Gardening / Self Sufficiency

Growing Healthy Tomatoes

Every year I dream of a tomato glut. I dream of having so many tomatoes that I can make my own pasta sauce and tomato sauce and store it away for the rest of the year.

So far it has yet to happen.

I suspect that part of the problem in the past has been my somewhat haphazard approach to the vegetable garden. I start the Spring full of good intentions: the vegetable patch is weeded, plants are rotated throughout the beds and plants are mulched and watered regularly. For some reason, though, that tends to be where it ends. I enjoyed the idea of having a vegetable garden and harvesting (and preserving) my own produce, but I didn’t enjoy the prospect of it. And it wasn’t the work involved. I think that the objection lay somewhere in the idea that for something to be valuable I had to pay for it, and I certainly wasn’t paying for the produce growing in my backyard. (I know, right?).

This year I was determined it would be different. I would actually eat the produce I was growing. I would finally get my tomato glut.

So I purchased tomato seedlings, I potted them up. I mulched them, I watered them. Heck, I even tried growing some from seed! I didn’t think I was doing terribly, but I didn’t really have a comparison for the tomato plants. They didn’t look particularly healthy, but perhaps they were still growing. Or adjusting. Or something.

And then I purchased some seedlings. Including a giant tomato.

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I had definitely gone wrong somewhere, and it was time to try to fix the problem (before it was absolutely, positively too late and I had to kiss my glut goodbye for another year).

Lizzie from Strayed from the Table suggested that the problem might be solved by giving them some potash. Right, potash added to the shopping list, but what else could I do to help jump start my tomatoes?

I googled a little bit, read some articles by Burkes Backyard, and Gardening Australia (and a few other less reputable sources) and they all seemed to agree: don’t worry too much about fertiliser, they don’t need that much, but do make sure you give them potash. They love potash, apparently.

Was this really all I’d been doing wrong all these years?

So, today potash was purchased (I’d never heard of it before now!).

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The instructions said something like 10g of potash per sqm (and gave a handy guide that suggested that an average adult handful was about 50g). Bearing in mind that my plants are in pots (and I wasn’t up to measuring out exact quantities) I just spread a very small amount around the roots of each plant.

The instructions said to make sure the soil was damp first, so I gave them a light water and then sprinkled on some potash.

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The instructions then told me to rake the potash in to a depth of about 5cm. That wasn’t going to happen in a pot, so I just ignored that part and finished with watering deeply, as per the directions.

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Turns out I didn’t need to worry about that raking part, the watering seems to have done it for me! Bonus!

I’m hoping this is all I need to grow some healthy tomatoes (though in the next few days I might give them all a watering with some seasol, to0). I’ll keep you posted on the results (and thanks Lizzie for pointing me towards the potash!).

Do you have any secrets for growing healthy tomatoes? Are you lucky enough to have a tomato glut?

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14 thoughts on “Growing Healthy Tomatoes

  1. All very well to say don’t worry about fertiliser, but are you just growing them in potting mix? I run with a combo of potting mix and compost, plus osmocote in pots, what is in potting mix is woefully inadequate. Sulphate of potash if for fruit and flowers, you need a strong plant first.
    And make sure they get plenty of sun.

    • They’ve got a general fertiliser added to them and they’re in pretty much full sun all day. One of these days soon I’m going to get my raised garden beds so I don’t have to worry about potting mix and pots for tomatoes!

  2. Last question – and I know you may have said it – what are they? The Grosse Lisse this year seem to be unusually spindly.

    Raised beds will be wonderful – I think sometimes that the compost (and often sheep manure) that I throw in my potted ones also help retain moisture. Bear in mind potting mix is basically contaminated soil removed from places like old service stations etc that has been treated then sold to potting mix manufacturers, mixed with aged sawdust and small wood chips. Not sure I would want to grow in that myself.

    • To be honest I’m not sure what 4 of them are. They came in a random “heirloom selection” seedling pack that didn’t mention it. I took a punt on them 🙂
      The other three are a black cherry, a jade and a black kim (krim?).

      My composting technique is atrocious so it’s basically just a pile of rotting vegetation that doesn’t get turned. I’m hoping that once I get the garden sorted out I’ll find space to set up composting properly (or get a worm farm).

  3. Turning compost? Sounds like work. I just have a few worm bins like upturned garbage bins (but you can make your own in a bucket), that I use for whatever comes – especially kitchen scraps (but not meat etc). I have my own blend of compost worms that are very active, and they just break it down. I can send you some if you like, but I couldn’t post in the current heat. I just scoop out the half broken down stuff and put it in the bottom of the pot, mix it with a bit of potting mix, and top with pure potting mix. And maybe mulch.

    • You’re definitely selling me on those worm farms!

      I’d be happy to receive some worms when they’re able to travel (I didn’t even know you *could* post worms!) if you’ve got some to spare. It’s a very generous offer, thank you 🙂

  4. I managed a tomato glut last year for the first time and then of course sold our house and had to start all over again. This year, I struggled with our new colder climate and lost the first lot of tomatoes that I put in. The second lot though are absolutely flourishing, huge, lush, full of flowers and now just starting to set fruit so I have high hopes for plenty of picking in another month. I too put in some seeds, I just shoved them straight in the ground after I lost most of my seed tray seeds for various reasons. They’re a fair way behind the others, but will hopefully keep the fruit coming in for a little longer than otherwise. Oh and other than water and some worm wee or seasol and blood and bone (only when they’re planted), they get very little. Perhaps I too should try potash.

    • I don’t know if it’s a co-incidence or not, but my tomato plants (while still looking spindly and awkward) suddenly have flowers on them.

      Sounds like your tomatoes are going gangbusters! I can’t see any reason that putting potash on them *wouldn’t* help, but then I’m not an expert.

  5. I didn’t know that about tomatoes and potash. That could be my problem too. I have first tried cocktail tomatoes in a pot and got a few but not many. Have now tried planting three plants in the ground .. a Grosse Lisse and the other two I can’t remember their name, old style though. Just picked my first Grosse tonight. A tad small for what I was expecting but am still hopeful I will get some more fruit off it. My bed is in full sun, I water every so often with seasol as it says, I was also told to use blood and bone which I sprinkle on every now and then too, then water deeply. I have planted water melon, egg plant and capsicum around them but only one water melon plant seems to be doing anything either. Everything else seems stagnant at the moment. This is my first endeavour at growing like this so it will be interesting to see what happens. Last year I did a no dig garden and it went off really well. It will be interesting to see how yours go too Christine.

    • How exciting to be able to harvest your first tomato! I am still waiting on mine. A pity your garden isn’t behaving, though!
      I’ve found that gardens seem to go through this period where almost nothing happens and then WHOOSH everything is growing all at once. Hopefully this happens for yours soon 🙂

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