We chatted with Karen Sutherland from Edible Eden Design and co-author of best-selling tomato guide 'Tomato - Know, Grow, Sow, Feast' about what inspired her new book and her top tips for growing great tomatoes in the Vegepod!
Firstly, congrats on your award-winning book ‘Tomato - Know, Grow, Sow, Feast’ - all about growing tommies in the home - how did the book come about?
Thank you! The book was Margot White’s idea. For years, she’s volunteer-run an annual sale of historic heirloom tomatoes at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Margot pestered Penny Woodward, the hort editor of Organic Gardener Magazine, as there was no ‘tomato bible’ for the Australian climate. Penny came to me and Janice Sutton and the rest is history (or paperwork in this case).
Image: Linda Hampton
It's fantastic you're meeting a gap in the market - we expect that’s why the book is so popular. What will people find when they buy the book?
My particular section is all about sowing and growing - helping people sow plants, fertilise, train toms and try organic growing techniques, including self-watering beds. It also includes a comprehensive ‘pest and disease’ guide with a troubleshooter chart and photos to help identify problems. Penny’s section describes over 200 different varieties available in Australia and Janice’s section focuses on recipes.
Speaking of growing in a self-watering bed - you did a blog with us a while ago about growing tomatoes in the Vegepod - how are you finding it now?
I now only grow dwarf tommies in Vegepods! It's mentioned in the blog too! See pic below.
The pod’s self-watering technique works beautifully. For growing seeds in the Vegepod, I recommend you buy dwarf variety tomatoes from The Dwarf Tomato Project. They’re a volunteer organisation that work on breeding really interesting dwarf tomato varieties with great colours and flavours and cute names such as ‘Kookaburra Cackle’ and ‘Kellogs Breakfast’. They’re ideal for raised garden beds.
Image 'The Kookaburra Cackle' by Dwarf Tomato Project
Love those names! We'll definitely check out the Project. Lastly, do you have any tomato growing tips you could give to the Vegepod audience?
Definitely. Here are my five quick tips:
Choose the appropriate variety e.g. dwarf for raised garden beds
Use really good quality potting mix - there’s no such thing as a ‘quality’ cheap potting mix.
Crop rotate - you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in the same soil again for three years.
Make banana skin tea - for flowering and fruiting. It involves using 20 banana skins, 10 litres of water and leave it all for 10 days - it’s great because it’s recycling too.
If you’re in warmer climates, try and get two harvests from one season e.g. QLD or NT. Do a late winter plant and then another at the end of January - that’s a tip from Roger Thompson’s interview in the book.
Image: Karen Sutherland