Green tomatoes

My lovely friend Sarah has recently become very keen on vegetable gardening. It’s good for her, because she gets to supplement her now entirely vegan diet with organic homegrown veggies, but it’s also pretty good for me, because apparently I get her extra vegetable plants when she has too many.

Sarah recently gave me a cute little Roma tomato plant, about 20cm tall. I am not sure of the exact variety. All I know is that as soon as I got it home, I immediately started overfeeding it.

It became a mammoth bush and quickly needed repotting. Burke’s Backyard tells me you are only meant to feed it once every 2-3 weeks at most, although I have heard from others that every 3-4 weeks is plenty, I think it depends on the variety of your plant, where it is placed, and how well the soil is prepared.

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My very large and leafy tomato plant, with a few little basil plants nestled around it’s base.

The reason you want to avoid overfeeding the plant is because overfeeding causes the plant to overproduce leaves, when really you want it putting its energy into flowering and fruiting, instead of producing tonnes of leaves.

My boyfriend’s father grew up on a tomato farm, and insists that I need to remove all but two of the most promising stalks from the plant to make sure that it fruits well. I couldn’t bear to do that, but I did cut it back by about 25% around two weeks ago, which didn’t seem to do the plant any harm. The plant flowered soon after, and now I have five little tomatoes growing bigger by the day, with plenty of flowers as well.

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Just one of the many flower clusters, plus a fresh little green tomato popping out in the background (middle right). Flowers turn into tomatoes, soon the flower will be a little brown dangly bit on the bottom of a tomato.

When I asked Sarah for advice about my oversized tomato, she suggested treating the plant to something she called “pinching”, to make sure the plant isn’t over producing new leaf growth. This involves finding the small new growth budding in the forks of the stems, and pinching them off so that they don’t turn into another leafing arm of the plant. The photo below shows the kind of new growth that I mean (but this has been left to grow for a little bit too long!)

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It’s best to “pinch” off the new fuzzy growth that grows in the forks of stems – it stops the plant getting too leafy. It should be concentrating on growing tomatoes instead!

I am trying not to get my hopes up too high about my tomato harvest, because I have heard from a few places that tomatoes are notoriously attractive to possums (which we have a lot of), rats, and birds. The worst part is that they often take only one bite from the reddest part of the plant, and then leave you to find the grizzled and useless remains the next morning. I have put netting over the plant in an attempt to deter this happening, I bought it from Easy Pest Supplies with a few other bits and pieces. A 4x5m piece cost me $14.95, seems to be doing the trick so far. Fingers crossed!

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