Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fingers crossed in tomato land

Is tomato-growing really gardening, or is just horticultural gambling? I really shouldn't feel so nervous about a mere backyard crop, but I've got into that terrible danger zone called "so far so good" with this year's tomato crop and there's a real risk of a successful crop this year. No wonder I have my fingers crossed.

This photo was taken about five minutes ago, and it's what I usually get with cherry tomatoes. Lots of them. And all sweet and delicious and terribly tempting to eat as I wander by. But they fruit so prolifically and happily no-one will ever notice that 25 have gone missing in the last two weeks. Cherry tomatoes never make me nervous. They're reliable and trouble-free. They're tomatoes that let me sleep easy.

Here's the full extent of Tomato Land here in my tiny plot. Four low, spreading 'Roma' egg-tomato plants, one tall-growing 'Grosse Lisse' salad tomato plant, and a couple of 'Tiny Tim' cherry tomato plants scrambling around for good measure.

There are lots of bunches of 'Roma' tomatoes looking like this right now. All suspiciously healthy, green and growing fast. Normally, the 'Roma' tomato is meant to be a tall, staking type, but the seed packet said this one is ideal for pots and doesn't need staking. The truth seems to be is that these plants sprawl sideways and still need staking with small stakes to keep their heavily laden lower branches off the ground.

The tall 'Grosse Lisse' salad tomato bush is rising steadily, developing numerous bunches of big, green gorgeous fruits along the way. The plastic 'thing' in the left of the photo is detailed below. It's my secret weapon.

It's a home-made fruit fly trap, using Australia's national breakfast spread, Vegemite. Just mix up a couple of spoonfuls of Vegemite in a jar, add enough water to fill the bottom few inches of the bottle, shake a lot to mix it all up, then pour it in. The yeast in the Vegemite attracts the fruit flies, and my nifty little entrance funnel on the left is where they check in forever.

As well as the Vegemite bottle, which has snared lots of victims already, I am using another organic fruit fly spray which I have blogged about a while back, in November. This organic spray needs a lot of re-application, especially after rain, so I thought I'd take out some extra insurance via the tried and proven Vegemite trick.

So, why am I nervous? Simple, disasters in previous summers of tomato growing have taught me that "so far so good" is pretty well par for the course in December. Every gourmet pest in Sydney fancies nibbling on a tomato, but fruit fly are the worst, as they lay their eggs into the fruit and their grubs hatch and start munching from the inside. And if summer gets too humid, the fungal diseases make themselves right at home.

Add up all these factors and you've got nothing but terrific fun! Home-grown tomatoes do taste magnificent, but with a little sprinkling of "I grew that" magic dust over the top, I suspect I'll enjoy that real home-grown flavour just a little bit more than my guests – if my crop makes it all the way to harvest in a month or two, that is.


learnchinese said...

nice blog, well done.

Sunita said...

Jamie, I use something similar to trap the fruit flies from messing up the mangoes in my garden. Much more rustic, though... squished banana pulp (or toddy) mixed up with a little pesticide and the whole thing offered up in little coconut shells hung all around my trees. I feel good that nothing chemical is coming in contact with my fruits or trees, a lot of excess bananas get used up and all the pesky fruit flies are history!
But your method sounds even better. No pesticide at all! I wonder whether it would work with our big trees filled with fruit, though.

patientgardener said...

I'm in the process of wondering what tomatos to grow next year.I have grown gardeners delight the last two years and whilst they have been OK I havent been delighted!! I have room for 3 tomato plants in my greenhouse and then some outside so I thought I might trial 3 different varieties both inside and out. Think I will do a post soon asking for recommendations

Victoria said...

It's wonderful to read about tomatoes in December when here in the UK the temperature is 0C. Your plot looks incredibly lush (and incredibly fruit-fly-free!)

Thanks For 2 Day said...

It must be nice to be growing tomatos while we in the US are sitting here looking out the window at our drab and sleeping gardens! The fruit-fly catcher is ingenious. Hope your tomatos turn out by the hundreds! Yummy:) Jan/ThanksFor2Day

Michelle said...

Jamie, dare I say, don't want to jinx you, your tomatoes look fabulous! I'm at the end of tomato season and my plants are looking a bit scraggly. With a blast of very cold Canadian weather scheduled to dip down into California next week, I think the end is near.

The fruit fly trap is ingenious! Now, could you put your mind to inventing an aphid trap?

And, hey, thanks for faving me on Blotanical. I'll be baaack.