Seriously, this has been the most exciting tomato year ever!
In fact, until this year, I can't say we have ever had that much success with tomatoes, and I was actually a bit skeptical that this year would be any different. But something changed this year and the result has been a harvest of over 50 kilos of tomatoes so far!!
- The vegetable beds - which were originally excavated sunken beds that had little good soil when they started - have now had two applications of compost since they were dug and I think that the nutrient and soil structure has definitely begun to improve. So the tomatoes definitely got better food than last year! And they grew really well...
- We started growing the cherry tomatoes early - I planted the seeds indoors in August and moved them to a sunny window ledge once they germinated.
- We planted them into the garden a couple of weeks earlier than the Melbourne Cup (so we broke the Canberra rule to wait until after the Melbourne Cup to plant tomatoes to be safe from late frosts). We were lucky, and it seemed pretty clear that the weather had warmed up early. But interestingly we still didn't get any ripe tomatoes until well after Christmas.
- January was the hottest on record. This worked well for the tomatoes, though of course we have had to keep up with the watering - let's just say I'm feeling quite apprehensive about our next water bill!
- But the biggest change was the fact that we finally managed to eradicate the rats that had been plaguing us for over a year. They moved into our roof space and there must have been quite a lot of them because last year we got hardly a single ripe tomato - the promising green trusses all mysteriously disappeared after a while. So, after battling with various humane and less humane traps, we finally succumbed to putting some bait in the roof space as well. This was remarkably effective, however, along the way we learned that not all rat baits are equal. Sadly, it turns out that native wildlife can be poisoned by eating rats that have ingested rat poison - its seems native owls are particularly at risk. The worst baits are those newer, fast acting ones, because they don't break down in the bodies of the rats, posing a risk of secondary poisoning to predators. First generation chemicals, like warfarin, are considered safer options. For more information, see: https://www.healthywildlife.com.au/parasites-and-viruses/rodenticides-and-wildlife/#/ Thankfully in our case we did find quite a lot of dried out carcasses of dead rats in the roof space and the garden, meaning something else didn't eat it - but we'll certainly be careful in future on this one.
Turning to more pleasant subjects, our 50kg harvest has been made into about 25 bottles of passata, and we're now trying a few as sundried tomatoes. And of course, oven roasted tomatoes with rosemary and garlic is always awesome!