Gardening and DIY: Tip top tomatoes

By Paul Thompson

Photo / Paul Thompson
Photo / Paul Thompson

Keep tomatoes in good shape
It's amazing how much foliage you can remove from tomatoes once they are fruiting. Carefully remove all leaves below first truss of fruit and any that are shading fruit trusses further up the plant. Check on laterals and remove them too. Use secateurs if leaf stems are thick and meaty.

Fruit will ripen better and faster exposed to sunlight. Once you have between four and six fruiting trusses on a plant pinch out the very tip to stop it growing any further. You can use the leaves you remove to make a spray that helps to control aphids. Win win!

Tomato leaf spray

Why: Tomatoes along with potatoes, capsicum and chilli peppers, aubergines, tamarillo and cape gooseberries are members of the 'nightshade' family. Their foliage contains toxic compounds called alkaloids.

These alkaloids are handy for controlling aphids when applied in the form of a spray made from soaked leaves.

Not only does tomato leaf spray kill aphids it is also said to attract beneficial predatory insects that 'home in' on the smell of tomato and potato plants as they look for prey.

Ingredients:
2 cups of chopped tomato leaves
2 cups of water
Strainer, muslin or coffee filter to strain solution
Spray bottle

How to make:
Soak 2 cups of chopped tomato leaves in 2 cups of water overnight.
Strain liquid the next day (discard leaves in compost or wormery).
Add 2 more cups of water to the solution.

Fill spray bottle.

How to use: Spray affected plants, as soon as aphids appear, to keep numbers down. Pay particular attention to stems and the under side of leaves - as well as growing tips. Use only when pests are visible and re-apply after rain.

Hopefully beneficial insects will follow the smell of the spray once you have applied it and get to work on your pests.

NB: Should be avoided by those with allergy to nightshade family.
Avoid contact with skin and eyes.
Label solution and date it.
Keep solution out of reach of children and pets.
Wash any treated produce before eating
Test solution on one or two plants before widespread use.
Wear appropriate protective clothing during use.
Wash your hands after use

Gardeners on the go
Feed pumpkins weekly with a nutrient rich liquid feed - seaweed, manure, comfrey and worm juice are all good.
Turn compost heap to check it has the right balance of brown and green ingredients. If it's too dry then add more green stuff, too wet and claggy then add more brown (straw, paper, cardboard, untreated sawdust)

For full-scale, seasonal edible gardening advice and inspiration see www.podgardening.co.nz or check out Pod Gardening on facebook.

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