Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nervous waits


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.

Raised from seed, this is the seedling on the day I planted it out, October 3.

46 days later and fruit is on the way, but not for another two or so weeks, I'd guess.

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.




10 comments:

Michelle said...

I don't want to jinx you by saying... well, you know, but hey, break a, um, stem?

Liss said...

eeek. That would make me nervous, that's a pretty devastating turnaround in 2 weeks! Is it worth you taking them off the vine and ripening them on a windowsill bit by bit?

Love the furry stems on the Alaskans! Are they sweet?

Melinda said...

Hope your tomatoes come through for you this year Jamie! I agree tomatoes make me nervous too, as do roses and citrus for some reason.

prue said...

Hope they work this time around. It is always such a nervous wait Did you ever work out what the wilt was? I have a strange wilt here that only affects the tomatoes grown from seed and I am convinced its got something to do with the fungus gnats! I just pulled 8 from the balcony but I am sure a few more will need to go before it is irradicated. All the best with these early varieties.

Jamie said...

Michelle, I think my whole post was self-jinxing!

Liss, not sure about the Alsaka's flavour. Reading comments online and it varies from bland to brilliant, but if they are as good as normal cherries, they should be great. And until I see something bad happening, I plan to leave the fruit on the vine, to get the best possible flavour.

And Melinda, I think every gardener has a plant that puts them on edge. I can imagine there are quite a few rose and citrus 'sufferers' out there.

Grace Peterson said...

Jamie ~~ You are definitely off to a great start. My fingers are crossed for a blight-free harvest!

Jamie said...

Prue, given your thrips problems you won't be pleased to hear this, but my mystery disease was (probably) tomato spotted wilt virus, which is spread by thrips.

That was the most likely candidate. As it went from healthy to dead in just two weeks, it was almost certainly a virus, but you'd need proper tests to determine which one. Tomato spotted wilt was the most likely suspect.

J.C. said...

I am just as nervous as you when reading your posting. Will be cheering for those tomatoes to ripen before the disease or bugs get to them. Bet you will continue to be anxious till the day they can be harvested. Sometimes this is the thrill that gardening brings us! Cheer on, Jamie!!

Chookie said...

Same feeling of nervousness here, especially after that white leaf appeared on one of my Brandywines!
Fingers crossed for us all...

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