Growing Tomatoes in Melbourne – Part 1

As you will have no doubt noticed this blog is called Suburban Tomato, but unless you read my “about” page (pretty recently if your memory is anything like mine…) you wont necessarily know why.  Well this is why:

Tomatoes are pretty much my favourite food and were the initial motivation behind establishing a kitchen garden.  I simply wanted to grow great tasting tomatoes to cook and eat.  Things mushroomed from there to incorporate other vegetables and herbs but I am still looking for that perfect tomato.  It needs to be one that: grows well in partial shade, resists disease, the birds don’t eat, doesn’t fruit all in one go, fruits no matter how hot or cold the summer is and most of all tastes delicious.  In short; the perfect tomato for my part of suburbia.  Impossible?  The thing I love about gardening is that each year brings a new chance to find out.

This year I am concentrating on growing cherry and small tomatoes.  This is partially because the kids seem to prefer them and partially because they are perfect for the salads I intend to eat all summer (plants and weather willing of course…).  The varieties I am growing this year are:

Small or cherry:

  • Tommy Toe
  • Yellow Boy
  • Sweet F1 Hybrid
  • Baby Red Pear
  • Broad Ripple Currant

Plus a trio of larger varieties:

  • Black Krim
  • Rouge de Marmande
  • Yugoslav

This represents their progress so far.

      • 21st July 2011 – Seed sown and seed tray kept in the laundry for warmth.
      • 3rd August 2011 – First to germinate was Sweet F1 Hybrid.  I move the seed trays outside the day I notice them germinating otherwise the plants become way too leggy as I don’t have a well lit windowsill for them.  They live in a small plastic covered seed tray when outside.
      • 4th August 2011 – Black Krim & Yellow Boy germinate.
      • 5th August 2011 – Baby Red Pear germinates.
      • 6th August 2011 – Rouge de Marmande & Tommy Toe seedlings emerge.
  • 7th August 2011 – just seed leaves:

17th August 2011 – Getting Bigger

21st August 2011 – Starting to get true leaves so I give them a dose of liquid fertiliser.

29th August 2011 – Ready to be potted up.

    • 29th August 2011 – I pot up the seedlings into 10cm herb pots.

I think these should be ready for planting out in October which I think is about right for my part of Melbourne, but having said that I’ve planted out tomato seedlings as early as August and as late as December before and had good outcomes.

I seem to be taking more care with my tomatoes this year – perhaps having decided not to have any more children (I have two) I feel a need to give that maternal thing one last outing.  This time with a neater, quieter, cleaner, cheaper, etc etc etc baby.  But I worry as though they’re a child, are they warm enough, have they enough to eat, is their growth rate appropriate, am I over or under feeding them, they’re not sick are they… and so it goes on.  Hmmm I wonder if I can get them clean up after themselves….actually I know that they wont as the detritus of last years crop can still be found around my stakes.  A job for the weekend perhaps.


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16 Responses to Growing Tomatoes in Melbourne – Part 1

  1. I love that while in this part of the world, we are soaking in the last of the tomatoes while you are dreaming of the harvest to come! Good luck with your Perfect Tomato Quest…and I am impressed that you grow yours from seed.

    • Liz says:

      Thanks Hanni, I find the seedlings we have at garden centres of really variable quality. The places that have the biggest range often have 17 year olds without a clue looking after them and frankly it shows…..Besides which we generally get a better choice with seeds, not to mention the allure of the whole nurturing thing.

  2. Phoebe says:

    OOh you are so organised! The list looks like a great selection. I’m going down the small tomato path too this year. All this optimism of the coming spring and summer is so exciting! Go tomatoes!!!

    • Liz says:

      Sometimes I wonder if the anticipation is better than the reality – especially if we have another year like last year. But then I think but no they will be fabulous, especially with a bit of olive oil, salt and basil.

  3. Diana says:

    Wow your tomatoes are ready to be transplanted. I have not found big tomatoes variety that are tolerant with our summer heat waves here. They fruit but by mid-summer, all of them gone died on me. But cherry tomatoes are so much easier to grow here. Our yellow currant cherry tomatoes survived through winter and started to grow new foliage and blossom.

    • Liz says:

      Wow – thats fabulous that your currants are starting to grow again. I I have sown Broad Ripple Currant – which is a yellow variety so hopefully I get a long season from them. It hadn’t occurred to me that you might get too hot during summer but I guess it would. I’m glad the cherry tomatoes work well.

  4. Andrea says:

    Hi Liz, I have been looking forward to reading what tomatoes you would be planting this year, Baby Red Pear sounds new(so many types) your seedlings look very healthy, do you make up your own potting mix?
    Lucky to start early in Melbourne, i dont bother planting out any until 2nd week in November as the chance of frost is always present, (2008 Nov 17th) This year Iv’e broken with tradition and planted out Morgage lifter with some frost protection so will wait and see.

    • Liz says:

      My parents have a natives nursery so they always have a ready supply of potting mix, so mostly I just knick theirs and add osmocote. It is good quality but beyond that I’m not sure what it is. For seed raising i use the same mix (with Osmocote added) but mix in some perlilte at a ratio of one part perlite to 2 parts potting mix.

  5. Callum says:

    do you think it is far too late to sow now in Oct??

    • Liz says:

      I think you could. You probably wont get crops until Autumn (or possibly late summer depending on the variety) and you wont have as long a season but you will still get tomatoes so I would definitely give it a go.

  6. Kate says:

    There is no way I have time and energy to cultivate from seed, so am wondering if you have any tips for finding seedlings of decent quality. I am in Melbourne too and agree with your summation if the large garden centres, despair!

    • Liz says:

      I would try a Farmer’s Market – the sellers there tend to be far more conscientious about looking after their plants and could probably give some good advice about the right variety for different situations/locations etc. I bought a few seedlings at Coburg Farmers Market a fortnight ago and they are doing really well. Of course some sellers are still better than others but generally I think they take better care of their plants.

  7. Elle says:

    CERES nursery in Northcote has nice, well cared for seedlings. But some seed packets I bought there turned out to be duds. When I brought them back they were happy to exchange for more seedlings, which was nice because it made up for lost time with the seed packets.

    When are we going to be safe from frost here in Melbourne?? I want to get all my seed babies in the garden ASAP. So far, I am not finding much information on when the threat of frost will be past. I’m not from Melbourne so this is a learning experience for me!!!

    • Liz says:

      Hi Elle,

      The answer to thank depends a bit on where you are in Melbourne. There are different microclimates in different areas of the city and even within suburbs. For example I don’t get frost in my (very protected) garden, but it does appear about once a year on the footbath at the front of my house. Traditionally we plant tomatoes on Cup Day (first Tuesday in November) because by then you should be pretty much completely safe. I think though depending on the part of Melbourne you are in you could probably get away with planting then in October or even now. It does depend on the the year. If you want to be pretty safe then November but we may actually not get any frost between now and then.

  8. Craig says:

    I pant my tomatoes early September harvest early December I hoop hot house.

  9. Barry Revill says:

    Hello, I have been growing tomatoes here in Moorabbin since the 1960’s. I have made more mistakes than you can jump over, but the big one, the one that I have done each year without fail, is to plant too many. There is only so much water, and I have water tanks, but to get the best out of any plant it needs total attention, not just bunged in semi- shade and hoping for the best. This year, 2017, things will be different, I hope. Cheers, Barry.

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