How to protect tomatoes in unstable spring weather
October 21, 2016
Spring is the time of great excitement and anticipation in the garden. The plants begin to grow faster as the weather warms and the promise of tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum and fresh basil hangs in the air. Social media is increasingly lifting the profile of home vegetable gardening. I think this is a wonderful thing but it also has it’s down side. In the past two years I have noticed a heightened sense urgency and need to “keep up with the Jonses” of popular Instagram and Facebook accounts as spring progresses. While the average home may grow a few tomato plants to enjoy in summer meals, you can see rows and rows of tomato plants of multiple varieties half a meter tall at this time of year on Instagram and other social media. I have had emails this week from people asking me “help! my seeds have not germinated and I am now too late to plant tomatoes”. This is simply not true. I am yet to send out my summer newsletter filled with planting advice (be sure to sign up if you have not done so yet).
My tips to plant and grow tomatoes during the unstable months of spring are listed below. Remember, it is not a race! It is not too late to start your tomato seeds. The most common time for people to plant tomatoes into the garden is in November around the date of Melbourne Cup. I have planted them all the way up to mid December and generally we have tomatoes producing into March and April. One of the reasons we enjoy home grown tomatoes for an extended period of time each year is because I stagger the planting across many months, planting a few at a time.
If you are in the cooler regions of Australia it is wise to wait a little longer to add your tomatoes to the garden. The weather this spring has been more unstable than usual. We live in Victoria, in the Geelong region. This week we have had one beautiful sunny day, a cool day, a cold day and there are extreme weather warnings for high winds and rain forecast in the coming days. I am still wearing multiple layers of wool clothing most days, waiting for the sun to start to provide some warmth. All of this adds up to conditions that are not yet optimal for planting tomatoes.
I love spending time on social media connecting and interacting with other garden and food lovers. It is a great opportunity to learn from others and to find some wonderful inspiration. Social media allows you to take a look at the most glorious gardens, productive spaces and ideas for creating an edible oasis in your backyard. Enjoy learning from these ideas, and experimenting to see how they would work in your climate, space, and with your resources and time. Experienced gardeners can have strong views around the ideal time to plant tomatoes – it is a topic of contention.
So what should YOU do?
Regardless of when you plant them, get to know what works in your space. Make a diary note of what variety you plant and when. Follow this up with a note during the season about how well the plant grew. This will help you to know when and what to plant at the same time next year. If you add your tomatoes to the garden across multiple weeks this is a good way to work out the very best timing for your garden.
I have a three plants I have added to the garden and there are a few seedlings that have germinated from compost and in areas of the garden tomatoes were planted last year. I have planted just a small number of seeds to date that are now ready to go into the garden when I choose to add them. Social media does make me feel a little anxious about this but I also know that if I follow my usual routine, wait until the weather warms and the pests subside then we will have an abundance of tomatoes over summer and into autumn.
If you feel like you MUST get your tomatoes into the ground now, or asap, follow the tips below to help ensure your plants get the best possible chance to flourish and begin to set fruit.
Although spring is a time of great growth in the garden it is also the time that many garden pests emerge. You may have problems with snails, slaters and slugs. These pests come out of a dormant period to feast on the fresh juicy new seedlings that you are adding to your garden. They are a treat for these pests so you need to protect the seedlings you are anticipating large crops from.
These are my tips for planting tomatoes now:
Once your tomato seedlings are flourishing have a read of these posts I have written on growing and training them.
Have a great weekend.
Are your tomatoes in or are you waiting for warmer weather?
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