Thursday, 12 December 2013

The tomato project -part 1

My tomato patch at the community garden
It seems ages since I have had a decent crop of tomatoes. I have to swing my mind back 13 years to a rental share house on the other side town where it seemed like magically with little effort we just had buckets of them -quite literally. Here at my current home, the past few years have not been kind to my tomato growing efforts. Throw in climatic factors; too hot, too cold; not enough rain; too much rain (Melbourne's erratic weather),  lack of full sun and my experiments (pre-chook days) with perhaps a bit of an overdose on worm castings and worm wee that yielded huge green plants but little fruit,  its been a long time since my last bumper harvest. Last year for the first time I had a decent crop ready to ripen but that disappeared thanks to a boom in the population of the local rats.

This year,back in the depths of winter, I decided to get organised a set up a tomato growing strategy. It started with Bek's call out to help her clear out her seed collection. It was very exciting to receive in the old fashioned post a beautiful envelope containing neatly labelled plastic zip-lock bags with the following selection:

  • Ned Kelly
  • Big Beef
  • Champion
  • New Yorker
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • (and most intriguingly) Big White Pink Stripe (lets call that BWPS).

To that collection I added two kinds of cherry, Yellow pear and some Mini Roma. The cherry tomatoes included a small sweet tomato I took from the planter garden (variety unknown) and what I refer to as feral cherry- the cherry tomatoes that seem to crop up everywhere around the garden. Unfortunately due to an accident during seed sowing the Mini Roma got tipped into the BWPS so its going to be interesting to see what grows where.

My first step back in July was sowing a few of each into strawberry and tomato punnets. These act as perfect mini greenhouses out on the front porch in the northern winter sun. The punnets were lined up in a kitty litter tray so they could be bought inside and put in front of the heater at night. That technique seems to work and I got excellent germination. Once the plants had their first sets of decent leaves I planted them out into single tubes or two by two into small pots.

Having grown far too many seedlings for my own use (I have kept 2 of each of the standard varieties) I sold seedlings off for a gold coin donation at work and at a little stall I set up for an hour and a half as part of the Garage Sale Trail Day (basically this was an event encouraging everyone to have garage sales that offered me the chance to publicise my sale via a listing on the website). With very little effort, my combined sales of excess chilies, eggplants and capsicum came to $52 which has been donated to Oxfam to help fund local food growing programs in East Timor.

This year with my expansion out into a community garden, I have shifted the focus on my backyard beds leaving only cherry varieties in the backyard. There are numerous cherry plants filling out the various pots and tubs and a row of the 'feral' variety lined up on the back fence. Yellow pears and either mini roma or BWPS are out in the planter boxes and a full plot of standard tomatoes in the community garden plot. Not content with that I have planted out all my left over seedlings in the adjacent plot that seems to have been abandoned. I am hoping with any success the community garden will be so overrun with tomatoes that the crop from that bed can be distributed to one of the many community or refugee  groups that could use donations of fresh vegetables. Stay tuned to see how it all works out!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent work - hope they are wonderfully productive. I have never grown any of those varieties so I will be interested to see which do well. I have planted about 8 plants in my garden but due to an incident involving a small boy and my plant labels I have no idea what I have where. I'm just hoping for less rodents this year, or at the very least I hope they just keep eating the chook food.