Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Spanking Tomatoes and Other Beginner Tips

I know, it sounds really silly but it seems like it might actually work.  I've been browsing You Tube articles on growing tomatoes in readiness for the coming season and came across this character called Reaganite71.

Click here for link.

He rambles on a bit at the beginning so jump in at 2.26 min.  Once he gets going he's full of helpful tips and i warmed to him so much i subscribed.

Spanking (or a gentle tapping) is done with a small roll of paper, to gently help the process of pollination. With the shortage of bees globally this maybe a skill we gardeners all have to learn. It should be done early morning.  Pollination occurs wholly within the flower of the tomato.  The pollen from the anther in the stamen (male) is transferred to the stigma inside the pistil (female) and thus pollination occurs.

For more sex talk refer here.  Did you know that each grain of pollen has two sperm cells that travel down the tube into the embryo sac inside the ovule of the ovaries.  This fertilised ovule will become the seed of the tomato.  Is this all sounding familiar?

Tomato Embryo
Don't stop there, this is more exciting than Sex Ed at School.  Go on, you know you want to look.   I made my Hubby stop and listen to my new found knowledge on the sex life of a tomato and he looked at me kind of strange as if to say "didn't you know this?"  Well sorta but not the specifics.  Stop laughing at me!  At least i don't walk around thinking i know everything.

I'm Clueless
In a perfect world this pollination would be done naturally by airflow (wind) or by bees.  I'm increasing the number of flowers in my veggie patch this year to give the bees more incentive to visit my garden.  My fence and house fully surrounds (how i wish it was a stately English walled garden - dream away) my veggie patch and i cant guarantee that the wind will be present when pollination is needed.  Reaganite71 also believes that gentle spanking stimulates growth in the roots and leaves.  He does this with a number of plants including peppers. You'll need to watch the You Tube link to see how it's done.  Proof is in the pudding I guess and he certainly has some amazing crops grown in a very short time.

Other Helpful Tips from Reaganite71

He has red Christmas balls hanging among the plants to deter birds.  They go for the red coloured balls (thinking they have aced the largest best tomatoes ever) and when there is nothing to gain they move on leaving your actual tomatoes alone.  Can you imagine how this would look.  Too cool - more garden art for not much expense.  I'm sure i have old ones stashed away somewhere.

Another trick he uses is to remove all the stems up to the first blossom thus concentrating all the plants energies to this point and upwards.  He then removes all the suckers all the way up to just under the canopy.

Once again this is to move the energy on up and to drive it to the fruit bearing stems.  This also help keep diseased leaves away from the dirt so disease cannot be splashed up onto the plant.

Pruned Bush with Lots of Fruit

In the same bed, unpruned plants with no fruit
Setting the blossoms -  Reaganite71 suggests using 100% apple juice in a spray bottle and whenever he gets new blossoms, he sets them by giving them a light spray.  The apple juice gives off methane which acts as a ripening agent and that helps set the blossoms.  Setting the blossoms stops them from falling off before they can be pollinated.  If its really hot and humid, try shading the plants and this might keep the blossoms on.

Question to the blogosphere - does the apple juice have to be organic, or freshly squeezed?  Does commercial apple juice produce methane?

Excess leaves and falling blossoms may be too much nitrogen in the soil and not enough phosphorous and potassium.   Rather than using fertilisers, use compost and compost tea to balance this out.  I had a friend last year who had 6 foot giant plants that looked amazing but only one or two fruit on each plant.

Here's one I've never heard, smokers need to ensure that they wash their hands and the tools they have been touching prior to touching plants, especially tomatoes.  Burnt smoke or nicotine on fingers can cause Tobacco Mosaic Virus disease on tomatoes.   Read about it here.

Blossom Rot due to calcium deficiency in the soil can be easily fixed with milk/water wash sprayed on the root zones.   I had this my first season and I didn't have a clue what id done wrong.  I added a light sprinkle of calcium powder (as advised) to the soil fairly early in the season and it fixed the problem and the plants continued to crop (after i had removed all the spoiled fruit).  Sometimes they don't and you are better off removing the plant.

Blossom Rot
Here's  another link where he shows you how he does this milk wash.

OK, this is a biggie for beginners - WHEN DO I PLANT TOMATOES!!!!

It really does depend on your climate.  I live in a temperate climate in Southern Victoria.  Its pretty traditional down here to transplant established tomato seedlings on Melbourne Cup Day weekend.  That makes it first weekend in November.  However, if you have a protected spot that get warm sun, maybe against a wall, then you can put them in as early as September and get that first early crop in December.  I did this last year with cherry tomatoes and i had my first crop quite early.  The North sun points directly onto the back wall of our house and so the bricks hold heat for them.  Later in mid summer this becomes a problem and i have to shade the beds.

First week of December 2013
Of course, I've kept lots of seeds from my plants last year so I'm starting to plant them now and will find a nice warm protected spot for them to grow.   Last year i had lots a freebies come up from the year before but I've replaced a lot of soil in my raised beds while in the process of removing Kikuyu grass from everything so I'm not expecting them to pop up this year.

Gardenate -  I use this iPhone App to tell me when to plant most things.  It tells me when to plant seeds and when to plant seedlings.  It also gives you masses of information of how too, companion planting and even cooking suggestions.  Go get it - you wont regret it.  Link here

Gardenate tells me that in August and September i should be planting seeds in trays undercover. Transplanting seedlings should start in October.   Note, this is for my climate but you can change the settings to your own.   You can also record on this App what  and when you have planted under My Garden.  This is a great reference tool.

What i can tell you is that i was at the garden centre the other day and people were buying up big all the tomato plants that were ready for transplanting now.  Unless they are going into a hot housed (i doubt it) they wont do much. There was ice on my car this week!!

I hope I've been able to give some general advice for beginners starting out growing tomatoes.  The tomato season is an exciting one (I don't get out much) and I'm looking forward to my third season.

Thanks for Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz


  1. Wow lots of good info there, Lynda. We have heaps of cherry tomatoes growing most of the time here so I just use them in salads. I have been able to nurse one plant through winter and it has been give me a couple each day. We are in a cool temperate climate and do get frosts in winter. We did try growing the larger tomatoes years ago with no success and then hubby decided not to eat them anymore due to arthritis so I find the cherry toms are enough for myself and our son. I like the idea about the red Christmas balls :-)

  2. I'm about to plant my tomato seeds - next Tuesday after the new moon - and even if I have to keep them in pots a little longer I will. We had a new years day frost up here last year so we don't get a guaranteed frost free date but usually cup weekend here too.

    Thanks for all the tips. Most interesting re smokers fingers too. A surprising tidbit of info. And let your hubby now I didn't know about tomato sex either, well not the details. I hadn't lifted the covers so to speak. ;)

  3. Feel free to add more information or tips readers and i will add them into the post.

    Does anyone know the answer to my methane/apple juice question?

  4. Always love a good tomato post and Im with you it is an exciting season. Hmmmm Im feeling tragic , I get excited when one of the chickens lays their first egg and send photos to everyone lol

  5. I Lynda, I have to say, I have never had a problem with blossom not setting, so won't be trying apple juice. I'm not sure what quality of the juice would stop the blossom falling?
    I have always followed Peter Cundall's advice to not fertilise soil where you are planting tomatoes, except for a bit of potash. Only add fertiliser when it starts to flower, reason being that if it thinks it is starving, it will produce flowers and fruit sooner. Also, if you only use organic soil conditioners, you will never over-feed the tomato with nitrogen, so that should solve the blossom drop problem = no need for apple juice?
    I am impressed with your blossom end rot solution. I had that once, and had no idea what it was, so now I do. Thanks:)
    Here in Launceston we plant out tomatoes on Launceston Cup Day - mid October.

    1. Thanks Jo, good advice from a great gardener. No, ive never heard of the apple thing either but perhaps its a problem for some. I still dont know what grade of apple juice creates methane anyway. Looking forward to planting out the seeds i collected from last years harvest. I've not done my own before.

  6. Just to note too, if you snap off your suckers, stick them in a pot in seed raising or potting mix. Voila! New tomatoes! :) The "weeds" you gave me last year Lynda are all long gone but I snapped suckers off them which produced the 3 tomatoes on the inside plants you saw last week. 4 more green toms on there too. :) I've since snapped suckers off those bushes and have about 9 or so tomatoes coming along for this season. :) I can give you some "weeds" back if you would like. ;)

  7. I didn't know that, thanks for the suggestion. I am going to plant my collected seed this coming weekend. Having limited space i think ill have enough. Keep planting and you might be able to bottle from your own. Dont plant them all in the one spot in case you get a disease and lose the lot.


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