Tis the season to be jolly! This month we’re delateralling our tomatoes, planting watermelon and making comfrey liquid.
Our tomatoes are growing well. If we leave them as they are, they’ll become too bushy and prevent air from circulating. It’s having good air movement that prevents fungal disease, which tomatoes are all too often prone to.
If you live in a humid region, choose a day to delateral your tomatoes when the sky is blue and there’s a breeze. That will also help reduce fungal infection striking.
The key for us is to find two good strong leaders and remove other ones, working from the ground up. We choose two as that’s enough for one stake and by choosing two, rather than one, the plant grows wider rather than higher.
From the bottom up, start tidying, in particular taking off the laterals that are growing downwards. Take a lateral and flip it up then down and it should snap off. If it doesn’t, you can use secateurs to make the cut, but dip them in methylated spirits first to sterilise them.
We advocate painting Flowers of Sulphur on the wounds to enhance healing and avoid infection entering. This year I was fastidious in painting the powder on every wound as I created it, rather than on finishing each plant.
Flowers of Sulphur has become a bit hard to find, but you can try here.
It’s a good idea to have a look at Rob in this video to get an idea of what you’re wanting to achieve.
Nip out any little laterals you can see coming away in the crooks.
Tie up with a soft ribbon tie – we double it round the lateral and then tie it to the stake.
This year I gave the plants another dose of fertilisers – a couple of handfuls of Dave’s Humate concentrated compost and the same of our new Morganics fertiliser. This is ensure our plants are healthy and strong. I followed it up with some barley straw. Now we can see the little marigolds and basil doing their thing.
If you look closely at the image above you’ll see tomatoes coming away on our Moneymaker plant. As soon as I see a hint of red, I’ll put the nets up. It’s so nice not having them up, as you can see what the plants need more easily, but bird netting is ultra important if you want to enjoy your crop.
By contrast to our indeterminate tomatoes, the Scoresby Dwarf tomatoes are left to their own devices – no delateralling and no tying up. Rob had huge fruit off his last season, so we’ll see how well I can do to compare! Looking good already.
Our comfrey is growing well so it’s a good time to make a comfrey brew to apply to our tomatoes as a liquid fertiliser in the coming weeks. Pretty simple – pick leaves and pop in a bucket; fill with water to the top of the leaves; place a lid on top but not firmly, so air can get in and out; leave for 2-4 weeks until the leaves have broken down; dilute to the colour of weak tea (probably 1/4 comfrey to 3/4 water) and apply over the leaves for increased production.
Next it was time to plant out our watermelons. I sowed three, but the third one got broken in the wind while it was hardening off outside. Anyway there’s only room for two here.
Watermelons, like the other cucurbits – zucchini, cucumber and pumpkin, like really rich soil, so we’re adding compost, chicken manure and fertiliser to the area first and mixing it all in with our fork.
Be careful taking the plants out of their pots as they’re sensitive to root disturbance. In fact it’s quite a good idea to give the pots a water before planting to help keep the soil and roots together.
After planting, a little water and mulch, and net them until they get established.
Speaking of established, our other summer crop bed is taking off nicely – here are zucchini, cucumber, sweetcorn and pumpkins – all very happy thanks to the warm wet season we’ve had so far. Zucchini planted earlier than the others is already producing.
Don’t forget to take off any side shoots on your sweetcorn, keeping just the main leader, so all the energy goes into the main stem.
Lastly, our eggplants and capsicums are looking nice and healthy. The rain has been beneficial.
From Jan and Rob