When you move to a new spot it can take a while to get the hang of the new environment and adjust your technique and style to the new conditions. For the most part I have been quite happy with how things grow here, but since we moved I have not had a lot of luck with tomatoes. I enviously watched other people complain about a glut as they harvested tomatoes by the bucket load.
But not me – my plants were fizzling out long before I managed to even full up a bowl. I think it may have been a combination of things. I overcompensated for the harsh environment and loved them too much. I ended up with Pith Necrosis more than once – which is an early season disease that enjoys a tomato plant that has been lavished with too much nitrogen combined with cool night time temperatures and high humidity. This never bodes well for a productive season when the plants are handicapped at the start.
I think this season I have managed to overcome this, and I held back on the excessive nitrogen rich love. I can’t take credit for the temperatures and humidity, but it must have been more suitable this season as my plants are looking the best they ever have at this time of year. They look normal – a lovely shade of green instead of the usual bruised yellow/purple look they have had in previous years across their rolled leaves.
This encouraging start has made me determined to tackle the problem that normally comes next. The dreaded Tomato Potato Psyllid. I don’t know if it was particularly bad here because the plants were already suffering because of the Pith Necrosis. A pest can spot a poorly plant a mile off and a poorly plant doesn’t have what it takes to shake of problems. Or it could have just been here anyway. It could also be that the TPP would have become a problem at the old place as it is a relatively new problem on the rise.
Over the last few seasons, I have been regularly preventatively spraying in preparation for the imminent arrival of this nasty sap sucker and even alternating between two of the best sprays for it – Yates Mavrik and Yates Success Ultra to ensure if and when they showed up, they didn’t become resistant to one or the other.
But my efforts usually unravelled when we went away for the summer holidays and taking my eye off my crops for a couple of weeks was enough for the TPP to settle in and make themselves at home. Not only are they stubborn and difficult to get rid of, but more often than not they carry with them a bacterial disease that once introduced into the plant cause an impending demise to the tomato plants.
So, this season – with the healthiest looking plants I’ve seen in years in my garden, I want to keep it that way, and I decided I didn’t want to mess about with sprays if taking an annual holiday renders the exercise pointless, so I ordered an insect mesh.
It is all very well having the fabric, but I needed to decide how to wrap it around my plants. The plants are still small compared with how big they will grow. I’ve given them much more space than I normally do and have them trained to grow along what is essentially a fence – waratah posts with washing line wire threaded between them. It works well – especially as I never manage to get the desired single stem and already have some multi-stemmed medusas forming where I missed removing some of the laterals by just a few days and they were too big to risk taking them out.
Taking into consideration the height of the support structure and the height the plants could be, I made a frame from rebar and irrigation hose. Then I threw the insect mesh over the top. The next question was how to pin it down. I didn’t want to put holes in it – in case the TPP could sneak in. After much indecision a combination of ideas came from Hubby the Un-Gardener and me. I thought about rolling up the bottom of the fabric around the sides with a bamboo pole but couldn’t figure out how to secure it. Hubby the Un-Gardener suggested Tool Clips – not that we knew they were called that, so had fun trying to explain what we wanted at the hardware store. Turns out Tool Clips were perfect to hold the bamboo coiled fabric in place and help keep the whole structure taut but will give easy access for maintenance and harvesting.
And now my hope for once again joining in the great tomato glut is looking pretty good.
Come again soon – Summer starts next week.
Sarah the Gardener : o)