The most frequent question I was being asked at the Market last Sunday, and in fact for most of the last month at various times, was:
"So how are YOUR tomatoes doing this year?"
It seems that although we may have had near perfect conditions for growing a bumper crop of strawberries this year, the general consensus around the market table was that it was a terrible season for tomatoes. The frequent rains, cloudy days and cooler temps of this summer have slowed down the usual flush of fruit on the tomato vine that we have come to expect and even take for granted, particularly as last season was a pretty good one by all accounts. So if you have been berating yourself, and second guessing your ability to grow even one of the gorgeous red globes, you can rest assured that it is most likely not your fault!
Over the last few years I have been paying particular attention to my tomato growing technique. I have located the best spots in the garden for shelter and sunshine hours, I make sure not to grow tomatoes in the same spot more than once every three years, and I have been working on developing a plant that will grow outdoors with minimal fuss and bother but still produce tasty and bounteous tomatoes.
After careful consideration I came to the conclusion that if I wanted fruit to ripen outdoors and on the vine then cherry tomatoes was my best bet. This ensured that even in our shorter hot seasons I still have a chance at vine ripened fruit. Each year I have been collecting seed from my tomato plants that have adequately survived living in soil, outdoors in all weather with no feeding and no special treatment, and so far so good! This year I have three plants in a single box garden, planted in purchased basic compost from the local garden center. I had a crop of lettuces and one of carrots either side to help shelter the young seedlings, and once the carrots and lettuce had been harvested the tomato plants were well and truly strong enough to fend for themselves.
As you can see from the photos below I have very large and well developed plants. I chose this year not to remove the laterals as is usually recommended. Again this was due to my desire to allow the plant to return to doing what it does best without interference from me. I have more flowers than I can count and with a lovely warm and dry day ahead of us I have some hope that we may begin to see a few tomatoes develop soon. With a current count of 6 cherry toms so far visible over the three plants, we shall see how this progresses in the weeks to come. Obviously if I were to start feeding the plants with super tomato food I would get a faster and more productive response. However this is not my goal here. I hope to have tomato plants that are acclimatised to our cooler temperatures and heavier soil, and that will grow with our natural level of rain fall and without any extra assistance beyond the usual care of an average gardener. Wish me luck!
I'm Kimberley, and I live in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand. I am very passionate about growing strong healthy plants that enrich us and our environment. Welcome to my place - feel free to look around!