Have you seen any rotten tomatoes lately? Really, nobody wants to see or smell rotten tomatoes. I only want the fresh, plump and juicy variety on my kitchen bench. A few weeks ago, there was an overabundance of tomatoes in the supermarket. I was buying these for $3kg. Yesterday, they were $7.90kg. In between, what happened? Were there that many tomatoes that they perished on the vine, while the next crop was still ripening?
Whatever the price, tomatoes are regularly in our daily diet. As we consume so many tomatoes I will be pleased when we are growing our own. This will happen once the vegetable garden patch is sorted. Our last attempt to grow tomatoes was unsuccessful, mostly due to the birds. They and/or the possums randomly ate the tomatoes and what we ended up with was a vine of rotten tomatoes. The ones we picked early never ripened. Even the cherry tomatoes that are the easiest to grow were attacked by predators.
I think it is payback because we don’t provide any seeds for the birds or food for the possums that visit our garden. We aim to be self-sufficient and therefore expect that the wildlife visiting our garden, will also be self-sufficient. Our helping hand, at least for the birds, is to grow trees and shrubs that provide seeds and nectar from the flowers. Rainbow lorikeets love to feed on native flowers. Right now, the birds are overdosing on the nectar from a flowering gum on our property. This is great for the birds, but the noise at 6am or earlier is deafening. Is this a message to me that I should be getting out of bed? I should think about that one for a little longer!
The bad news is that the combination of birds and possums meant no home-grown tomatoes for us! They decimated our crop even though we did our best to protect them with plastic netting. There is good news though. If you, like us, live in South East Queensland tomatoes can be grown all year round.
Tomatoes like the sun and we have plenty of this in the Sunshine State, Queensland. Even though, today and for the rest of the week it is expected to rain. To get ready for our next attempt at growing tomatoes I researched the topic. This is what I came up with.
- Tomatoes like full sun (at least 8 hours a day)
- Good drainage in fertile soil (prepare soil in advance)
- Water (water well after planting; never let the soil dry out, but don’t overwater)
- Mulch (straw or sugar cane)
- Regular feeding (compost and chook poo. You can get chook poo in pellet form if you don’t have the real thing)
- Alkaline soil (dolomite 6 weeks before planting. You can also by a kit to check the ph level in the soil. Aim for 6.5)
- Staking (for taller plants staking is essential)
- Pinch back suckers if they start growing below the first flower cluster. Pinching out any sucker that grows on a branch will put all the growth energy into the flowers. The tomato yield is much higher with this “pinching out” practice.
There are many choices when it comes to growing tomatoes at home. For our next planting, I would like to try the Grosse Lisse again. They are a round plump tomato and everyone tells me they are easy to grow. That is, once the predators and pests are taken care of. Father Tom is also another option as it is fast growing and has superior resistance to disease. That is what I need a tomato vine that looks after itself. The Roma and Cherry tomatoes are a favourite. Then I discovered that Mama’s Delight is great for novices like me. Perhaps also the heirloom variety, Tommy Toe or Mortgage Lifter. The story behind the latter is about a fellow who was growing tomatoes to boost his income. He had so much success with the tomato he paid off his mortgage 6 years early. Hence its given name.
Pests are my worst nightmare when growing tomatoes. We are working on keeping out some of the pests by closing in our vegetable garden. But it doesn’t end there. Crop rotation reduces disease. Yet, we still need to deal with caterpillar grubs, the fruit fly and aphids. There are products available however our aim is to grow organic tomatoes. If we have a pest problem we will deal with it at the time. It is all about journeying in life “learning as we grow”. Once I learn as I grow, my joy of having a Mediterranean Garden will also grow.
TOP TIP: Ripen tomatoes by putting in a brown paper bag with a banana. Tomatoes taste better if they are not refrigerated. Though, to keep mine fresh, given the hot weather in Queensland, after tomatoes are ripened, I like to keep them in the fridge.