By John Gannon
Personally I find gardening relaxing and therapeutic. I like watching things grow, gaining a yield, and cooking up the bounty. Growing locally in your backyard or pots on the balcony introduces you to the world of diverse plants, many which are nutritious and healthy to eat. I like cooking the healthy fresh produce which tastes delicious. Modern food is transported large distances around the world, using vastly more fossil fuels and pesticides which result in more pollution for our environment, and a larger carbon footprint, than organic locally grown vegetables in healthy soil.
What to Grow now?
Tomatoes can be successfully grown in raised garden beds, no-dig garden beds, pots and in the ground. There are two main types of tomatoes. ‘Determinate’ or bush tomatoes are recommended for beginners as they don’t grow as big or require pruning, and require less staking, if at all. They fruit all at once. They grow smaller than ‘indeterminate’ or vining tomatoes which keep flowering and fruiting all season till they die in the frost. Vining tomatoes can grow from 1.8-3metres. Good bush varieties include ‘Principe Borghese’ and ‘Roma’. Bush varieties grow up to 1.2 metres.
Grow in pots
Pick a warm position with plenty of sun (6+hrs). In Australia, 6 hours is plenty, and the morning sun is preferable to the afternoon heat of the sun. If you wish you can keep it out of the afternoon heat in summer. Obtain as a minimum a 20-litre pot which is about 32.5 cm deep and 32.5cm wide. If you have a pot smaller than this you can try to grow dwarf tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. Bigger pots are better such as 40cm wide and 40-50cm deep for vine tomatoes. Make sure the pot drains well. Fill with Organic potting mixes such as Searles herb and veggie mix. Transplant tomato seedling. Water thoroughly. Make four small holes around the plant’s roots and add a teaspoon of pelletised organic fertiliser into each hole in late spring and early summer.
Once plants start to fruit, it is recommended to use a liquid fertiliser such as Seasol or worm tea weekly or fortnightly. Lay down some organic mulch around the plant to reduce heat stress in hot weather. Plants may need more watering in pots, particularly during hot weather two times a day. You can test the moisture level by pushing your finger into the soil. Water deeply twice a week or more in hot weather, try to keep it moist but not too wet. 3 In extreme heat metal foil can be wrapped around the pot to prevent the roots being burnt. Stake lightly upon planting, if you’re growing a vine tomato, put in more stakes and or use a tomato cage. Traditionally tomatoes are transplanted between AFL grand final and Melbourne cup day. Another method of planting is after the last frost date, or when the temperature is above 10-12 degrees Celsius at night.
Tomato and Basil soup recipe!
Prep time: 10mins
Cooking time: 30mins
Total time: 40mins
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 3 cloves garlic chopped fine
- 2 carrots peeled and diced
- 1 onion
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup of water
- 8 Roma tomatoes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Melt butter in large pot. Fry carrot, garlic and onions, until onion is translucent.
- Add water, stock and simmer for 20 min.
- Add tomatoes and simmer for 10min.
- Take it off the stove and blend ingredients using a bamix or hand held blender.
- Add herbs.
- Season to taste and add lemon juice.
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