Growing Tomatoes in Melbourne – Part 3

I do find tomatoes one of the more idiosyncratic crops that I grow.  Nothing ever seems simple with tomatoes.  If its not the leaves, its the fruit, are they too dry?, are the too wet?, overfed?, underfed? there always seems to be something.  This year my tomatoes seem to be doing reasonably well, the leaves are dying off a bit at the bottom of the plants but I think that is normal, it happens every year after all.  Reassuringly the Burke’s Backyard website agrees with me it is so I’m going along with that for now.

Of the varieties I’m growing:

Broad Ripple Currant, Baby Red Pear, Sweet F1 Hybrid, Tommy Toe, Rouge de Marmande and Yellow Boy have all given me at least one ripe fruit and all have reasonable amount of fruit ripening on the plants.

Black Krim has heaps of lovely green growth but only just started to set fruit, there are two tiny ones I’ve have noticed in the last couple of days and that’s it.

Purple Russian set a few fruit a month or so ago but all but one fell off the plant.  The one that remains has yet to ripen.  The plant looks very wispy, not unhappy per se, but not really growing much either.

Black Cherry & Cherry Sweetbite were planted considerably later than the others, both have a few fruit set but they are a couple of weeks off ripening.

I do think, with the benefit of hindsight that it was a mistake to plant so many cherry varieties at the expense of more cutting tomatoes, particularly as the Black Krim seems destined to fruit so late and the Purple Russian looks to be something of a write-off.

I am also having some issues with the plants.   My Baby Red Pear tomato plant had heaps of its leaves yellow on the same day but then it was 40 degrees that day.  Those leaves have since died but the top of the plant remains healthy so I’m not too concerned.

This year however, it is the fruit I’m more worried about.  The Sweet F1 Hybrid has the occasional fruit with what looks like Blossom End Rot and a few of the others (Rouge de Marmande & Tommy Toe in particular) have some (but not all) fruit with little black spots or indentations in them.  Like this:

The leaves don’t have spots on them and in fact this particular fruit comes from one of my healthiest looking plants.  I’m thinking it could be one of two things: either a lack of calcium (so I’ve scattered some eggshell at the base of the plant in the hope that will resolve it), or insect attack.  If it is insect they are small and fast and I don’t think there is a great deal I can do about them.

Some of my other fruit have shown more obvious sign of insect attack:

Annoying isn’t it – I did eat the other half of this one though and it still tasted delicious.

If you have any ideas on what is attacking my fruit then I would love to know.

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19 Responses to Growing Tomatoes in Melbourne – Part 3

  1. The black spots could be a bacterial infection – try looking up information on black spot. If it is you need to make sure any plant debris this year is totally cleared away and maybe burned.

    • Liz says:

      I wondered about black spot too but I don’t think it is – its not on the leaves, its only affecting some fruit and it looks too localised for that. This is the first time I’ve grown tomatoes in this bed too.

  2. greenfumb says:

    Thanks for dropping into my blog. You have an amazing variety of tomatoes, I’ve never heard of half of them. My tomatoes get stung by fruit flies but I think the spots are smaller than those on yours. I have to harvest them the minute the fruit starts to colour unfortunately, they would taste better if I could leave them.

    • Liz says:

      I harvest a lot of mine early too – I get mice eating them if I don’t and at the moment our garden is full of annoying baby blackbirds and I think its only a matter of time before they decide they want to try tomato.

      • I too have too many cherries – i seem to have mixed up my seeds and the ones I thought were large tommies are all quite small – oops. The ones you brought me are doing well, though the leaves are all covered with black spot (all my plants have this). Not sure that I should have cut back as much as I did, but they have new growth at the top and lots of fruit so we’ll see.

        Growing tomatoes certainly brings some challenges.

        • Liz says:

          I don’t think the plants particularly like the huge fluctuations in temperature we’ve been having. My theory (I have a new one each week so they probably should be taken with a grain of salt) is that as long as they keep growing and producing fruit they are allowed to get whatever disease they like and I will not worry! I will not worry! I will not worry…..Are you convinced? no me neither….. still it is the same every year – the tomatoes never do as well as they do in my imagination……

  3. Phoebe says:

    Hi Liz, it could be fruit fly responsible for the black spotting (I had the same last year and the spots turned into rot which turned into maggots and then lots of fruit flies). The larger holes could be slaters. Was the fruit low to the ground? I had slaters burrow into tomatoes last year and they do it to my strawberries too.

    • Liz says:

      That’s interesting, i hadn’t considered fruit fly as I didn’t think it came this far south. I don’t like this maggots and lots of fruit fly idea. I think I will monitor the fruit I photographed and see what it does.

  4. Mark Willis says:

    Liz, I found this about a tomato virus which looks similar to your black spot issue:-

    • Liz says:

      That’s possible, I looked up this particular virus on google and it looked completely different. I kind of think that all tomato virus start to look kind of the same after awhile – black spots on leaves and problems with the fruit seems to cover most…..also all the advice is identical: burn the plants at the end of the season and grow something different in the bed next year. All very good advice but unhelpful if you want perfect fruit this year……Thanks for your help though!

  5. leduesorelle says:

    Oh, tomatoes — we keep trying to grow them but they are heartbreakers, aren’t they?

  6. Frogdancer says:

    We don’t get fruit fly in Melbourne. (do we…?)

  7. Sorry about your tomatoes! I have no clue, but it was interesting reading everyone’s opinions.


  8. mireille says:

    We are asked to report any findings of fruitfly in Vic to the dept of primary industries as it is here now call 1300 135 559 or, click on ag then pests.
    Look for 2-3 cm larvae exit holes on fruit. And red brown flies and cream-white maggots.
    As reported in gardening Australia mag. Feb issue.

  9. Ben says:


    I also have a lot of little flies that are hanging around my toms which I have not seen before this year. I have also had some fruit suffer the same fate as yours.

    I didn’t realise the black birds liked tomato, but I caught one of the little buggers come flying out of the tomatoes with a beak full of rouge de marmande!

    I have started to pick the fruit the minute it starts to show any colour and ripen on the window sill instead.

    Cheers Ben

    • Liz says:

      I’ve had heaps of white fly in my garden this year – much worse than I’ve had before, perhaps that’s what you have? The hot weather seems to have killed them off though. I adopt an ignore and hope they go away approach that seems to work OK. Those blackbirds are annoying aren’t they – my father traps them periodically but I find that a little extreme…

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