Troubles in Tomato Land

P1000654As some of you may well know, I like to experiment with various techniques and plant varieties in my veggie patch.

In late September I planted out my corn using the three sisters planting method and so far I can report back that it’s been a huge success.

The corn has shot away and the beans are just starting to twist themselves around the corn stalks.

To fertilise my mounds I used compost that I’d made from old lawn clippings, cane straw and soil that I’d dug up from the chook house. Somewhere in that mix were seeds from some old pumpkins and now I have the third sister happily beginning to cover the ground. I added some rockmelon and Golden Nugget seeds in there as well. The more the merrier I say.

Then there are my tomatoes. If ever there was a plant that’s sent to try us, it’s the tomato. Bugs, grubs, fungus, birds, viruses and even your dog, they’ll all happily invade your tomato patch. Add to that the distinct possibility, at least here in the cool climates, that a good frost will decimate your crop and we really have our work cut out for us.

On cup day I did what all good gardeners do and planted my Rouge de Marmande and Roma tomatoes, some in pots, some in the ground.

Apart from some rust beginning to show, and I’ve given them a hit of lime sulphur to control that, these are doing fine. The mistake I made was a simple one and one that I’ll never make again.

I visited my local nursery last Wednesday morning and bought six heritage tomato punnets from Digger’s Seeds. They looked so interesting I just had to have them. Tigerella, Red Fig and Principe Borghese to name just a few.

Sun scald on my tomatoes.
Sun scald on my tomatoes.

I bolted home, hacked up the patch with my hoe and mattock, sprinkled hands full of organic fertiliser, dug in some lucerne chaff and plonked them in.

Wednesday was quite hot, just a bit too hot for some plants that had just come out from under the shade cloth at the nursery. Then on Thursday it was three degrees and hail covered the ground. Then it was hot again.

On Saturday I inspected my tomatoes to not only discover, thanks to the rain, the onset of the rust on the older plants, but the new heritage plants had almost given up the will to live. Their leaves had turned white, the plants were lifeless.

The sun has scalded the tomato leaves. I should have hardened the plants off for a few days because nursery plants are spoilt little brats and need some tough love to survive.

So now I’ll have to nurse them through their tender weeks, a bit of seaweed here and there to fortify their stems, some careful pruning to encourage growth and that, hopefully, will be it. Until the grubs move in of course.


Category: Grow


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Article by: Mark Logan

Former photojournalist at the CWD, Mark Logan has mixed together his love of technology with his years of experience as a journalist and photographer to develop the Orange Post. The Orange Post is his baby. A baby whose gestation involved countless ideas, numerous bouts of indecision, an infinite number of hours cursing free software and more than one bottle of wine. Whilst he's not trying to cajole people into writing for the Orange Post, he's attempting to sharpen his vegetable gardening skills. He lives in a strangely shaped house in Millthorpe, loves ignoring recipe directions, dabbles in web design for fun, frustration and profit and is constantly in a battle of the wills with his dog Fergus