Friday, August 12, 2011

How to ripen Tomatoes EARLY!

2 weeks back I took a pic from the same spot. This house is now full and 2 varieties have been added to the availability list.  We should have pretty much every one of our full list of 20+ Tomato varieties available for sale from Monday 22 August. Not soon enough for some I note, but plenty early for the plants.

Dangerous Don told me a terrific story (as he does, thanks Don). A customer was badgering Don, "how do I get my Tomatoes to fruit early?" Don being the consummate salesman asked a few questions to get a full understanding of the situation and it turned out that his customer had a regular competition with his neighbour to see who could produce the first Tomatoes of the season... and regularly lost. Don recommended early fruiting varieties such as Rouge de Marmande and Apollo (Apollo I might say was easily the first of the plants we had ready for sale, must be that hybrid vigour). "No I've tried those, he still beats me". Don then suggests a warm, sunny position in a narrow bed between a concrete path and a brick wall to reflect as much warmth as possible. "Right then, I'll build a wall!"

Sure enough Don's customer is back in November with ripe Tomatoes and a big smile.  He had built a wall and he had won the competition. A little extreme? Not really he had apparently wanted a shed anyway.

Our early season "Cool Start" Tomatoes have been selected for their vigour and resilance more so than their early fruiting. Reisentraube and Siberian are northern European heirloom varieties so theiy have to cope with very cold early seasons followed by hot inland summers.  Red Russian is actually a heritage commercial variety bred in New Zealand in the 1950's, it is renowned for it's hardiness in very tough conditions.  Apollo as I have mentioned is famous for its hybrid vigour combined with excellent flavour.  We have also tried to cover the bases by offering an upright bush variety for caontainers, Red Russian; a spreading bush, Siberian; a cherry type, Reisentraube (translates as bunches of grapes and a tall, staking variety with large "slicing" fruit, Apollo. Of course we have Point of sale material to make sure gardeners understand what makes these variieties special.

I think we should run our own competition.  Send me a photo of your first ripe Tomatoes this year, any cheating down at Woolies and I'll know.  It'll be too late for supplying more Tomato plants but I'm sure we can find something for the keen gardener.  How about a prize each for the fist 10 photos I recieve and a pair of MIFGS tickets for the Tomatoes we judge to be the most impressive.  I'll put out reminders through the growing season.

Another interesting first for these varieties is our new label designs have held up production so we have no commercially printed tags for them.  Don't panic! Don't panic! We have a fancy new printer that can print directly to plastic, pre cut tags and of course we have Lisa on the team who can produce excellent, high qhality art so you would almost never know we had a labelling issue. Two points to highlight: yes we have genetically modified our Funky Fresh Kitchen and Great Scot labels this season and possibly more exciting, having a printer in house means we can test and trial all sorts of new and interesting plants with short runs of professional looking labels.

Don't forget this great resource for Gardeners and Garden Centres alike: The Secrets of Growing Tomatoes Successfully. This is an e-book by Melbourne based (Burnley trained) horticulturist and writer Sandi Pullman. Sandi's e-book is very detailed and easy to follow. Sandi asked me very nicely to support her e-book which I am doing because I think it's a terrific text and because I could never concentrate long enough to produce anything so comprehensive. I haven't been paid for a plug.  The Secrets of Growing Tomatoes Successfully costs $19.95 on line but I have convinced Sandi to create an extract exclusively for us on the specific requirements for planting, which we are offering as a free "taster". Have a look, I think it will be a great tool for many seasons.

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