Planting tomatoes and harvesting broccoli

Planting tomatoes
  • It’s a good idea to wait to plant your tomatoes until you can put your hand deep into the soil and it feels warm.
  • It’s also best to have added calcium to your tomato bed 2-3 weeks before planting so that it’s assimilated into the soil, but if you haven’t already done so, you can add calcium at the time of planting.
  • Calcium comes in two forms – Gypsum if your soil is alkaline and Garden Lime if it’s acidic. See here for how to test the pH of your soil.
  • Tomatoes like a pH of between 5.5 and 7.5, and as Rob’s soil is alkaline (he had a reading of pH 7) he’s added compost to make it more acidic.
  • Put your stakes in next. Rob favours metal waratahs because they last forever and can hold up the weight of the fruit that a tomato plant bears. Untreated wooden stakes will rot after a year or two. Stakes should be around 1800mm high from ground level when hammered in.
  • Rob places his stakes a metre apart because he’s going to grow companion plants in between, but also because plants do best (particularly in humid climates) with lots of fresh air circulating around them. If you have a small space you’ll naturally set the stakes out closer.
  • Dig a deep hole because it’s best to plant much of the stem of your tomato plants below the surface. This way the stem turns into roots and makes the plant much stronger. There’s no need to pull off the leaves of the stem you bury (they’ll just rot off). If you do pull them off you’re opening the plant up to infection.
  • If your friable soil is not very deep or if you live in a cooler climate, try planting your tomatoes sideways in the ground. The plant will correct itself and grow upwards towards the sun.
  • Sprinkle rock dust with seaweed (Natures Organic Fertiliser) around each plant and water in well.
  • When the flowers set we’ll feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser and when the fruit starts appearing we’ll cover the plants with netting to keep the birds off.
Harvesting our broccoli
  • Just over 6 weeks ago we fed up our young broccoli plants with sheep pellets, chicken poo and volcanic rock dust, then covered all that over with organic compost. We also sprayed the plants with an organic caterpillar spray.
  • Now the broccoli heads are ready for harvesting.
  • The brassica family are gross feeders, but it’s important to feed all plants during the growing period to keep them healthy and disease resistant.
  • Keep a watchful eye on your broccoli heads as, especially in the warmer weather, the flowerets open up quickly and you can find your plant going to seed. But you also want them to grow to a good size, so it’s important not to pick them too soon either.
  • It’s difficult to grow broccoli and cabbage during the spring and summer months because of the white butterfly and plants going to seed prematurely. We suggest changing over to leafy salad greens in the summer and you can look forward to broccoli again in the cooler months.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes