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

Too Many Tomatoes!

From that header you might think I’m about to to gloat…or even complain about a glut of produce.

Not so.

I have (quite inevitably really) learnt the hard way what happens when you get ahead of yourself and your gardening experience.

Too many tomato plants + not enough experience = not so many lovely ripe tomatoes!

Don’t get me wrong, we have not been bereft of tomatoes. In fact, the cherry tomatoes have been keeping us in good supply from quite early in Summer and are still going strong well into Autumn.

A truss of tiny 'Wild Sweeties' which are each about the size of my little fingertip.

There is nothing quite so lush and productive in the garden at the moment as my Wild Sweeties and Tommy Toes. But the wonderful varieties of larger tomatoes I planted have not done so well.  Purple Cherokee, Black Prince, Amish Paste,  have all gone by the by. Black Russian and Burnley Sure crop got off to a great start but are now barely hanging in there. Tigerella produced well at first and fought valiantly to survive, but she’s done for. Why? Well, apart from my general ignorance, these have been the biggest issues…

1. I never did get just how big those tiny little seedlings were going to grow. Hence the stakes I used were too small, bendy and weak for the task. Naturally I followed up my folly by trying to re-stake the plants and killed a couple by stabbing them through the heart. OK, roots then.

2. I planted too many tomatoes too close together. Add a bit of warmth, a bit of damp and…you get the picture…another couple bite the dust.

3. These &*%@#* bugs

Caught in the act! An adult Harlequin bug scampering over my tomatoes!

Just last January I was wittering on about how I have Harlequin bugs (Dindymus Versicolour) in my garden but that they don’t seem to do much damage. How wrong could I be?! I just hadn’t found their favourite snack yet! At first I worried about them spoiling the fruit (which they do with joyful abondon) but it took a while to twig that they were sucking the life out of the stems too. Good grief, what little horrors they are!

If I’m honest my gardening hygiene wasn’t what it should be either. I wasn’t quick enough to monitor, pick off and dispose of spoiled fruit, so this did give the bugs a foothold that I’ve been sorely regretting. I’ve picked up my game and this has helped, but now the season is coming to an end so I’m left with looking to improve my skills for next year.

I have also been trying to research  organic ways to control the Harlequin bugs with little avail. Like many shield and stink bugs they respond to a passing shadow by scampering off to hide, so they are hard to get hold of for a good squishing. Home made White Oil seems to have helped a bit,  it’s not great on the tomatoes in sunny warm weather.

So, if anyone has any good organic ideas  that aren’t going to hurt  the bees and the butterflies I would love to hear them!

Some happy Wild Sweeties...the one tomato I placed in the herb garden is doing just fine...I think there might be a clue there!

Have a lovely week,

Heidi

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Comments on: "Too Many Tomatoes!" (24)

  1. Oh how recognizable! I spend so much time and effort on my tomatoes in my vegie garden (complete with mesh etc), and have only gotten a couple of ripe tiny tomatoes. This morning, walking along the fence, I found a wild bush with at least 10 beautiful ripe tomatoes on it! So much for trying to interfere hey….

  2. I’m not sure what it is with tomatoes and squash but the world over it seems wants to plant these in ridiculous abundance!

  3. I love tomatoes so much I always plant too many. I end up making lots of marinara sauce and freezing it. Harlequin bugs can be a real problem. Insecticidal soup and botanical pyrethrins will kill them on contact if you spot them. Safer brand has these products available as well as other manufacturers. A predator of this pest is the parasitic wasp. You can buy parasitic wasps online at many outlets, such as planetnatural.com. You can also attract them by planting nectar-rich flowers, such as thyme, lovage, dill, yarrow, parsley, and sweet alyssum. Hope this helps…

    • Hi Sage Butterfly – thanks for the suggestions, I’ll look into those. Because I don’t tend to spray we do well with the parasitic wasps naturally controlling aphids, so maybe they’ll think about trying the Harlequin bugs for a change.

  4. dancingwithfrogs said:

    I did the same as you. I bought too many heritage varieties and didn’t realise just HOW tall and leggy they were going to grow.

    Still, I’m diligently saving seed for next year, when I’ll have more garden beds and taller stakes!

    • Hello dancingwithfrogs!

      Ah, it’s nice to have company on this journey. Hopefully we’ll both have happier tomatoes next time around!

      By the way – your comment doesn’t seem to come up with a blog link. Do you have a blog? I’d like to visit it if you do!

  5. I planted my tomatoes too close last year. Lesson learned. I plant heirlooms, too. Though they don’t produce so much, their flavor is so very much worth it!

    • Hi Holley!
      In all my moaning I did overlook that wonderful fact didn’t I? The tomatoes we have been able to glean have been so yummy that it’s all the encouragement I need to go back and try again next year!

  6. I lost the very few tomatoes I had to squirrels last year 😦 Glad to hear that you were able to get a good supply, though.
    Ahhh! Those Harlequin Bugs destroyed my groundcherry plants last year!!! I hate ’em.

  7. I know…I do not use chemical sprays either. I only use organic or natural solutions. The insecticidal soap and botanical pyrethrins are organic solutions. These are sprays that are considered organic or natural….I have used them with good results. For more info: http://www.saferbrand.com/store/garden-care

  8. Love the last photo…tomatoes and sage, two of my garden favorites! It took me a while to figure out how best to stage/cage tomatoes, especially the larger ones. We build our own wire cages now to fit our raised beds.

    I’m so sorry about the harlequin bugs. Do any of your local bird species find them tasty? I have read that brassicas (mustards, kale, broccoli etc.) provide ideal breeding habitat for harlequin bugs, so avoiding planting those until after tomato season is finished can help, as can keeping the area as weed free as possible. Parasitic wasps help too, but soaps and insecticides generally don’t work…they’re too sneaky and run off!

    • Hi Clare, I wish, oh I wish the birds thought they were a nice snack! Sadly the birds prefer tomatoes too 😀

      No brassicas nearby (maybe I should though – I wouldn’t mind if they ate broccoli!) I think I’m just going to up the research into some good companions for them…the marigold worked with the caterpillars at least!

  9. Hi Heidi!

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Yours is great! I don’t know if we get Harlequin bugs in Nevada, but I’ll have a few tomato plants this year and will definitely be on the lookout now after reading your post. Great links on your blog. I very much want to try worm composting someday, as well as starting a garden hive.

    • Hello Bel and thanks very much for dropping in here too 🙂
      I certainly hope that harlequin bugs don’t like life in Nevada! Good luck with the compost and the bees!

  10. Hi Heidi!

    Have you been tagged for Earth Day Reading Project at The Sage Butterfly? If not, consider yourself invited by me. Here is the link to the specifics:

    http://thesagebutterfly.blogspot.com/2011/04/earth-day-reading-project-blog-meme.html

    Bel

    • Hello Bel and so sorry for taking so long to get back to you! I kept thinking ‘Yes I’ll do that’ but life has been very busy this last couple of weeks and I just haven’t gotten back to doing it 😦 Maybe next year!

  11. Just as my little tomato seedlings are getting started, you have reminded me what is ahead! Bugs! But for now, I am happily embracing Spring!

  12. Heidi, I know I’m late reading this, but I had to tell you you remind me so much of me. My first year of growing tomatoes, I got really lucky. I basically planted two plants in huge pots on the deck, then fertilized the heck out of them and used major insecticide (per my granddad’s old-fashioned instructions). They produced so abundantly and were so healthy, I thought, well, I should grow more. Lots more! I planted 19 plants the next year, way too close together, with weak stakes or cages that weren’t close to tall enough (it’s not unusual for our plants to top 12 feet high when in the ground — my pot-grown experiences fooled me), and tried to go cold-turkey organic. Every single plant died of blight that year and I was truly demoralized.

    But don’t give up! First of all, you’ll get better every time. And second of all, tomatoes are a crop that is not predictable. Even well-seasoned farmers have crop failures, and those harlequin bugs look like quite a challenge. Have you thought of planting a trap crop of brassicas for them, since they like them so much? Maybe a small plot of kale, far away from the tomatoes. Just a thought.

  13. Hello Meredith 🙂 I really like the idea of a trap crop – I’ll definetly give that a go next year…along with planting a few less plants and finding the strongest supports I can lay my hands on!

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