growing tomatoes in containers
As the plants grow, loosen the garden twine around the plants and move it higher as the tomato plant gets bigger.
While you need to snip any new shoots after the seventh stem on each branch on other tomato varieties, you don't need to do this with cherry tomatoes; they do get very long by the end of the season though!
In just a few weeks, they will be as big as this and the cherry tomatoes will continue to crop all summer until at least September:
December 2011 Update - I just picked another 2kg of tomatoes, from my winter crop. Even though the winter months are far cooler, the sun ripens the fruit and they taste wonderful.
So now you know how to grow tomatoes in Cyprus. And don't forget, if you get hundreds of cherry tomatoes at the same time, just dry them in the sun and preserve them in olive oil with a few herbs as I did last year- the result is perfect sun-dried tomatoes!
Plus, once you get confident, you can try ordering different colored varieties of cherry tomatoes like yellow and purple ones from online nurseries :)