Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Salute to the Solanum lycopersicum

Tomatoes.. it must be summer!

My first tomato, harvested last weekend: a hefty Japanese Black Trifele. Delicious and worked well in the Piemontese peppers I made for supper on Sunday. Many more on the way.

My second tomato, harvested August 21: a Black Krim, but its shape looks more like a Costoluto to me. Oh well. Mysterious goings on in the tomato patch.

I am waiting eagerly to see what comes of my one Speckled Roman plant as the fruits are shaping up well, but look like they have a little way to go before they reach full heft and start to colour.

Also in process: Roma, Persimmon

and some very vigorous Bearo plum tomatoes. I'm told the plants can grow up to 15 feet, and one of mine is certainly trying, but it's hit that old ceiling and will have to stop and spend some more time cultivating its fruit while the season lasts.

All very happy, but there is a dark spot or two to report. Early blight has hit my tomato patch. I think what happened was that after I'd potted them up (seeded them early March) they grew rapidly but too fast for the unseasonable weather - the spring was so chilly I didn't want to plant them out before I went away for a week or so in late May. So I hit on the idea of rigging makeshift greenhouses out of a plastic compost bin, a wading pool previously used as a planter, and some Reemay (row cover) held on with clothes pegs.

It worked brilliantly: the plants were kept nice and warm and they didn't dry out while I was away. They grew like gangbusters and were busting out of the top of the enclosure by planting time the beginning of June. Unfortunately, the conditions inside my little greenhouses were also perfect for early blight which needs heat, humidity and poor air circulation to flourish. When I planted them I noticed a couple had stem lesions

and others had spotty leaves.

Nothing for it but to watch closely for signs of leaf lesions (note characteristic "bullseye")

and get rid of them as soon as possible (not in the compost). I can spray the plants with compost tea or horsetail tea to boost their immunity, and the tomatoes seem to be developing well,

but I'm guessing the spores are all over the tomato patch now so I will just have to plant something different in there next year.

Nonetheless, they're plucky plants, these tomatoes, with a real passion to grow. I had some very healthy prunings - some with flowers - and was curious to see how they'd do if I stuck them in a bucket of water

and voila! they sprouted generous roots,

and are even bearing fruit in a few cases. I assume the fruit will be pretty tasteless... but will let them go to see what happens. I'd also just stuck prunings into soil to see if they'd root: thought they might given the vigour of anything I've put into my compost in the past, and indeed they did. They rooted even faster than the ones in the bucket, I'd say. But were slower to fruit: could be they didn't have as well-developed stalks as the ones in the bucket. I planted one of the bucket plants and will see what develops of its fruit:

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