09 January 2011

My First Tomatoes and Some Tips!

On Wednesday night we picked our first tomato!

We picked it, cut it into 9 pieces and every one of the family (except little Michael - who didn’t mind) had a taste of a ripened on the vine, organic, non genetic modified tomato! 
And it tasted totally different, even compared to the organic tomatoes we receive from the Ethical Co-op!

This year my tomatoes are doing extremely well!  I guess I had to go through the trial year,  I made mistakes (some bigger than others), I had disappointments but got the hang of growing a specific vegetable.  There is a difference in reading all the right books and websites on growing a specific vegetable and to learn by experience! That is what happened with my tomatoes.  This year I’m in the trial of growing my own pumpkins, watermelons and corn (more in another posting).

Last year my tomatoes was doing relatively good for a first time, but although we planted almost the same amount of tomato plants as this year, the harvest wasn’t nearly big enough, to last us during summer.  This year I foresee that we will not need to buy any tomatoes, once they start to ripen!

There are dozens of well formed, healthy tomatoes hanging from the plants!
Some things I’ve done that could possibly have made the difference:
Sown my Own Seeds

I’ve sown my own heirloom seeds, in organic worm cast. I bought seeds from Living Seeds and Being Plants.

Plant Strong Plants

I’ve made sure they are strong young plants before I replanted them. I also only replanted them when I was sure the temperature of the beds were warm enough - tomato plants love warm temperature.

The previous year I replanted it too quickly, before the soil temperature could climb and due to my impatience, I lost a few young plants.  This year I lost only one plant!

Mature, Worm- and Nutrient Rich Vegetable Beds

My beds were well prepared with mature, worm- and nutrient rich soil. I once read from Sean Freeman at Living Seeds - healthy plants won’t get diseases.  How do you make sure you have a healthy plant - make sure the soil is full of nutrients and don’t use any pesticides, ensuring a balanced ecosystem. 

Since we have only clay soil, I have to redo the soil of every single bed.  I don’t have any soil available, so the soil in the beds are made up of horse manure (I get it for free from CJ’s horse riding school), peanut shells, Phillipi sand and my home made compost.  But often when I start a new bed the horse manure isn’t mature enough and I don’t have nearly enough hand made compost.  I choose two of last year’s beds for my tomatoes, ensuring the soil is mature.  I only topped it up with a layer of horse manure, Phillipi sand and compost.  As CJ was working through the soil, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of earthworms - a sure sign of nutrient rich soil.
Liquid Fetrilizer

I periodically gave the little plants my liquid fertilizer - Bokashi.  Since I’m in my trial year for pumpkins and watermelons, I had to used almost all my Bokashi for them, but I could manage to spare some Bokashi for the tomato plants.

Finger Pruning

I constantly finger prune the small side shoots, also called suckers, growing between the main stem and the leaf stems, and gently pinch these off with my fingers. 

The side shoots only create a lot of leaves, which take energy away from the rest of the plant and few to no fruit.
In my opinion, pruning my tomato plant is one of the most important things to do towards a healthy tomato plant.

Remove Bottom Leaves

As soon as the plants was about a meter high, I started to remove the leaves from the bottom 30cm of the stem to allow air to circulate through the entire plant and light from beneath.   Removing the bottom leaves is an ongoing proses as the plant grows and the bottom leaves become bigger and tend to grow down-wards. I’ve observed these are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. They get the least amount of sun and soil born pathogens can be unintentionally splashed up onto them.
Hand Watering

This year, I only hand water the plants - no water by sprinkle system and only in the morning, at the latest 11h00.  My mother-in-law believes when you water in the afternoon, the ‘wet plant’ will more easily develop diseases in the cool afternoon air. So although it is much more pleasant to be in the garden in the cooler afternoon, I try to be in the garden as early as possible (that varies depending on the night I had with my two babies) and be finished by 10h00 - preferably 08h00! I carefully water the plants to make sure no soil splash up against the plants’ stem and leaves - this way no soil-borne diseases are caught.  

Every day while I’m hand watering the tomato stools, I make sure they are securely stacked against the trellis. 

It is very interesting to see how pumpkins and peas can tie themselves to the trellis, but not the case with tomato stools. 

Their tendency is to lay on the ground! 

I constantly have to stack my tomato stool and the sooner the better, or the plant will break when you stack it.

Old stockings works perfect to support a stalk, heavy with ripening tomatoes.

Remove Yellow or Wilting Leaves

I gently pinch off any leaves that are turning yellow or wilting on the tomato plant.
We are now only in the beginning of the harvest and I’ve learned you can lose your whole harvest within days, when it catch a disease, but I’m full of high hopes. 

Pruning and tending to my tomatoes is an every other day process, but for me it is also therapeutic and often a time I meet God and receive revelations (more of that in another posting) and now I’m starting to see a harvest I’m very proud of. I can’t wait to have a tomato salad, made only from the harvest in my garden!
David proudly showing off with his harvest of tomatoes this morning!

With love


AutumnVine said...

Linnie, pragtige tamaties, baie geluk. En dankie vir die raad, dit sal baie help.

Sonja said...

Dit is pragtig Linnie! Ek het gedoen wat jy se, ek het die onderste blare bly afbreek en ek het nou n goeie oes gereeld,maar nadat ek hier gelees het kan ek sien ek het nog om te leer!My spinasie is n teleurstelling, dit lyk soos kant hierdie jaar! Ek hou aan natuurlike goed spuit maar dit bly gate kry!

Linnie said...

Thank you Esther and Sonja!
Sonja, my pampoene, waatlemoene en ertjies was 'n reuse teleurstelling hierdie jaar... Meer daaroor in 'n volgende posting!

Sherrin said...

Well done! It seems that you have been wonderfully vigilant. We are also growing tomatoes and they have gotten a bit out of control . . . but at least they are in and growing, an achievement with a tiny baby!

I am trying to learn a bit of Afrikaans and i should practice by trying to read your comments :)!

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