Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Tomatoes and other exchanges in the Edible Patch

I think this will be a tomato year.

Melbournites traditionally plant tomatoes between the Grand Final and the Melbourne Cup but as we
are cooler up here - a little - I am planting on the late side.

I’ve just planted cherry tomatoes: red Tommy Toe, Little Sugar Yellow, orange Sundrop and, our favourite, red Sweet Bite; these came together as seedlings which I potted on and which grew quite tall in my tiny polyflute glasshouse (made by J 20-odd years ago).
I’ve pricked out seedlings of Brandy Wine Pink and Digger’s 5 Colour Heirloom Mix tomatoes that I grew from seed and just germinated are seedlings from a black cherry tomato with unknown pollen parentage. This was all very exciting and far more than usual before a generous friend visited and now we have a `Digger’s Mix’ (large fruit I assume) and some from her Italian father, delicious she says, and known by their donors names, Costa’s and Bao’s.

Now this is truly crazy, I know, but the Black Cherry tomato seeds I’ve just received from Digger’s Seeds are calling on me to be sown: just a few. Black Russian has always been my favourite tasting tom and my chef sister says these are even better; these will be guaranteed Black Cherry tomatoes so one more plant seems reasonable in our patch of about 15 square metres available at any time (hens on one fifth and paths taking away some space).
Generally we have about 3 or 5 tomato plants; this year I will plant between 6 (cherry) and 10 (large) minimum to a maximum of 30 plants overall. Some plants will need to be tucked in amongst the beans and others just planted closely. I have no idea where the pumpkins will go.

This may be the season to follow the good life: to learn how to bottle, sauce, pickle, dry, semi-dry and maybe make chutney, with relish (sorry).

We seem to be having a cool spring right now; the tomatoes may have a very slow start (no fruit before Christmas this year), but we might extend the tomato season with a big plastic cloche and see how long we can hold off that cool autumn weather from our warmth-loving tomatoes.

Lettuces, though, are flourishing as this wonderful rain continues. (Lack of water causes bolting to seed, of course, and bitter leaves.) Our friend brought seeds of lettuces too, for sowing thickly and cutting as young buttery leaves, and a much-needed rosemary. She took away excess pumpkin plants, a tiny purple iris and a pink tomato; a wonderful exchange.

I really don’t think Melbourne is the world most livable city – the city limits are too bloated by far! – but our climate is desirable for gardening and tomatoes (along with other salad veg) grow well here for a few months each year; that is truly a blessing.

Jill Weatherhead is garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design ( working in Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges and Victoria.

No comments:

Post a Comment