Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tomatoes and Frost

Sometimes I like to live life a little on the edge, take a gamble or two.

The firm rule with tomatoes around here is that you don't plant them until after Melbourne Cup Day, lest you wish to be greeted by dead plants after a chilly visit from Jack.

After a long winter without tasty home grown tomatoes I am pining for those rosy delights, and couldn't resist the delicious array of heirloom seedling tomatoes that can be found in nurseries everywhere this year.

Tonight will be a true test of my folly, with chilly temperatures forecast and a grazier's alert. Perhaps the weatherman could bring out a tomato alert, for all the overly ambitious gardeners out there. I have placed my tomatoes in tree guards and fed them with sulphate of potash (today) which is supposed to improve their cell structure (and fruiting and flowering).  If I was really clever I'd have covered them, but I couldn't figure out what with in any hurry.

Crossing my fingers.

Do you ever take a leap of faith in the garden?

“Be not afraid of growing slowly.  Be only afraid of standing still.” - Chinese Proverb

Siberian tomato, sounds like it should be able to take a bit of chill.


  1. I always plant my tomatoes early - which around here is early April. We can get snow as late as mid-late May, so it's a gamble. But I use a product called wall-o-water which looks similar to the plastic guards that you are using, except that it has little chambers that you actually fill up with water. The water provides thermal mass... it absorbs heat during the day and then slowly radiates it back at night. They will protect the plant down to 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8 C.)

    You can also get the same effect by filling up old plastic bottles with water and setting them around the base of the plant. I've actually thought that it would be fun to build some sort of greenhouse using the same principle... some sort of wooden frame with slots where you could put bottles of water. But since I don't know anything about construction I'm sort of afraid the whole thing might come tumbling down on top of me! I can just see the newspaper headlines "Woman crushed by bottled water in make-shift greenhouse!"

    Anyhow, in terms of covering them - I just save old sheets & blankets for that purpose, but you can literally use anything. Even putting a cardboard box upside down over the plants will keep the warmth in.

    Good luck! Here in Denver the last of the tomatoes are just barely hanging on. I harvested everything that was big enough and covered what was left to get through our first snow of the season. There are still a few dozen little green tomatoes that hopefully will have a chance to grow a bit more before winter sets in for real!

  2. EcoCatLady has some great tips doesn't she? I hope Jack wasn't too hard on those tomatoes last night!

  3. I took the same gamble and tried to grow them through winter since we are in QLD. All was going well and the were green and healthy. Then the tops poked out of the top of the tree guards and we got a late frost. I lost them all. Oh Well that is the life of a gardener.

    1. Always good to try these things out, else we're just left wondering.

  4. OK... well, since I'm on a roll here... the other thing that helps is this magical stuff called "frost cloth." It's basically this really thin fabric that you can put over your plants to protect them. The best part about it is that it lets in both the sun and the water but still protects against the cold, so you can just cover them and leave them covered. I actually use it for my winter spinach and it survives all winter - which is pretty incredible since we usually get at least one really cold snap of around -20F (-29C.)

    1. wow EcoCatLady there are some great suggestions there, thankyou for the roll, it was most informative. I really like the sound of frost cloth, I've never seen it before. Sounds like you have to deal with some full on conditions. The tomatoes made it through last night but still chilly conditions ahead so will have to try your techniques.

  5. I rarely try anything until the very end of May when the last frost is done. But with these ideas from EcoCatLady I may actually try putting a few plantings in early this spring. Thanks for the info.


In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
Margaret Atwood

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead.”
― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young