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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Stannus

Late bloomers

If you have been wondering what has happened to your tomato crop this year, you are not alone! I have heard many anecdotes that the tomato harvest has been poor both here in Tasmania and on the mainland. Our story is no different. However, we have had a little glimmer of hope this week

Staked tomato plants in a garden enclosure
Tomato, tomato? Wherefore art thou?

You can see a lot of leafy growth here. Perhaps I have overdone the nitrogenous fertiliser. I pruned these plants quite hard last weekend to open them up. But where are the tomatoes? There are flowers, but I would hardly describe these plants as floriferous. I really should have applied some potash to help out here. You have to get done on your hands and knees to see any fruit.

Ripe tomatoes in an enclosed garden bed
There they are! Those ripe tomatoes will not hide from me any longer

We grow cool climate tomato varieties as most of you probably do here in Tasmania. The first plant this season to produce ripe fruit is a variety called 'Stupice'. My neighbours gave me a plant a couple of years ago, telling me that it is a reliable cropper for them. One of the best gardening tips I can give to you is that if you want to know what you can grow in your garden, find out what is growing well in your neighbours' gardens. Of course, there will always be some differences between gardens, e.g. building overshadowing a patch. However, this is a pretty good rule of thumb. So, I am not surprised that this potato-leafed tomato was the first to ripen this year.

A single ripe tomato
Stupice: You little beauty! And the Thai Basil flower in the background is pretty good too

That said, as of Sunday, 21 February April, our tomato harvest stood at 2 tomatoes weighing a total of 52 grams.

Two ripe tomatoes being weighed on a kitchen scale
I am optimistic we will harvest more tomatoes. Not sure how many though!

The season's weather has been all over the shop, excuse the vernacular. There has been a lot of rainfall recently but in huge downpours rather than gentle showers. In the last fortnight, we have had two rainfall events, one equalling 84 mls in less than 12 hours, and the other 54 mls in a similar time period. Daily temperatures have been uneven also.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, daytime temperatures over 32 degrees C and/or night-time temperatures below 12 degrees C will diminish pollination in tomatoes. High humidity creates sticky pollen which does not transfer well. We have had wonderful warm weather this weekend. However, it does not look like these conditions will last long, looking at the Bureau of Meteorology's MetEye local forecast app. MetEye provides detailed 7-day wind, wave, rain, and weather forecast maps for boating and farming for all locations across Australia. This is a wonderful tool. If you don't already use it, get onto it.

Anyway, summer in Liffey appears to have been a sporadic event this year.

I am not going to wipe off the 2020 harvest yet! Last year, we picked tomatoes up until mid-April. And there are tomatoes on our plants. However, those bottles we have washed and ready for sauces will have to wait a lot longer by the looks of it.

How is your tomato crop going this season? Share your stories with us on Facebook.

If you want to know why your tomato plants performed differently this year, come along to the Tasmanian Garlic and Tomato Festival in Selbourne on Sunday 21 March 2021. Annette and Nevil Reed from Tasmanian Natural Garlic and Tomatoes will be conducting tours of their farm, talking about how this season went along the way. Nevil will also be one of our guest speakers at the Q&A Panel, along with Tino Carnevale from ABC TV's Gardening Australia and Rees Campbell, author of Eat Wild Tasmanian.

I hope to see you there.

A bientôt!


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