Where there is a will there is a way

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When to plant tomatoes

This year I planted my tomatoes pretty late, and was feeling glum about that - worried that my crop wouldn't be bountiful. But I was insistent on using all my great heritage (Koanga Gardens) seeds, so I planted seeds around Labour Day (Oct 22).  (Usually people are planting big seedling plants into the garden then).  Just a note for myself for next time - August would be the earliest sowing time for the sub-tropical region of Auckland.  Apparently you just need 3 warm, frost free months for a good harvest. (I just looked it up on this great NZ website - www.gardengrow.co.nz. Has every plant you could want. Wow.  Will use this site when I make a beautiful growing calendar.) The summer has been so hot though, so I think my crop may be fine all the same, which is making me very happy.

I am planning to try to make pasta sauce, and even tomato sauce (that's ketchup to you, North Amerikeens).

I have heirloom jam tomatoes planted that are apparently supposed to be good for saucing this year, some regular jam tomatoes (using saved seeds from a tomato from my friend Bridget's plants), and some random interesting heirloom ones given to me by by friend Debbie (Chocolate Stripes).  For the full biodiversity of tomatoes you could grow here, look on Koanga Gardens' website seed list here.  I am going to save the seeds from the tomatoes I grow this year that I like best, not worries about if they mix and mingle.  I can culture my own favourite variety, right?

One of my seed-sown (end of October) babies, actually getting big.

A stick I picked up on a walk is a useful (and free) support for this plant.  The natural character of a forest stick provides a useful notch to support the tomato plant's weight.

I rip up old t-shirts to use as stretchy staking ties.  You can also buy stretchy cotton cord at the garden store, but this is free, and also gets rid of old horrible t-shirts for me - a great cycle.  

I also bought some curved bamboo sticks to stake the tomato plants on.  Since I want alot of tomatoes - although most gardeners do prune the laterals off tomato plants as I did last year (so that the fruit it produces will be bigger and the plant will be tall and straight), I just read in a book by Australian author and gardener Jackie French The Best of Jackie French: A practical Guide to Everything from Aphids to Chocolate Cake  (Harper Collins September 2000), ISBN 0-7322-6551-7) that she doesn't prune her tomatoes.  She feels that if you do, you get less fruit.  She also says to feed them well, that it's impossible to overfeed a tomato plant (as in over-fertilize).  I figured that all those branches of the vine that appear to grow in various directions might be just like having more than one plant coming off the same vine.  Meaning: if I feed the plant well enough, perhaps then it's fine to have unpruned tomatoes that are also good quality fruit.  Hopefully can just guide all the crazy directions of branches of the vines onto these curved hoop stakes and have heaps of tomatoes this year?  So unlike last year, I am allowing them to be like vines.  Besides, Jackie French is obviously a creative woman, so is probably a great and tuned in gardener.  (She has also written children's books, historical novels, etc etc.  All her books are listed here at www.jackiefrench.com).

I can't wait to try all her recipes for what to do with the tomatoes after: tomato paste (which I  love), tomato sauce, dried tomatoes, tomato jam (like fruit jam).  (She places recipes for that fruit or vegetable after the gardening advice - great eh.) 

Apparently the first tomatoes brought back from South America were yellow.  Yellow tomatoes today are lower in acid.  

Loved this also from the Jackie French book: apparently the time to plant tomatoes traditionally is when you can sit on the ground comfortably for 10 minutes, "bare-bummed, but it isn't essential" - which is August to December.

Bu I am used to Canadian weather,so I had better not try that.  I would probably find it comfortable year round.

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