“All good things must come to an end.” - A pessimist without a pickling recipe.
It feels like only yesterday that we were tying tomatoes to trellises and making an offering to the patch gods for a good harvest. As the door is closing on tomato season for another year, we are sticking our foot in to keep it ajar just wide enough for some End of Season Tomato Tips. Consider this your last dance with summer before the music comes to an abrupt halt, the house lights are flicked on and your parents have entered the building to pick you up, even though you clearly stated for them to meet you out the front.
Your patch may look like it’s sending you mixed signals, a colour swatch of varying shades of green, semi-ripe to ripe shades of yellows, oranges, blacks and reds depending on your variety of tomato. It is easy to fall into a trance and stare at all the pretty colours feeling completely lost and overwhelmed with what to do. No need to fear, we have your back and will have you finishing your tomato season off in Steven Bradbury style.
Protecting from Pests
Sometimes unexpected guests drop in without a word of warning for lunch at your patch. Birds, possums and even rats making the most of the opportunity of a free feed, and who can blame them, they too are sick of the mass produced, flavourless versions of tomatoes the homogenised food industry has given us. When it comes to beating the birds your choices are simple. Be the even earlier bird to get “the worms” of your veggie patch harvest, or to cover your crop with netting. Look for signs of snacking, nibbling and pecking holes early, and be sure to check the blind spots of your tomatoes. Also before you cast that net over the top, did you know netting regulations have changed? Make sure you use netting that has a mesh size of 5mm x 5mm or less at full stretch to reduce the risk to wildlife becoming entangled. You can update your netting here.
Sometimes looking after your veggie patch feels like the longest run up until harvest, then all of a sudden you blink and you’ve missed it. Picking your tomatoes before they reach their full tomato potential means you get to have the last laugh over the birds and possums. Don’t wait until they’ve reached their peak on the plant, practice the power of picking early… now say that ten times fast. All patch foes have a creepy sixth sense that allows them to poke, prod or nibble your semi ripe tomato just before you do. Seeing dead tomatoes isn’t your own magical power, it’s plain harsh reality, and oh man it hurts. So pick early and once you have them in safe hands you can let them ripen indoors. Tomatoes will naturally ripen off the plant, but you can speed up the process, more on that below.
I have always believed in the transformative powers of bananas. It must have something to do with watching Eric Wimp (who somewhat resembled my younger scrawny self) change into the muscular, caped superhero Bananaman by simply eating a banana. Bananas naturally produce a gaseous plant hormone called ethylene… what a turn on right? Other ‘climacteric’ fruit including kiwi fruit, figs, pears, but most importantly tomatoes will respond to the ethylene call and start their ripening process. Find out how to ripen your tomatoes using the power of bananas here.
Just like there are two types of gardeners (those who water and those who don’t, but insist they do) there are also two types of green tomatoes. The green when fully ripe kind and you guessed it, unripe tomatoes. You may be losing sleep over waiting for your tomatoes to ripen off and can’t spare a minute longer, or some may have fallen often in the haste of harvesting ripe tomatoes from the same plant. However those green tomatoes happened their way to your kitchen bench we have a Green Tomato Pickle recipe to ensure they make their way to your stomach.
Making the bed
It’s tempting in the morning to leave your sheets peeled back, doona kicked off and pillows imprinted with your night-before face. It’s equally as tempting after harvesting to leave your garden bed in a similar state. With a little forward thinking for what happens to life after tomatoes, you’ll be rest assured that you can have another successful harvest.
Tomatoes are heavy feeders and at the end of the season your soil may be left depleted. Soil isn't just dirt. It’s a living ecosystem. So add some compost and slow release/pelletised manure to your soil to give it a replenishing feed. When we add organic materials, we not only add nutrients, but we also invite life into our soil, which helps build fertility. Think about what you plan to plant next and choose plants that are either lighter feeders (beetroot, coriander, dill, parsnips), or better yet those soil fixing plants like legumes (think of your favourite bean and pea varieties). Prepping your garden for the following season will reward future plants with that stretching your toes to the end of fresh sheets feeling, that way everyone can get a good night’s sleep.