Sunday, August 14, 2016

Growing tomatoes in the tropics

Warning- a rambly gardening post!

I grew up in England and moved to Australia in my mid-twenties, and even 25 years later I'm still getting used to topsy-turvy seasons and the challenges of gardening in the tropics.... So even though it's mid-winter, here in the tropics this is the best time of year to grow the kind of veggies you'd grow in an English summer.

I was late getting my tomatoes in this year - I usually plant them around Easter or May Day at the latest - but this year I was wondering whether it's worth the effort, I didn't get many tomatoes last year. It turned out to be a good thing I waited as May was very hot and humid. I think I ended up planting at the end of May, our cool weather kicked in in July, at long last. For a while the tomato plants were flowering but then the flowers were dropping off, then suddenly a whole lot of them set fruit, which was very exciting!! I'm not sure if that was to do with the cooler weather, or because I was off work for a couple of weeks and gave them extra water if they looked droopy in the day. So now the first one is starting to ripen - these are 'patio tomatoes' so the plants don't get too big and the fruit is bigger than a cherry tomato, but smaller than a regular salad tomato! I got them as seedlings from my local hardware store.

I've also had an experiment with growing from seed. I bought some locally grown cherry tomatoes from the markets and we didn't eat them all, a couple started to go squishy in the fridge so I put them outside in the warm, still in the plastic bag. I left them for about a week until they were completely mushy, then I planted the lot (even the skins) in a pot. Heaps of seedlings sprouted, and I've transplanted 4 into a bigger pot. I knew it was possible because a friend grew a tomato plant by accident out of her compost bucket... Here's her beautiful photo on flickr. I'll be interested to see how they go, as the weather will start to get hotter and more humid next month. I've heard of people managing to grow tomatoes in the build up, so I'm hoping this is one of those varieties...

My mint plant is still surviving, it struggles through the wet season and comes good in the cooler months.

I haven't had much luck growing flowers over the years, so I'm trying begonias as they are a tropical/subtropical plant, the thick fleshy leaves made me think they might cope with the heat. I'm hoping to take some cuttings from these once they get established.

I hope you're having a great weekend maybe spending some time in the garden too!