Apart from stinging nettles and Triffids, do any plants make you nervous? Tomatoes make me nervous. I think this is the symptom of being a trauma victim, because last year's tomato crop was a sudden, unexpected, dare-I-say-it 'tragic' disaster, and this year's crop is following the same early, worrying pattern. At the moment everything is looking terrific, just like the same time last year. And that's got me nervous. Let me explain.
Here's a totally healthy young 'Alaska' tomato, photo taken this morning. Small-sized but bigger than a cherry tomato, there are plenty of them forming. This is part of my experiment in growing so-called cool climate tomatoes early in the season, hoping for these fast-growers to crop early before the worst of our summer bugs and diseases arrive.
Alaska is a 'bush' type tomato, which means it spreads sideways like you wouldn't believe and it doesn't need staking. Seemingly, everything is OK with it. But that's how things were at roughly the same time last year...
This is a shot from last year. Mid-December 2008, Tomato Land in full swing. Low-growing bush-type Romas in the foreground, taller-growing 'Grosse Lisse' in the background. Seemingly, everything OK.
Two weeks later, December 31, 2008, and the dreaded mystery disease has struck, the plants yellowed and wilted rapidly, exposing masses of green fruits that were never going to make it to the ripe, red stage. Every day it got more wilted and hopeless, and so I pulled up the lot. Rats! 'But there's always next year', I told myself, and so I'm back in the tomato-growing business again.
As well as planting the cool climate 'Alaska' I also raised from seed some Canadian 'Beaver Lodge Slicer' toms and planted them out on October 3 as well. (And yep, I am growing them in totally different garden beds to last year's disaster crop.)
Also a bush-type tomato, these have grown even better than the Alaskas, but they are in a slightly better spot in the garden, getting perfect sunshine.
Beaver Lodge Slicer fruit are bigger than Alaska's, about 2.5 inches (7cm) across, and there are plenty of them forming. I've used an organic spray called Success to control caterpillars, which have been seen, but I want to grow these guys organically, so no other sprays, dusts etc will be used. They're on their own.
As I dutifully water them every morning I keep on saying to myself "come on guys, ripen up. Go on, you can do it!" Nothing will hurry them along, I suspect. So I'll have to learn the virtues of patience. It will be a nervous wait, I can assure you.