Sunday, July 13, 2014

the tomato week

 'The Member Dr Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KCB AO'
Tim Storrier's entry in the 'Archibald'
Art Gallery of NSW
Tomato stains a plenty and a 'traveller's tool' to please all the ladies, this portrait won the 'Packing Room' prize at the start of the week.
 Having a yarn over the back fence during the week with a neighbour who speaks with a measured Tasmanian drawl, I was told of his on going soil preparation for his vegetables this summer. This involves dragging large bags of sea-grass/seaweed from the lake's edge and much composting and digging in. My input in the conversation was about tomato varieties and my desire to plant a large fruiting type. The reply came back that his parents in Tassie grow tomatoes so large that just one slice will cover a slice of bread and they weigh almost a kilo. "Yeah but there are no fruit flies in Tasmania" I replied "and here you have to have your crop all harvested by Christmas to avoid the fungal diseases of January and February......"
 Now I could be accused of being something of a dilettante when it comes to tomato growing. Last year I grew none but the year before I had a terrific crop of Romas. I used the Mildura method for growing the Romas, that is like a 'commercial crop' by letting them sprawl over the ground and giving them just appropriate fertilizers at fruit set etc. Too easy, no stakes, removing laterals or spraying.
 So this year I have decided to put a bit of effort into growing a descent sized one and have been doing the appropriate 'homework' as preparation. In frost free areas like here on the coast, the 'early varieties' such as 'Rouge de Marmande' can be started off from seed now. 

 One of the books I referred to about early tomatoes was this one by Percy Joseph Hurley (1893-1983). Originally published in 1951, this edition dates from 1962 and is full of good tips week by week even though the sub-title of 'young poisoner's handbook' may be appropriate given the litany of chemicals on offer. His pen name of 'Waratah' refers to his work as horticultural correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald from 1937 to 1969. He gardened at Lindfield in Sydney at a time when gardening was taken more seriously than it is today. Rouge de Marmande is described as the 'North Coast Winter-cropper','setting fruit in mid-winter in frost free areas'. I assume this means you can plant seed now for a late spring early summer crop or in March for a winter crop. Given the above average temperatures this June I imagine it would be quite successful at either planting time.
The other varieties he recommends for sowing seed of now are the perennial favourite 'Grosse Lisse', 'Break o Day' and 'Rumsey Cross'. All of which are still available today from specialist suppliers. 'Break o Day' was released in 1931 and Rumsey Cross from the 1950's bred by local seed merchant Eric Rumsey who sold his business to Yates in the 1960's.
So for now I am sticking with Rouge de Marmande and am hoping for some nice big fruit by early summer to pass over the fence to my neighbour with a big smile.

1 comment:

  1. We are currently growing a sprawling small, oval cherry type tomato which sprang up by itself last year and has continued the tradition. It's a pretty golden colour with a ruby blush (sounds poetic but it's not red and it's not yellow), trouble is it is absolutely tasteless! We didn't buy it so I'm assuming it is a hybrid from some fancy tomato we bought, that reverted. Do you think that could happen? I'm hopeful that this year it might have some taste. I'll send you a photo when they ripen, if the possums don't get them. My ex loved to grow the Grosse Lisse and they are a tasty tomato.
    PS: have you seen this tree? Fascinating story have a look.