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

Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’

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,


Trouble ahead?

I have a problem that is rapidly getting waaaay out of control.

You might recall that a couple of posts ago I asked for some suggestions for an extra variety or two of tomatoes to plant this year. I was hoping to round out the small selection I had made so far.

Cherry Cocktail seedling bursting ahead as the first 'matoe of the year.

Well, I was given some excellent suggestions and have been anxiously awaiting my membership from Digger’s Club seeds to arrive so I could order my last season’s nemesis Tommy Toe again and make a couple more choices to join my early sowings of Amish Paste and Cherry Cocktail seeds. Some of the tomato seeds I had made a mental note to try to find after recommendations from my garden blogger friends included Cherokee Purple and Black Russian (thanks Meredith!) along with Black Pear (thanks Clare!)

Well, a couple of weeks had gone by and still the membership had not turned up. At this point it is prudent to admit that an attribute that I do not seem to possess is patience.

The pile of tomato seed packs, as yet quite small.

I was still fully intending to stock up on Tommy Toes and whiled away the days pouring over the Diggers on-line catalogue looking for the blogger recommendations, but couldn’t find any of them. I did however come across Wild Sweetie which sounded worth a go and Black Krim, which I knew I had read about on a blog somewhere, but momentarily couldn’t place it (!) Never mind, I thought, I should get it anyway. As the days rolled by waiting for my membership I got distracted and  ended up signing up with a web based vege growing challenge with Yates seeds and decided I needed to pick up a packet of Tiny Tim seeds to grow as part of the challenge. As it turns out I also have another packet of surprise Tomato seeds on the way courtesy of Yates.

Well, as luck would have it my Digger’s membership arrived with two packets of free seeds. One of those packets just happened to be of five mixed Heirloom Tomato seeds and I was at once both delighted and perplexed. I now had another forty seeds containing a mix of Burnley Sure Crop, Black Prince, Banana Legs (love that name), Aunt Ruby’s German and Tigerella. Of course, I am going to have to find somewhere to plant these now too. Who could possibly resist? But…I did really have my heart set on planting those Tommy Toes,  Black Krim and Wild Sweeties too, so I went ahead and ordered those. Well. You would have too, wouldn’t you?

Amish paste seedlings starting to make their way in the world.

To top it all off a friend dropped in a couple of days ago and we got talking about vege seeds. She suggested a website that I had not heard of before as having an excellent range of vegetable seeds…and I made the mistake of having a peek. As it turns out Eden Seeds just happened to have those elusive Cherokee Purple and Black Russian seeds. So…yet another order is on its way.

My newest arrival, a 'Tiny Tim' seedling emerging.

So, at last count I now have Amish Paste, Cherry Cocktail, Tiny Tim, Burnley Sure Crop, Black Prince, Banana Legs, Aunt Ruby’s German, Tigerella, mystery tomato seeds, Tommy Toes, Black Krim, Wild Sweetie, Cherokee Purple and Black Russian either sown in seed-raising trays (waiting for the last frost to pass),  waiting to be sown or on order. That’s a grand total of 14 tomato varieties. And I still have to find that Black Pear don’t I?

As an aside, so far I have prepared one small garden bed that will fit two or three tomato plants. It’ll be fine. Of course it will.

Here we go again!

I’m not too proud to ask for wishes of good luck. Or advice. Maybe it should be the other way around, but never mind 😉

It's purchased seeds for now, but I hope I'll have more luck with seed saving this year.

The thing is that my fingers are itching to get back into growing tomatoes again. Yes, I know it’s still only August and frosts will be around for a while yet, but I have a sunny window sill and a covered area…and well… I just need to be growing tomatoes again!

These little tomato seeds have a lot of hope invested in them!

This year I am going to try growing four different varieties of tomatoes. No, I don’t know where I’m going to put them all because that would be sensible and I can’t be caught developing those kind of habits!

OK, so some of the tomato choices are already made and seeds put in seedraising trays on a sunny sill with the vain hope that the cats won’t tip them up. So far I have Amish Paste and Cherry Cocktail sitting alongside some capsicum and basil in a big tray. I am about to get some more Tommy Toes seed because I’ve somehow lost the last lot of these seeds and I’m determined not to let a tomato get the better of me.

Any recommendations for one last one to try?  I’ve finally treated myself to a ‘Digger’s club’ membership, so I can order quite a good variety or heirloom seeds.

Oh and just to change the subject a little, I have a lovely new Lumix camera courtesy of my tax return. It’s just a point and shoot one, but I’m quite taken with it!  Here are a few early pictures from the garden (still getting the hang of it all).

Self sown pea that grew from some pea straw mulch.

Hellebore...not sure of the variety.

Rosemary in flower.

A sunny little viola.

Tete-a-tete daffodils are springing up everywhere right now.


Guess What?!

I’m guessing that anyone who has been following my tales of tomato woes will see the significance of this photo right away…

Yes, there is a green banana tucked in there – it works! Each day another tomato seems to start to change colour and ripens very quickly from there.

All I can say is “Thanks Meredith!” 😀

The case of Tommy Toes Vs GippyGardener

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?

Are My Tommy Toes Tiptoeing in Too Late?

Nature in the Gippy Garden has responded to the start of March in a most unusual way this year. It has been going with the calendar date for the start of autumn, rather than doing its own thing in its own time. The nights are quite cool and the daytime temperature dropped quite suddenly by about 15 degrees centigrade.

Some Tommy Toes flowers just finishing... but are they pollinated?

I’m not sure I like my garden to run with the timetable. Especially not when I had sown tomato seeds late and now spend every day agonizing over how little time they’ve got left to fruit and ripen!

Anyway, putting timetable issues aside, I responded to a suggestion from Meredith from The Enchanted Earth (a vegetable gardener who is both experienced and kind in sharing her wisdom)  I moved the pots off the veranda as the flowers began to open, to take advantage of the breeze for pollination.

Some beautiful little Blue Banded Bees also visited, but I was too slow to snap them buzzing at the tomato flowers (there is more about Blue Banded Bees here).

A Blue Banded Bee (Amegilla) buzzing about the nemesia so fast that you car barely see her wings!

Well, to my great delight pollination did occur and the first tiny tomatoes began to emerge a couple of weeks ago.

Tommy Toes emerging while sheltering from a storm.

Now, during the time that I have been agonizing over the slow emergence of my Tommy Toes, Bangchik over at My Little Vegetable Garden has sown his tomatoes in his Malaysian garden. They went in well after mine.

The big difference is that his tomatoes clearly went in at the perfect time for his conditions, and were planted out into a perfectly prepared bed rather than into pots that are too cramped and ill prepared. The really big difference is that they were also put there by experienced hands that know what they are doing!

The tomatoes today - the biggest in about the size of my thumb (not my toe!)

Well, so much for beginner’s luck! Bangchik’s tomatoes will overtake my little toms any day now.

So I learn my lesson about how and when to sow.

At least I can say that the weather is warming again over the next few days, so who knows, plenty of sunshine and worm tea might still result in some ripe little tomatoes yet!

Does a watched tomato ever boil?

You’re probably familiar with some variation of the old saying ‘A watched kettle will never boil’. It gently suggests that the more impatient you are for something to happen, the longer it will seem to take.

Well, the kettle may not have boiled, but I’m the one with steam coming out of my ears from pure impatience. I’ts got to the point where I’m starting to feel like I’m watching my poor ‘Tommy Toes’ tomatoes so closely that they will never fruit from the sheer pressure of it all.

Tommy Toes seedlings 14th Jan 2010

I’m very excited about my tomatoes as it’s been a long time since I’ve grown anything from seed.  I am also a bit anxious about these as they were sown just before Christmas, a little bit on the late side for my part of the world. Being a novice, I wasn’t entirely sure if they would flower and fruit in time.

Tommy Toes 19th Feb 2010

So you can imagine my excitement when I noticed some flower buds emerging  yesterday! Well, they haven’t so much as bloomed yet, but the appearance of flower buds is enough for me to get excited about the prospect of little tomatoes appearing one day soon.

Some buds at last!

That’s If everything goes according to plan from here on in.

I’ll cry if it doesn’t.