Growing tree tomato tamarillo (Cyphomandra betacea)
Tree tomatoes grow best in areas where temperatures stay above 10OC. Below this temperature you’ll experience dieback. Best growing areas are in tea and coffee zones.
They require well-draining soils that are fertile and rich in organic matter. Site selection is therefore important for ease of management.
Three types of Tamarillo are available gold, yellow and red. The red ones are more resistant to Tamarillo Mosaic Virus(TMV), have more vigour and yield red fleshy fruits that are easy to sell both in the fresh and processing markets. Yield of up to 1000 fruits per tree per season are possible.
After selecting a suitable site and selecting certified Tamarillo seedlings, transplanting should be done when the seedlings are 15-20cm tall. Recommended spacing between the seedlings is either 5ft by 6ft or 6ft by 6ft depending on the topography of the site. Transplanting holes should be dug at 2ft square and 2ft deep. Separate the top soil from the subsoil and mix the top soil with well composted organic manure at a ratio of 1-part manure to 2-parts top soil. Add 10 grams of a phosphate fertilizer (to be determined after soil analysis) and mix thoroughly. Once transplanted you should leave a pan that can hold water. Watering should be done in such a way that the soil stays moist but not wet. During establishment, mulching is necessary so that water loss is minimized.
Foliar fertilizers high in Calcium, Boron and Potassium are recommended especially when flowering and fruiting. Well balanced granular NPK fertilizers should be applied every 8 weeks at a rate dependent on the soil properties and characteristics.
Pruning is done for several reasons;
- By removing the tip or main leader of the tree when it’s about 1m tall, this encourages branching.
- To remove any dead wood or branches.
- To prevent overcrowding and to keep an open framework.
Fruit is always produced on new shoots hence all pruning should be complete after harvest.
Supporting of branches is also necessary where the weight of fruit overwhelms the branches.
In most regions of Kenya, first harvest starts 8 months after transplanting. Always pick the fruit when the skin develops a rich colour red, orange or yellow depending on the variety. Tamarillo can keep for 7-10 days in a fruit bowl and more than 2 weeks when stored in a fridge.
Pests and diseases
Powdery mildew is the only major fungal disease of Tamarillo but in the cooler periods of the season, Anthracnose can cause great damage. Contact and systemic fungicides are locally available for management of these diseases.
Sap sucking pests, aphids, whiteflies are easy to control using oils and contact insecticides. In the warmer months, red spider mites are of major concern but are equally easily managed.
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