I think it is safe to say that no other garden plant has primed the competitive juices of the average gardener like the tomato. The quest to have the first ripe tomato in the neighbourhood can turn even the most laid back unassuming gardener into a frantic tomato growing machine.
Subsequently, we seed sellers are always on the hunt for earlier and earlier tomato varieties. But the problem with most of those new tomatoes is that their earliness comes at the price of good flavour. Really, what good is an early tomato if it tastes like one of those supermarket abominations you’re forced to eat over the winter months.
There are, however, tried and true heirloom tomatoes that fit nicely into the 'early' tomato time frame of 50 to 60 days from transplant that also have wonderful flavour.
If I was only allowed just one early tomato to grow, it would be ‘Matina’. An heirloom variety, originally of German origin, this bright red, golf ball sized tomato has the kind of perfect sweet and acidic balance that you normally find in larger, late season tomatoes.
Matina is a potato leafed variety, best grown outdoors as a cordon, but is also suitable for growing under glass. Very early maturing, it ripens at about 55 days after transplant, giving high yields of superb tasting medium to large 70 to 90 grams fruits which are greenback free and ripen to a rich red skin
It is an easy tomato to grow, and it continues to bear fruit throughout the growing season. So if you actually are in a situation where you can only have one early tomato, you can still get all the tomatoes you want with Matina.
This seed has been organically produced. The seed has been harvested from plants that have themselves been raised organically, without the use of chemicals.
As they cannot tolerate any degree of frost the timing for sowing and planting outside is key to successfully growing tomatoes. Where the seeds are sown under cover or indoors, aim to sow the seeds so that they reach the stage to be transplanted outside three weeks after the last frost date. Tomato plants take roughly seven weeks from sowing to reach the transplanting stage. For example, if your last frost date is early May, the seeds should be planted in early April to allow transplanting at the end of May.
Tomatoes require a full sun position. Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The best soil used for containers is half potting compost and half a soil-based type loam: this gives some weight to the soil.
Plant about 3mm (1/8in) deep, in small pots using seed starting compost. Water lightly and keep consistently moist until germination occurs. Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 to 10 days when kept in the optimum temperature range of 21 to 27°C (70 to 80°F). As soon as they emerge, place them in a location that receives a lot of light and a cooler temperature (60 to 70°F); a south-facing window should work.
When the plants develop their first true leaves, and before they become root bound, they should be transplanted into larger into 20cm (4in) pots.
Young plants are very tender and susceptible to frost damage, as well as sunburn. I protect my young plants by placing a large plastic milk jug, with the bottom removed, to form a miniature greenhouse.
Depending on the components of your compost, you may need to begin fertilising. If you do fertilise, do it very, very sparingly with a weak dilution.
Transplant into their final positions when they are about 15cm (6in) high. Two to three weeks prior to this, the plants should be hardened off.
Just before transplanting the tomato plants to their final position drive a strong stake into the ground 5cm (2in) from the planting position. The stake should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep in the ground and 1.2m (4ft) above ground level - the further into the ground the better the support. As the plant grows, tie in the main stem to the support stake - check previous ties to ensure that they do not cut into the stem as the plant grows.
Dig a hole 45cm (18in) apart in the bed to the same depth as the pot and water if conditions are at all dry. Ease the plant out of the pot, keeping the root ball as undisturbed as far as possible. Place it in the hole and fill around the plant with soil. The soil should be a little higher than it was in the pot. Loosely tie the plant's stem to the support stake using soft garden twine –allow some slack for future growth.
A constant supply of moisture is essential, dry periods significantly increase the risk of the fruit splitting. Feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser (high in potash) starting when the first fruits start to form, and every two or three weeks up to the end of August. In September, feed with a general fertiliser (higher in nitrogen) in order to help the plant support it's foliage.
Over watering may help to produce larger fruit, but flavour may be reduced. Additionally, splitting and cracking can result from uneven and excessive watering.
When the first fruits begin to form, pinch out the side shoots between the main stem. Also remove lower leaves which show any signs of yellowing to avoid infection.
Pick as soon as the fruits are ripe, this also encourages the production of more fruit. Harvest all the fruit as soon as frost threatens and ripen on a window sill.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 30 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 400 seeds per gram Common Name Early Variety, Heritage (German)
Vine / Cordon (Indeterminate)
Family Solanaceae Genus Lycopersicon Species esculentum Cultivar Matina Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Fruit Bright red, golf ball sized fruits. Height To 200cm (80in) Spread 50cm (20n) Position Full sun Season Early variety. Time to Sow Early April to End May. Eight weeks before the last frosts Harvest 55 days after transplant.