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Fresh From Home - Growing Great Tomatoes

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    “Have you ever opened the fridge wondering what’s for dinner and discovered you’re out of tomatoes again, just when they’d come in handy? Now’s the time to start growing your own tomatoes at home! Follow along to learn how to start your own tomatoes from seed and make a simple chicken skillet recipe with the harvest!

     

    Growing potted tomatoes on balconies, window sills, or corridors is becoming more common for apartment dwellers with no garden space.

     

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    LET'S GET GROWING

      Choosing the right tomato cultivars for your space and climate:

     



    Cherry Tomato Plant 

    • These plants are optimal for small space cultivation. These tomato cultivars will range from 30 to 70 cm in height and 40 to 70 cm in width.
    • Cherry tomatoes will do best in our local Singapore climate with the high outdoor temperatures. We recommend giving cherry tomatoes a try first! Locally you can find cultivars like ‘Cherry Sweet,’ ‘Cherry Tomato Ruby Red'.

     



    Beefsteak Tomato Plant 

    • If you have plenty of space, try growing larger tomato plants which will also bear larger fruit!
    • You can expect the height of these cultivars to range from 70 to 120 cm and width of 70 to 100 cm.
    • These tomatoes are ideal for slicing and adding to sandwiches.
  •   What you need:
    Tomato seeds
    Propagation seedling trays or plastic egg cartons with holes punched in the bottom
    Free draining soil
    Large container or pots for transplanting
    Misting bottle
    Watering can
    Fertiliser
    Stakes or trellis
    Optional: Plastic Propagation Dome
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    Steps:

    1. Sowing and germinating the seeds
    i) Fill propagation seedling tray with the soil
    ii) Create depression or hole into each cell about 1⁄2 cm deep
    iii) Sow or place seed in hole, cover with soil
    iv) Using the misting bottle, keep the soil moist and humid until you see the first sign of green growth
    v) Put a plastic dome or plastic container over the tray to help with maintaining moisture and humidity. If you’re using a plastic egg carton, just close the cover!
    vi) Germination will occur in 5 to 7 days. Seedlings can remain in the propagation tray for 3 to 4 weeks until their roots are suitable for transplanting


    Tomato seed germination – 6 days after sowing

     

    2. Transplanting and Growing
    i) Transplant seedlings after 3 to 6 weeks. You should be able to remove the plug from tray without damage and see good root growth.
    ii) Choose a location in your house that will receive 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. It can be indoors or outdoors.
    iii) Fill a container or pot (30 to 60 cm size with drainage holes) with a well-draining soil or media. Place seedling into a hole centred in the pot to the depth of the top of seedling plug.


    Tomato seedling to be transplanted - 24 days after sowing

     

    3. Trellising/ Staking, Fertilising and Pollinating
    i) When the plants start growing vigorously, stake or support them with bamboo stakes or a tomato cage to prevent plants from collapsing.
    ii) Fertilise plants with a balanced NPK fertiliser. The simplest way to fertilise is to use a granular slow-release fertiliser and apply the granules to the top of the soil.
    iii) Check the plant 1 to 2 times a day to see if it needs watering. Keep soil moist and not too dry as this will negatively affect the fruits and can cause fruit cracking or rot.
    (iv) Apply water directly to the soil with a watering can. Avoid wetting and misting the leaves, as the high humidity can encourage the outbreak of disease.
    (v) When the plants start to bloom, gently tap the stem of each plant to help the pollen distribute and the plants to self-pollinate.
    (vi) Depending on the tomato cultivar, you can expect fruits to be ready for harvest between 70 to 100 days after sowing. Indeterminate tomato varieties will continue to flower and fruit as long as the home gardener waters, fertilises and pollinates!


    Tomato buds - 35 days after sowing (left) & Tomato flower ready to be pollinated - 40 days after sowing (right)

     

    4. Harvesting and enjoying the tomatoes!
    When tomatoes are ripe and have turned to their mature colour, harvest them by gently snipping the tomatoes off their stems and enjoy!


    Fruits - 100 days after sowing

     

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    SIMPLE CHICKEN AND TOMATOES SKILLET WITH GARLIC AND CAPERS

    Recipe extracted from The Well Plated Cookbook

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    Ingredients:
    560g boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 small or 3 medium breasts)
    1 tsp kosher salt (divided)
    ½ tsp ground black pepper (divided)
    2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
    ½ medium red onion (diced)
    1 tbsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
    4 cups grape tomatoes (diced or halved)
    ¼ cup drained capers
    2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 tsp honey
    ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

     

    Serves 4 people

     

      Method:
    1. Lightly pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness. Sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
    2. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high. Once hot, add the chicken breasts, top-side down, and let cook undisturbed for 4 minutes, until lightly browned. Flip and cook an additional 4 minutes. Turn again and continue cooking 3 to 5 additional minutes, flipping every few minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 74°C. The total cooking time will vary depending upon the thickness of your chicken. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm.
    3. Without wiping the pan, reduce the skillet heat to medium. Add the remaining tablespoon olive oil, swirl to coat the pan, then add the red onion and let cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan as it cooks.
    4. Add the garlic and let cook 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, capers, red wine vinegar, honey, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Let cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
    5. Return the chicken to the pan. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.
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    This article is part of our Fresh From Home series


Written by: Carly Anderson, Horticulture Researcher (Research and Horticulture)
Carly is an American who grew up in Florida, another warm and humid climate. She is passionate about the scientific approach of growing plants for all to cherish and enjoy!

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