OK so the title is a little over the top, but my daughter has been particularly melodramatic of late and I think its rubbed off. What the post is really about is the mistakes I have made over the years, when growing tomatoes.
1. Insufficient food – I actually think I made this error this year, in my rush to get them in I didn’t prepare the bed as well as I could have. I added some Dynamic Lifter (pelletised manure) to the soil but thats about it and despite good initial growth the plants just ran out of steam (or more accurately food). They perked up a bit when I gave them some fish emulsion but it was really a case of too little too late. Tomatoes need good levels of nitrogen, phosporus, potassium and calcium and I suspect mine ran out of most of these. This year I will prepare my beds properly with lots of organic matter (manure and compost) and hopefully will be rewarded with stronger and healthier and thus more productive plants.
2. Sowing too early/too late – The old adage is true – ‘timing is everything’. Plant out your tomatoes too early and they just sit there unhappily and look sad. Sometimes they never fully recover – especially if you make the mistake of planting out before the last frost and it kills them. Plant them too late and you could run out of warm weather needed for ripe fruit, or worse still the first frosts arrive before your crops. Having said all that, I do find that most books on tomato growing in Melbourne err a little too much on the side of caution particularly when it comes to early plantings. I have happily planted out tomatoes in August before (admittedly in a pretty mild year) and I don’t think their progress was slowed much at all. Personally I think the key is a slightly staggered planting out (in Melbourne from perhaps September to December) to allow for both early and late crops – especially if you have room for lots of plants.
3. Irregular watering – Tomatoes like regular consistent watering – but not too much. Too much water will cause the roots to rot and as a result the plant will be less able to withstand any periods of hot weather. The signs over watering are very similar to the signs of underwatering as in both instances the plant isn’t able to access sufficient water from the soil – in the case of under watering because it isn’t there and in over watering because the roots have rotted so they don’t have a big enough root system to take up the water. Other watering issues include: Too much water while the plants are fruiting and the fruit may split and too little water and the fruit don’t reach a nice size. This year I’m pretty sure I over-watered my tomatoes, they like it on the slightly dry side but that isn’t really what I gave them and they looked pretty unhappy at times as a result.
4. Pests & Diseases – Is there any disease a tomato can’t get? And why do all tomato diseases look pretty much the same but with differing sizes and shapes of brown spots on the leaves? And its not just the leaves and stem, from blossom end rot (which may be a sign of a lack of calcium) to fruit fly there are endless things which can destroy your fruit as well. Good soil, attention to garden implement hygiene, judical pruning of effected branches and the removal of bugs will all help but sometimes there isn’t much you can do other than simply hope for the best.
5. Unsuitable varieties – All tomato varieties are not the same. There are some which will tolerate far higher levels of humditiy than others. There are some which will grow happily in colder temperatures than others. Some take far longer to set fruit than others. If you plant the wrong variety for your micro-climate it is very easy to have some very sad looking plants. The early fruiting varieties are generally better suited to cooler areas and equally there are some varieties which cope far better with the tropics than others. Because temperatures vary from year to year some varieties do much better in some years than others. This year I found Rouge de Marmande did really well for me but that Purple Russian was absolutely hopeless. I wonder what will do well for me next season…
So what else could I do to my tomatoes to reduce their productivity? Any hints you could give me would be much appreciated as I’d prefer not to destroy my tomatoes in any new ways next season…
Wanting another Top 5? The New Goodlife talks TV this week.