|Since mid-February we've been harvesting cherry tomatoes, grown from seed|
I can tell you a lot about what NOT to do when growing tomatoes. This summer I opted for the garden-by-feel method, learning from mistakes rather than researching 'correct' methods and following instructions.
Despite this list of stuff to do that I didn't, we are managing to pick approximately one punnet of cherry tomatoes every second day. That's about 15. That's more than two adults and a toddler - who is not partial to tomatoes - can actually eat.
And we're sharing our fruits with the birds, worms and possums. I have not got around to covering the rambling plants with netting, so for every one I pick I leave one in the garden for the wildlife to finish nibbling. Some with worm holes we cut up and cook, but it's getting to the point where we have so many I'm just leaving them for the bugs. What comes around goes around, especially in the garden.
THINGS TO DO WHEN GROWING ORGANIC TOMATOES
1. While planting seeds in egg cartons is fabulous, be sure to transplant once seedlings are established - after a couple of weeks, when they are a few inches high and a bit leafy. Otherwise they will dry out and shrivel up and die
2. Transplant to little pots, rather than straight into the garden. Unless you have great soil and conditions, the seedlings don't seem to cope well in the big wide world until a little bigger
3. Fertilise every week or so with organic products - there's one commonly available made of seaweed, and another combining nitrogen and fish oil etc
4. After another couple of weeks, move seedlings to the big garden or a very big pot. Make sure you cluster the tomato plants together and keep well away from herbs, lettuce, spinach, aubergine, capsicum plants etc. Why? The tomato plants will grow very big and shade everything. I started off with salad greens and basil, and now I just have lots of tomatoes. Plus a few aubergine and pepper plants that were far enough away from the tomatoes to grab some sun.
5. Stake all the tomato plants immediately. Not when they get big. Use thick, strong and tall stakes and tie loosely with old panty hose, or socks if you don't wear the former. I waited until the plants were bending over backwards, and then used bamboo that was too thin and short. I wound up with a jungle and some of the plants pulling out of the ground as they bent over
6. Pick out the laterals early. What's a lateral? It's where the plant tries to grow in directions and places other than purely necessary. If you don't pick the lateral shoots out when they are new, you wind up with a rambling tomato plant that's very hard to stake because it's shooting off in all directions. Look for the shoots between two stems.
7. Fertilise after each transplant, and then every two weeks.
8. Sun and water are obviously a tomato's best friend. However, I read this week that antioxidants are created when a plant is stressed, ie dry for a bit, so don't fret if you skip a day or go away for a weekend.
9. Cover plants with netting, perhaps pegging to couple of tall stakes - I'm not an expert on this as not done yet
10. If you opt not to net - a bit of a pain as harder to access - perhaps harvest tomatoes before fully ripe and leave in a sunny spot inside. I found when my tomato harvest began a few weeks back that surprisingly few were being eaten by 'pests'. Last week this changed, so I began picking them green-orange and ripening on the sunny kitchen windowsill. Then a neighbor said this makes for more acidic fruit. This week we've left a load to ripen on the plant as an experiment, and this morning I picked 15 red fruit unscathed by bugs and animals. Conversely, there were lots of green and yellow tomatoes sporting worm holes. So perhaps bugs are colour blind...
|Lone pepper after rest were shaded by tomato plants|
|Billie shows Melissa how to water the tomatoes|