Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

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Tomato – Lycopersicon esculentum

Tomato - Lycopersicon esculentum

Family: Solanaceae.

Origin: South America.

Growing conditions:

  • Tomatoes are a warm season, frost tender annual. Seeds require a warm soil of between 18 – 28°C to germinate. Sowing at too low a temperature will cause delayed or failed germination.
  • Growing tomatoes successfully requires good soil nutrition. Grow in a fertile, well-drained vegetable bed with a soil pH 5.8 – 7. Prepare the soil by adding gypsum, an organic slow released fertiliser and organic matter prior to planting.
  • Adequate, regular water is essential for optimum growth and development of the fruit. Irregular, light watering practices will encourage thick skinned, small, sharp flavoured fruit.
  • By deep watering of the soil (not foliage) and layer of sugar cane mulch you will prevent bacterial and fungal disease as well.
  • Tomatoes can be grown on many different support trellises. This can include 3 stakes in a tee pee shape, lattice, or a chicken wire fence or over any structure that allows good airflow.
  • If staking the tomatoes be sure to place the stakes into the soil prior to planting. This will then minamalise root damage and disturbance later.

How to grow:

  • Seeds can be direct sown into vegetable beds to minimise transplant shock.
  • Tomato seedlings germinate best at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius and above.
  • Keep moist and at the first sign of emergence liquid feed with a half strength dose of liquid seaweed and half strength worm juice to aid in root development.
  • If raising the seedlings in containers prior to planting sow seeds at a depth of approximately 6 mm deep into seed raising mix. Germination takes approximately 7 – 14 days. Seedlings are ready to transplant into the vegetable garden when the 2nd set of ‘true’ leaves appear. During the seedling development make sure they are not overcrowded and that they receive strong light. Seedlings will become etiolated (leggy) with weakened stems if insufficient light is given or if they are overcrowded.
  • Tomatoes seedlings can be buried up to their first set of leaves (remove this set of leaves prior to planting to prevent rot). This will encourage greater growth and fruit production.
  • Plant approximately 1 metre apart with 50cm between each plant to allow for good airflow, and lessen the chance of bacterial leaf spot occurring.
  • Pinch out lateral growth as the plant develops to encourage greater fruiting and less leaf production. Lateral shoots are small shoots that grow between the main stem and a side stem.

When to harvest:

  • You can either pick tomatoes when they are just starting to turn red and allow them to ripen on a well lit airing tray away from sunlight, or, you can allow them to ripen on the plant. If you choose to let them ripen on the plant you may need to enclose them in grow bags to prevent birds and other tomato loving animals from harvesting the crop for themselves.

How to harvest:

  • To pick tomatoes make sure you cut the stem cleanly with scissors or a knife.This reduces the chance of damaging the fruit and allowing disease to enter the plant.

Common problems:

  • Common pests include: white fly, caterpillars, nematodes, aphids, mites, fruit fly,
  • Common disease include: bacterial wilt, mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, grey leaf spot and damping-off just to name a few.
  • Blossom end rot is also common in tomato growing if you have not supplied the plants with sufficient calcium (gypsum) and regular, adequate water. This can be overcome by incorporating calcium into the planting beds prior to growing the tomatoes. It’s never too late to do this. Simply water the soil, sprinkle the calcium (gypsum) around the base of the plant and water in again with water, liquid seaweed or worm juice.
  • Tomatoes grown in the same spot each year can be badly affected by root nematodes. So it’s vital to rotate your tomatoes each season. They’re grown in the same bed as eggplant, capsicum (bell pepper) and chilli’s (hot peppers).

Egg Plant

Egg Plant

BOTANICAL NAME:  Solanum melongena


aubergine = berenjena = brinjal = garden egg = egg apple = patlican = melongene = melanzane = Guinea squash.

The Eggplant is a spongy, mild-tasting fruiting vegetable that  has a  meaty texture.  It is low in calories.  Generally it is not eaten raw, but is baked, grilled, or sauteed.   Eggplants are best when they are firm with unbroken skin, have no soggy indentations and are shiny in colour.  Male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds, and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. 

To recognise the sex of an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. 

If the indentation is deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. 

If the indentation is shallow and round, it’s a male.  

Smaller eggplants tend to be less bitter.  

FAMILY:     Solanaceae.


The Eggplant has been noted as an aphrodisiac and feared as the cause of insanity.

The Eggplant is believed  to have originated in India .Cultivationhas been recorded in China as early as 500 B.C. The Eggplant was originally taken to Africa by the Arabs and Persians during the Middle Ages and eventually found its way to Italy in the 14th century. c

Eggplants were consumed without hesitation in various parts of the world, except Europe. In fact the Europeans called it “mala insane”—the mad apple or bad egg. Because it belonged to the nightshade family (which contain numerous poisionous varieties of plants) the humble eggplant was considered dangerous and was considered unfit to consume.

Louis XIV during his reign in the 1600’s first introduced the Eggplant to the menu but wa not accepted very well….supurstitious notions that the Eggplant caused fever, epilepsy and even insanity created a belief that the Eggplant was more of a n ornamental plant rather thatn a food source.  This belief continued for more than a century.

The United states was first introduced to the Eggplant  in the early 1800’s by Thomas Jefferson. Once again – because it belongs to the nightshade family it was slow to gain acceptance into the culinary world and to be accepted as a vegetable. It took until the late 1800’s and early 1900’s  when Italian and chinese immigrants entered America to revitalise the potential of the eggplant and make it an socially accepted edible vegetable.



American: Generally regarded as the classic or regular eggplant that you buy in the supermarket.  Large in size, purple in colour.

·        Japanese eggplants and Chinese eggplants:

 have thinner skins and a more delicate flavour than the American eggplants, and not as many seeds – these tend to make an eggplant more bitter. Typically more slender than the American eggplant.  They range in colour – purples, pinks, greens.

Sicilian eggplants

Large in size with purple stripes.  Thin skined with a subtle flavour.  

Baby eggplants: 

 Small in size, growing to only about 8 inches long.  Sweet flesh and thinner skin.

The small size of Indian eggplants means they are tender and easy to slice.

 Garden eggs:   very small eggplant, the size of an egg or smaller. A colour range from white to greenish-yellow.

The Japanese eggplant is long and skinny and ranges in color from dark purple to nearly black. It has a smooth, thin skin and a flavor that is both delicate and sweet. 

 Chinese Eggplant

The Chinese variety of eggplant is easy to recognize as it has a light purple colour and a long, smooth, cylindrical shape. They taste sweeter and more delicate than more common eggplants, primarily because they have fewer seed.

White Eggplant vs Purple Eggplant:

  • White has a hard skin vs purple has a softer skin
  • When cooked the white eggplant has to have its skin removed vs the purple eggplants skin can be left on to be eaten.
  • The white eggplants are considered less bitter with fewer seeds vs the purple eggplant is considerably larger so there is more flesh to eat.
  • The white eggplants are considered creamier vs the purple eggplant is still larger so there is more to eat…


  • Ph 0f 6-7in a rich fertile soil.  Best suited to the warmer months of the year to provide 5-6 months of hot weather.
  • Eggplants are frost-tender and prefer a full sun position.  Early morning sun is advised due to the hairy nature of the leaves. 
  • A deep rooting perennial that prefers a well drained soil.
  • Grow to a height of approx 1m and a width of .5m
  • Hairy leaves, sometimes having tiny spines.  Star-shaped flowers –  usually purple, sometimes white.
  • Edible fruit that can beeither: black, purple, green, white, yellow, orange or red, sometimes striped or shaded.
  • Harvest times can vary  from 45 to 90 days after transplanting seedlings into  garden beds.

Eggplants are generally classified by the shape of their fruit. There are five basic groups:

  • globe, elongated or cylindrical, egg-shaped, specialty and pea eggplants.


Spacing – I generally space Eggplant at approx .5m apart to allow for adequate airflow and sunlight.

Staking is not required if you produce strong healthy seedlings. 

Plenty of liquid seaweed throughout the growing stage will produce a strong root system to hold the plant sturdy in the ground.

Do not allow to fruit until the plant is of an adequate size.  Could you hold up a bowling ball if you were only a baby?

A balanced, organic fertiliser is recommended.


·        This will depend on each variety but tradirional varieties take 50 – 70 days.


·        Cut fruit off with scissors or secateurs.  Do not rip the fruit off s this will create an opening for disease to enter the parent plant.


  • Potato beetle and Flea beetle – will cause holes in the leaves.  Both can be controlled easily with the application of a natural bacteria called SPINOSAD. 
  • Aphids
  • Mites.  These will be identified by “small pin pricks into the leaf surface”.  You will not be able to see mites with the naked eye.
  • 28 spot ladybug – it will also devour leaves.

·         Another way to control insect pests is to encourage ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insects in your garden. These “good bugs” are natural predators of aphids, mites and many other damaging insects.   




 A 28 spot lady bug = BAD GUY.