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Tomato Diary 8

You can see all the tomatoes coming along — and also see where I’ve picked off all the dying bottom leaves.

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato. (Although we’re well into spring now.)

Oh dear, things are looking worrying. Last evening it was very windy so I moved the pots to the balcony floor, which meant that this morning I was able to look down on the leaves. Powdery mildew is rampant!

A selection of the leaves I’ve removed in the past few days.

Not happy at all.

So off I went to Google again to see what is suggested. And would you believe it — milk! Diluted 1:4 or 1:5, and sprayed on the leaves weekly. So I have diligently done so. As for the pot that is being “watered” with milk, I can’t say that those two plants look any better or any worse than the three plants getting more conventional fertiliser. It’s the middle pot in the photo of all three pots at the top.

They look good from this angle!

Now the race is on: will any tomato ripen and be edible before all the plants die from the bottom up?

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 9.
Tomato Dairy 1 here
Tomato Dairy 2 here
Tomato Dairy 3 here
Tomato Dairy 4 here
Tomato Dairy 5 here
Tomato Dairy 6 here
Tomato Dairy 7 here

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Tomato Diary 7

5 Sept: The largest tomato is golf-ball size now.

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

Sadly, we are back to a mix of good and bad news for this update. 😦 As you can see above and below, I have lots of tomatoes coming along.

We’re out of winter and into spring now, and the temperatures are warming up. The sun blasting onto the exposed pails was quickly drying out the soil. Easily fixed, though: I put up some black sunblockers to keep the pails in the shade, and made nifty covers for the soil on top.

Sept 5: Keeping cool!

However, here’s the bad news: the lower leaves are yellowing again. You can see it in the photo above. I shall try fertilising twice a week rather than once, and see if that helps. However, in true experiment fashion, I’m going to try something different for this pot (you may have noticed the yellow straw on the right, there to remind me that this is the experimental pot). I read that tomato plant problems are often caused by lack of calcium in the soil. Well, what has lots of calcium?

Calcium and B vitamins — not just for mammals!

Yes, milk! And sure enough, various gardening websites told me that “watering” tomatoes with a 50-50 water/milk mix is a “thing”. However, once plants go on the milk diet they can’t be given standard fertiliser because the chemicals break down the good bacteria in the milk. So we’ll see what happens!

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 8.
Tomato Dairy 1 here
Tomato Dairy 2 here
Tomato Dairy 3 here
Tomato Dairy 4 here
Tomato Dairy 5 here
Tomato Dairy 6 here

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Tomato Diary 6

First tomato! 19 August

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

The news is good for this update! I have not one but TWO tomatoes. Granted, not very big, but definitely coming along.

Tomato number two is to the right of the ‘large’ one and up a bit.

After the yellowing leaves reported in the last update, it was time for action. I bought some 10L pails for $2 each in my supermarket to use as pots (I added drainage holes), and extracted the two sets of two plants from their existing pots (maybe 3L in size), then very carefully prised apart the roots. I then planted two in each of two 10L pails, as far as apart in the pail as I could. The smallest plant moved into one of the now-vacant 3L pots; I would have thrown it out, as I did with another one the same size, but this plant was farthest along with flowers so I figured it deserved a chance. It’s the one showing tomatoes in the photos.

8 August: two in a new pail, two in an old pot. Once again, I buried the lowest set of leaves in the soil in order to get more roots, so the repotted two don’t look as tall as you’d expect.

Here are two shots of all five on the balcony. I’m a bit worried about how tall they’ll grow! They’re getting full sun now from sunrise (about 6.30am now) until the point where the sun is too far west to hit my balcony, roughly 1.30pm. So seven hours of direct sunshine. They’re also getting weekly fertiliser now.

19 August, basking in the morning sun.

19 August, basking in the morning sun.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 7.
Tomato Dairy 1 here
Tomato Dairy 2 here
Tomato Dairy 3 here
Tomato Dairy 4 here
Tomato Dairy 5 here

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Tomato Diary 5

The good news: Flowers are opening!

The experiment: to grow tomatoes on my balcony during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

There’s good news and there’s bad news for this update. The plants are 25-38cm (10-15 inches) high and, as you can see above, the flowers are starting to open. However, as you can see below, not all is well with the plants.

The top of the plants look great, the bottoms look unhappy.

A closer view of those yellowing leaves at the base.

Not as bad with these two, but you can see it.

Something I read online suggests the plants aren’t getting enough nutrients from the soil. My parents (successful tomato growers) suggest the pots are too small — each plant should have its own 5-gallon (18L) pot. I have neither the room nor the soil for such huge containers, plus that would mean putting them on the balcony floor where they’d get much less direct sunlight. The tomato experiment may well hit the wall here!

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 6.
Tomato Dairy 1 here
Tomato Dairy 2 here
Tomato Dairy 3 here
Tomato Dairy 4 here

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Tomato Diary 4

21 July: The crop is flourishing! I’ve rested a blue 6in/15cm ruler in the left-most pot for scale.

The experiment: to grow tomatoes during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

Since the last instalment of Tomato Diary, a veritable forest has sprung into being on my balcony. But the real reason for an update is — ta da! — flowers! (Well, buds.) On all six plants. This is marvellous, but rather worrying regarding possible quantity.

21 July: Flowers at last, about the size of caraway seeds.

23 July: Hairy little devils, aren’t they?

Admission: The eagle-eyed reader will have noticed references to six plants, not eight as in the last post. The two smallest ones (which I fished out of the discard pile and potted) certainly grew, but never caught up in size to the others. So it was back into the rubbish with them. I should probably get rid of four more plants, because I could be looking at a LOT of tomatoes.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 5.
Tomato Dairy 1 here
Tomato Dairy 2 here
Tomato Dairy 3 here

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Tomato Diary 3

Aerial view: 27 June and 23 May

The experiment: to grow tomatoes during a Sydney winter using seeds scraped from a store-bought tomato.

All eight of the finalists were healthy and thriving, but two were definitely smaller and two were sort of mid size. They’ve certainly come on since the last instalment of Tomato Diary!

Amazing what three weeks can do.

Last weekend I repotted all but the two small ones into larger pots, ready for the big adventure of actually making tomatoes. Maybe.

These are the best four plants, planted in two large pots.

You can’t see the difference in pot sizes above and below (I should have photographed them together) but the two above are much larger.

The two not-best but pretty good plants, each in their own pots.

I had no more large or even medium pots left, and not enough soil to fill them anyway (and what on earth would I do with eight tomato plants??) — so these two didn’t make the cut.

The two smallest plants, destined for the rubbish. Poor little guys.

Admission: I felt really bad about ditching the two little ones. They weren’t sickly or weak, just smaller. And the next day, when I was putting some dead-headed pansy and petunia flowers into the rubbish bag, I saw them, sitting on top, still strong and healthy, not wilted at all, despite being out of pots. They looked up as if to say “Hey, Kaz, give us a chance!” So I fished them out and put each one into its own small pot. Fool.

Tune in later for Tomato Diary 4.
(Tomato Dairy 1 here and 2 here)

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Up close with cockatoos

“Must you poke that camera at me?” (focal length 108.0mm (in 35mm: 600mm))

I love photos like this: sharp object in foreground, blurred background. If you regularly view my blog posts, you’ll have noticed a few of them (and thank you for your visits!). But I freely admit I can’t be bothered to figure out the technicalities of taking them. I use a combination of zoom and focus area size to compose my shots. I set the ISO, colour balance, f stop and shutter speed manually, but don’t think about what’s happening beyond that. All of these photos were shot at 1/400 sec, F2.8, ISO 100.

But Jude’s assignment this week got me looking more closely at this selection of photos, and I did notice that the focal length corresponds to the amount of blur. “Lens focal length tells us the angle of view—how much of the scene will be captured—and the magnification—how large individual elements will be. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view and the lower the magnification.” (source)

So I’ve presented these photos in order of longest to shortest focal length. The photo above and this one below have the same long focal length (most shallow depth of field) and extreme blurring of background.

“Yum, this is tasty!” (focal length 108.0mm (in 35mm: 600mm))

The photos were all taken at Hamilton Island last July. Despite large signs stuck to the balcony doors saying “do not feed the cockatoos!!” the people beside me did just that.

“I wonder what’s down there?” (focal length 79.80mm (in 35mm: 443mm))

“Oh, that looks good!” (focal length 73.0mm (in 35mm: 406mm))

“I know you’re watching me.” (focal length 73.0mm (in 35mm: 406mm))

“Are you still spying on us?” (focal length 52.30mm (in 35mm: 290mm))

“I refuse to look at you any longer.” (focal length 52.30mm (in 35mm: 290mm))

This last photo has the shortest focal length (longest depth of field), and while the trees on the hill are certainly not in focus, they are much less blurred than in photos with longer focal lengths. The balconies are definitely much sharper.

“The show is over.” (focal length 30.60mm (in 35mm: 170mm))

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Early morning spider web

This little spider has been busy! I haven’t noticed any activity (the duranta tree is on my balcony), but this morning, with the early sun at the right angle, I clearly saw her/his handiwork. The spider itself is tiny (you can see it right in the centre, glowing in the sunshine), and by the same token the web is not as large as a dinner plate. What I love about this shot is how clear the web pattern is. You can easily imagine this little creature patiently crawling one way, turning, crawling another, turning … That’s a lot of effort to catch your dinner.

What I don’t understand is how spiders set those anchoring strands. Do they just shoot out some silk and hope it latches on to something?