Monday, October 22, 2012
Last week was horrible, feral in fact. Please excuse me if my last post made no sense at all, we had one of those weeks that I'd rather just forget. Tired inconsolable children, short tempered Mum, Dad away at work... you get my drift. Anyway without sounding too down in the dumps I'm glad that it's a new week and have high hopes that last week will not be repeated again any time soon.
When life gets all too much some of us bake, some exercise, paint, or listen to music, but for me the one thing that got me through that train-wreck of a week was our garden. That silent half an hour spent watering the veges once the kids are tucked up in bed is appreciated so much more when it's been a shocker of a day. In the dying moments of light and with the stillness that nightfall brings, pottering around out there checking over the veges and getting first dibs on the ripe strawberries is the best therapy out. Gone are the screams of 'mum she hit me', 'no, mum he was chasing me'. It's just me, the hose and the odd pesky mozzie. Although to be honest by that time of the day I really couldn't care about mozzies and don't put up much of a fight.
Our vege garden is the healthiest it's been since we moved into this house nearly a year ago now. We bit the bullet about a month ago and properly conditioned the soil, all the while crossing our fingers that our lease will be renewed and it wouldn't end up being a complete waste of time and money. The silverbeet (chard) that had struggled for so many months is now flourishing, I'm picking most days and still it looks as though no one is eating it. Our tomatoes have been in for a little over a month and are starting to fruit, I have herbs going berserk throughout the garden and in our numerous pots scattered in the backyard, our garlic is on the verge of begin ready to pull up, our courgette (zucchini) plant is just starting to take off, and the chilli and capsicum plants we have in pots are coming back to life after winter, as is one lonely eggplant (aubergine) that made it through winter unscathed. We're picking strawberries most days and our blueberry bush (in a pot) is riddled with flowers and fruit. Spring gardens are the best.
So last year I got a bunch of emails in regards to our tomato towers, asking for tips on how we grow our tomatoes. Si is the tomato man around our house, they've kinda always been his baby, but now that he's working away a lot of the time I do think I can start to take a little credit for them too :-)
Back home in New Zealand the traditional time to plant tomatoes is Labour weekend, this weekend just gone, but we are already reaching temperatures in the late 20's over here in Perth and the odd day in the 30's so we get ours in a few months earlier.
Space permitting we usually plant around 10-12 plants which gives us ample to eat all summer long, with plenty left over to make into chutneys, pasta/pizza sauce and relish come autumn (fall). This year because our garden bed isn't all that big we are making do with 7 plants in the garden and one random one planted in a pile of compost at the back of our property (which interestingly enough is doing the best of the lot even though it only gets about an hour of sunlight a day). If you are new to growing tomatoes make sure you plant at least one cherry tomato variety, they are easy to grow and produce huge amounts of bite-sized tomatoes, just perfect for little people to pick and eat throughout the day as healthy snacks.
Okay, a few basic tips when growing your own tomatoes:
- Choose a spot in your garden that gets all day sun, they love it.
- Dig in plenty of organic compost about a week or two before planting, we also add a little handful of blood + bone.
- Give your plants plenty of space, if you've created the perfect environment for them they can grow to well over 6 foot tall, no joke. Allow at least half a metre between plants.
- As soon as you get your tomatoes in pluck off any lower leaves that are touching the ground and discard.
- We never compost any leaves pulled off our tomatoes, because if they contain any disease or fungus this will be passed into your compost and then back to your garden when you dig it back in later. Not worth the risk.
- Pick off the laterals as they grow (shown in the photo above and more clearly in the second photo from the top.) This makes the plant concentrate more on growing the fruit than growing more branches and leaves.
- Put in tall stakes as soon as you plant your tomatoes for them to grow up, we prefer to use bamboo and tie up at regular intervals. Tomatoes need a lot of support.
- Take care when watering tomatoes to only water around the base of the plant without splashing soil back up onto your plant. The dreaded 'blight' disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil and it's spores can be splashed up onto your plants when watering if you are not careful. This is also the reason we pick off most of the bottom leaves.
- Watch out for green caterpillars and green shield bugs (or stink bugs as we've always called them). Pick them off and 'dispose' of as often as you can.
- Feed your plants often with a good organic liquid fertiliser. They are hungry plants.
This is just a basic overview of growing your own tomatoes, if you are wanting more in depth tips I suggest you head to your local garden centre, library or go chat to your nana. That's where I've learnt most of what I know about gardening! And if you are reading from the Northern Hemisphere and are looking to save your own tomato seeds to grow next year check out this post from a long time ago... xx
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