Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

This crime may be ignorance.

Or negligence.

Or both…

Well, your honour, I would not in fact see it as a total failure and therefore possibly not your actual er, crime. I have learnt so much along the way and may in fact be a better gardening citizen in future as the result of my experiences. But I need a little help with the evidence. It is not so much to determine my guilt or innocence, you see, but  more my prospects of future rehabilitation. I do so want to be good.

Hmmm. Present your case then…

Well, it seemed to me that if someone were going to grow a vege, and one vege only, it  would have to be a tomato. Everyone grows tomatoes.  Every second house has tomatoes peeking over the back fence. They must be easy to grow.

Circumstantial, surely…

Ah, yes. But I’ve grown tomatoes from seedlings before – and they worked ok, I even had some ripe fruit. Growing them from seed didn’t seem such a huge leap, and sowing them a couple of months later than is usual didn’t seem that big a deal.

Sown late you say?

Tommy Toes Tomato seedlings - January 2010.

But they grew! Tiny little seedlings emerged, so I put them in tiny little pots. Then I put them in not quite so tiny little pots when that didn’t seem quite sensible. But not really big pots, and um, not in the ground either.

Pots too small eh?

Tommy Toes 19th Feb 2010

But I’ve awful soil. And the ducks would have pulled the seedlings up to see what was underneath them.

What? Well, never mind that, what happened next?

My lovely little seedling were starting to produce buds, so I carefully moved them to somewhere well protected from the wind.  I did a little reading and was careful never to let them dry out. I popped into Amy’s blog at ‘Go Away I’m Gardening’ and noted that mulch was important. I mulched my pots. I even gave them the best of the worm tea and lavished attention upon them. I showed them off on my blog.

Yes? And then?

A kind blogger (thanks Meredith 😉 )pointed out that it might be a good idea to move them out of their lovely sheltered spot into the breeze if I hoped for them to be pollinated one day.

Right, well, did it work?

Yes – not only that, but they were visited by blue-banded bees, our native buzz pollinators and friend of the tomato grower.

That sounds promising, but a bit more like luck than good planning!

Er. Got me there Gov. But tiny little fruit emerged! The most perfectly round pea sized tomatoes, wearing tiny hats that came to long green points…making them look like the dearest and most precious things in the world!

Stop this irrelevant rambling at once!  Well, you say they produced fruit?

Yes, lovely they were….um, sorry. Yes, little green tomatoes soon became the size of my thumb then my toe. More flowers appeared, a few side shoots. did take off a couple of those. But some of them already had dear little flowers on, and I didn’t have the heart…

Mmm. Side shoots huh? Well, then what?

Well it got quite cold for a couple of days. Then it got quite hot again a few days later. I worried that my tomatoes might get burnt so I moved their pots off the grass back to shelter. I did notice that most of the pots had little white roots that tore a little when I picked them up…

Hot then cold then hot? Doesn’t sound right. what’s it like now?

it was mild for a while, but now it is getting cooler by the day. And wetter.

And the tomatoes?

Green. Green. Green. Green.  The initial fruit hasn’t changed much in a month…but there are still some flowers! And the tomatoes are so pretty, just like they have been hand painted…

Tommy Toes today. Is that possibly just the slightest hint of colour change, or have I been staring at it for too long?


The rest of the plant seems to be dying and no amount of worm tea seems to be helping.

I just can’t face saying goodbye.


Please, your honours, I ask you to be the judge. What are my chances?  What have I missed?

Will you give me another chance next year?


Comments on: "The case of Tommy Toes Vs GippyGardener" (46)

  1. Dear Heidi, I have been most entertained and amused by this highly imaginative posting but cannot, I fear, be of any help.

    Tommy Toes do not happen to be green tomatoes do they? There, that proves I am no vegetable grower!!

  2. LOL. I had a similar experience trying to grow tomatoes in pots, buckets actually, and an experienced gardener friend suggested they might have been in TOO drafty a place. They stayed green and got very tough skins. The next time I put them on a south-facing wall, and they did fine. So they may need a breeze to get pollinated, but they don’t seem to like drafts. But maybe it was just a bad tomato year.

    • Hi Barbara, so I have to add the possibility of ‘too windy’ to the list too?! You know, I did start to worry when I found a website that listed something like 64 things that can go wrong with growing tomatoes!

  3. Hi, I had a similar problem with tomatoes not ripening in 2008 when I planted them late and then by the time the fruit appeared the weather rained for the whole of August. I think they have maybe not had enough warmth and sunshine in their lifetime. I have often left tomatoes on the dying plants and stopped watering and they still have ripened if there is sun. If the weather has now turned for good pick the fruits and leave them in a bowl on a sunny windowsill in the warmth of the house and you will probably find they will ripen on their own without needing the vines. If they still stay green, green tomato chutney is quite delicious! Good luck.

    • Hello Nina and thank you for dropping by! I think the time has come (or possibly gone!) for bringing them indoors as you suggest – I just have to make myself go and do it – and that seems to be the hard part!

  4. I was absolutely entranced by your story. I am new to growing tomatoes and so do not have any advice. I do love the pretty green skin. Isn’t there something you can make with green tomatoes?

    • Hi Noelle, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 They are so pretty, I can hardly stand to pick them, either to try and ripen them or make anything with green tomatoes, but I must!

  5. Yes, to answer Noelle’s question, there are plenty of things you can make with your green tomatoes, Heidi. Fried green tomatoes, fried green tomato BLT, beef-and-green tomato casserole, green tomato pie, green tomato/apple/date mincemeat for pies later, green tomato pickles, green tomato chutneys, green tomato salsa, green tomato jam… why am I starting to feel like Bubba in Forest Gump?

    There are recipes on the internet as well as a few mentions on my own blog posts. Just type “green tomato” (in quotes) in the search window. 🙂

    Now, that said, all is not lost for ripe tomatoes! If I were you, I would take them off the vine before your nighttime temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C) because the cold will affect the taste. (This is why you should never, ever refrigerate a tomato.) Put one or two tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple *or* a banana that still has a bit of green on the stem, and fold the bag closed. The ethylene gas from the ripening fruit will help to speed up the tomato’s own ripening process (it is also giving off ethylene gas, even now), and I expect some of them will get red before you know it. 🙂

    • Sure you don’t have a green tomato and shrimp recipe there Meredith? 😀
      I am going to be brave and pick them tonight as the overnight temperature is really starting to drop. Maybe I will try ripening a few as you suggested, and put a few toward a green tomato recipe. I’ll let you know how I go!

  6. Now that I’ve answered all the substantive questions, I must add that I loved this post! Such a creative way of writing it, Heidi, and I laughed out loud when you went into raptures over your beautiful tomato babies and the stern judge tried to pull you back into line. (I go into similar raptures over my vegetable babies, and tomatoes are the most likely to send me over the moon. Glad to know I’m not alone!)

    And your darlings do look hand-painted now, real treasures for early autumn. You’ve done a wonderful job raising them from seed, hon. 😀

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it and can understand where I’m coming from Meredith, as I was only half joking! Watching something grow from seed is such an amazing experience… as is seeing the first bud, the first tiny tomato…oops, I’m off again 😀
      In a strange way it doesn’t matter that I may not have anything by way of a ‘harvest’, I’ve enjoyed growing and learning so much!

  7. Dear Heidi, A most entertaining post, thank you! I’m still chuckling. It does sound like it is too cool and wet for your babies to ripen. Our area suffered tomato blight last year. It was very frustrating, but I couldn’t think of an amusing way to describe it … guess I don’t have your gift. Pam

    • Hello Pam, thank you for your lovely feedback 🙂
      ‘Tomato blight’ does not sound like an amusing thing to try to describe, in fact it sounds down right scary!

  8. Brilliant post Heidi, loved it! I’ve been there, tomatoes in pots. Dragging the pots up and down the driveway and around the garden, desperate to get them to ripen. If they’re full sized, you could try putting them in a brown paper bag with a ripe store-bought tomato…see if you can shame them into changing color?

    By the way, we’ve bestowed the ‘Honest Scrap’ award on you. I know some bloggers don’t accept awards (we usually don’t), but at the very least we wanted you to know that we love reading your Year in a Gippsland Garden…and this post is just one of many reasons why!

    P.S. Last I turned our green tomatoes into:

    Hot N’ Spicy Green Tomato Soup with Crispy Pancetta – recipe here:,1946,FOOD_9936_31891_PRINT-RECIPE-4X6-CARD,00.html

    • Hello CV 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one who has been hauling tomato pots around!
      But what a thought, shaming my poor dears into ripening! Well…I’f Meredith’s apple trick doesn’t work, I might just try that 😀
      Thank you for the award – it is a lovely surprise that you would think of me (but I have to admit I’m not quite sure what an Honest Scrap award is!)
      Whoa – just had a peek at the recipe – sure looks like it is Hot N’ Spicy!

  9. I just saw a post of this at another site where they recomend to hang the entire plant upside down which will ripen the tomatoes…
    good luck with that…. you must be in a completely different climate to me, as I am only just planting tomatoes here in the tropics. Winter is our main growing season.

    • Hello Gillian, thanks for that – I will go and have a look. It’s a weird coincidence, but someone I work with suggested hanging up the plants today too!
      Yes – it shows how different our climates are from North to South in Australia – I should have sown mine after the last of the frosts so that they could be ripening in summer! Never mind, there is always next year for me…
      Good luck with your tomatoes!

  10. Very good post! Sorry, I only had a little container veggie growing experiense, so I really can not give you any advise. Hope somebody can, so that you can have good harvest you deserved!

  11. I sure enjoyed the discourse. Here if I have tomatoes left on the vine when a hard freeze comes thru I pick them and place them in a double paper bag in my garage. There they’ll ripen slowly over a period of a few months. It is quite neat. They keep well but do need to be checked as some may rot. Hanging upside down in a basement or garage also works too as Gillian mentioned. All is not lost.

    • Wow Tina, I’m amazed that tomatoes will both keep and ripen over a period of months! These are really such interesting plants and I can see that I still have a lot to learn!

  12. Oh, this was very entertaining to read. I have to admit we’ve only tried growing tomatoes once. They grew and were beautiful and then suddenly got blight. It was so discouraging we’ve never tried again.

    • Hello Helen, Well, I’m glad that at least I didn’t have to deal with tomato blight! When I think of all of the things that can go wrong for tomatoes the fact that they are still green doesn’t seem like such a big deal!

  13. Hi, I think they have not had enough sunshine. And I think they need 30days over for turning red.
    By the way, I bought young cherry tomato plants.

    • Hello na and thanks for popping in 🙂
      I think you are spot on – I’ve sowed them too late and they just haven’t had the chance to get enough sun! But I am not going to give up – it’s back to Tommy Toe seeds again next year…but sowing in October rather than December!

  14. I don’t know nothing about tomato growing, but they should ripen off the plant. That said, I am growing tomatoes so I can have them green. There is a stunning Khymer beef and green tomato curry that is nice and sour. I’ll try and find the recipe!

  15. Oh, I was surprised to see my name in a post about tomatoes…since I am such a newbie and know about them only through reading. 🙂

    I have heard that you can ripen tomatoes by putting them in a brown paper bag and closing it up at room temp. You can go to this site for some good info…which you probably already know:

    About your plant dying…i have no idea. I enjoyed your creative post and I was LOL. My tomato plants are starting to get big. We will see how they do this summer…it is all an experiment.

    • Hi Amy – but the good thing is that you did your reading before planting rather than after…like…some silly people that shall remain nameless 😀 No, I wasn’t aware of cinnamonhearts, I’m off for a peek at it now – thank you!

      Great to hear that your plants are doing well, I’m looking forward to photos of juicy ripe tomatoes!

  16. LOL! Great post! VERY entertaining!!! But, alas, I can offer no good advise for your tomatoes except to echo Meredith’s suggestion for Fried Green Tomatoes. My mother makes them and they are fantastic!

  17. A few green tomatoes are a good thing if you like to preserve…many recipes are available for chow-chow and pickle.
    You can also let them ripen in a sunny windowsill. My Gran use to wrap each green tomato in a piece of newspaper and put them in a dresser drawer and left them to ripen, although the flavour isn’t as good as if they were vine-ripened.
    I shouldn’t think this would be a good method if one was forgetful….a drawer full of composting tomatoes doesn’t appeal to me! LOL
    I grow my tomatoes in full sun and it is very windy here…the plant just seem to toughen up….I’ve not heard that they should be protected from the wind.
    Good Luck!

    • Hi Jackie and thanks for dropping by! I think next time that I grow them they will be in the ground, so, as you say they are just going to have to adjust to the conditions anyway.
      I’m not sure that someone like me should put the tomatoes in my sock drawer…I would forget! I’m going to try ripening a few and experiment with some green tomato recipies with the others…we’ll see what comes of it!

  18. Hi Heidi: Entertaining post, all the above over a Green Tomato. Fantastic!

    Fried Green Tomatoes are Great,

    • Hi John – I think the response has been great – I’ve learnt so much and I think it’s wonderful when people are so happy to share their knowledge and experiences! Tomatoes are clearly close to a lot of peoples hearts 🙂

  19. 🙂 have no idea, but made me smile.

  20. I can’t add any advice to the excellent comments before me, but just wanted to send out my applause for a great post. And I bet you can make a shrimp jambalaya with green tomatoes in it!

  21. Cute story !!
    Never grew tomotoes in pots myself…hubby did grow tommy toes one year…he grows lots of different kinds every year.
    Tomatoes are tough plants, light winds do make them stronger and compost is always a plus for any kind of plant.
    Save your seeds from favorite plants…if kept in air tight container they’re good for five plus years.
    Isn’t growing plants from seed fun ?

    Best wishes,

    • Hello Patsi and thanks for dropping by 🙂 Thanks also for the hints about seed saving. But do the fruit have to be ripe to make the seeds viable?
      I have really enjoyed the experience of growing from seed and am not the slightest bit put off – I’ll be back at it next year!

  22. Heidi, this was pricelessly funny. I also can commiserate. Been there, had that happen to me, regularly. Up here on my windy foggy hill, we don’t get enough heat units to ripen tomoatoes outdoors before, say, next spring. (okay, not quite THAT bad, but anyway). So I grow a few in the greenhouse, where at least they get warmth even when it’s foggy, and they eventually ripen. Some of them. The rest, well I make green tomato chow chow, which is a maritime delight best served with baked beans, fish cakes, etc and that makes us happy. Wrapping green ones in newspaper and putting them in a cool spot will also help ripen them sometimes. They’re little devils and want what they want.

  23. Ah, yes. That’s why I gave up on tomatoes and I’m doing native plants. Good luck, sounds like you need it!

    (what a fun post! made my day, and so validating. i’m still tempted to grow a few veggies every once in a while, but this was a timely reminder)

  24. I am a beginner veggie grower myself and started tomatoes last month. They seem healthy so far. Hope they ripe and hope you get to taste your next tomatoes in abundance!

  25. I couldn’t spare the time to read all the helpful suggestions, however, the same thing happened to me…beautiful but green tomatoes…I did what my grandmother used to do and picked them and put them on a windowsill with afternoon sun…I thought, what the hell, can;t eat them anyway…they were there for at least 1 week or more…they became very red and very ripe and they tasted delicious!…so try that next worked for me (I am in Sydney by the way…)

  26. Monica Hall said:

    Great comments here! I’ve been growing container tomatoes for a number of years now with pretty fair success. This year I’m adding a drip system to my white bucket garden (also bought some earth boxes to use this year) and plan to try some Tommy Toes for my salad garden…also trying some blue corn which is supposed to be great for containers. Anyway, from everything I’ve read the Tommy Toes can really grow wild and produce tons of tomatoes…has anyone ever oven dried this variety? I dried a Roma variety last year and they were fabulous and I thought maybe if I couldn’t eat all of the Tommy’s I’d dry them (great in garlic pasta). Hopefully it will work out well.

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