As spring gives way to early summer, nature must surely be at its most stunning and productive best. Trees, shrubs and garden flowers are exploding into bloom creating a riot of colour in our gardens, while in the vegie patch there’s the promise of bumper crops of delicious, nutritious produce.
Out at the Patch, thanks to our gardening volunteers and growers, there’s been a burst of new life, both in our Food Forest and Market Garden area, with an abundance of seasonal vegetables coming into fruit, including interesting varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, onions, garlic, lettuce, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, leek, beetroot, radishes, potatoes, silverbeet, kale, rocket, carrots, rhubarb, rocket herbs and more.
This of course means that in the coming weeks we will have an even wider range of fresh, organically grown produce for sale at the Farmgate Stall, so if you’re looking for healthy, yummy vegies to add to the Christmas lunch menu, make sure you head out there on a Friday morning to see what’s on offer.
If you’re growing your own tomatoes, your plants may well be producing tasty fruit already. Don’t forget to give your plants some extra TLC as the weather heats up. Daytime temperatures consistently above 32°C or nighttime temperatures consistently above 24°C create all kinds of stress for tomato plants:
• It’s too hot for tomatoes to be pollinated, which means fewer fruit.
• Heat stress forces your plants to increase transpiration to survive.
• It slows down production.
• Heat stress also makes your plant more vulnerable to diseases and pests.
To help your plants survive and stay healthy, there are several things you can do:
• Work out the best place to plant in the first place. If your summer afternoons are the equivalent of a bake off, plant tomatoes where they get 6-8 hours of morning and early afternoon sun – or morning sun and dappled afternoon sun.
• Keep plants watered – once or maybe even twice a day when temperatures are consistently high. However, only increase frequency of watering, not the amount of water, to avoid water logging.
• Give them shade, especially during the hottest hours of the day. The most common method is to use shadecloth, a specialised fabric set over a structure or on supports that you drape over your plants. Use shadecloth that provides 30%–50% light exclusion.
Tomatoes will be sweeter and more nutritious if allowed to ripen on the vine, however you can harvest your fruit when they are in a mature green state – this means the tomatoes are mostly green, with hints of red beginning to appear around the exterior of the fruit. Fruit will continue to ripen after picking.