Joy in growing and eating early tomatoes!

Joy in growing and eating early tomatoes!

Growing tomatoes so they fruit in spite of cool temperatures takes some creativity and ingenuity!

Each year we plant some tomato seedlings in early spring –

  • in a place which is protected from the cold southerly winds
  • beside the patio of pavers
  • near the brick house so they have a thermal mass behind them.

The ground warms up faster here than anywhere else on our place.

 

This year we gave them compost and, in the planting hole below them, we placed some milk powder to supply the calcium they need to grow beautiful tomatoes.

We put a frame around them which is just the right size for a dry cleaning bag – my favourite wind protection as it is really tough and clear. It is the perfect size to go around the frame.

Tomatoes really seem to love being protected in these mini hot-houses.

 

As the weather warms up I cut the top of the bag completely open and make holes around the side so there is airflow. The long staking varieties grow out the top – up, up and away!

 

These three cherry tomato plants went into small pots in early spring- when they were tiny. Then transplanted into the garden bed –  and now they range up to 1 m (3+ft) tall and really seem happy and healthy. They have flowers and one also has a tiny, green tomato already.

We like cherry varieties as they are often prolific, hardy and produce over a long season. This is a staking variety so keeps on growing long and lanky. These cherry tomatoes have strong skins so resist disease better than many other varieties.

 

The weather prediction for Auckland this summer:
warmer and more humid than normal.

Conditions when molds, rusts and other diseases thrive.

 

Many diseases leave spores in the ground which splash up onto plants when it rains – to then grow and spread. Think blight type problems.

So we are experimenting with covering the ground around the tomatoes with newspaper then wood shavings mixed with blood and bone (for nitrogen which would otherwise be taken from the soil as the shavings break down). All new and with no spores so hopefully disease will be minimal.

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We leave the plastic bags around the plants for the whole season. We’ve had great success using this technique in other windy marginal sites in past years. Let’s see if it helps grow great crops here too.

The frames are too flimsy for strong winds so will be tied to star pickets (strong sturdy metal posts) when I get around to it!

The bird net goes up and over the whole lot – bed, plants, frames, the works – so the very active black-birds don’t dig the lot up immediately! They are very interested whenever we work in the garden – they know there are worms and interesting things in these garden beds.

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We have also planted some varieties with larger fruit. Previous years we had success with Moonglow orange ones and another year it was Oregon Spring so some of these are now in too. (Later and still very small)

We’ll also plant seeds from our diverse collection.

Then there are the many seedlings popping up from the compost! Who knows what they are! Often they grow more strongly than those I coddle so I leave some to grow wherever they pop up.

If you’re interested in the results of quality, quantity and disease resistance experiments we have run in the past here’s a link.

Each year conditions change and so the tomato varieties we have most success with also changes.

I wonder which variety will do best this year?

 

Best wishes with your explorations growing crops outside their climatic comfort zones too!

To your flourishing garden

Heather

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