Around here the rule of thumb for planting out tomatoes and other frost-susceptible fruiting annuals is "after Showday", and showday was last week so I'm good to go, having hoed up a patch in preparation for the big day....
Meanwhile, my tomatoes, zucchinis, tomatillos and cucumbers have been shooting up in the potting shed, and they are looking keen to see some real dirt.
Around the base of each plant I have spread a couple of litres of seedmeal fertiliser, which will break down slowly and provide more nutrients when the plants need them as they reach maturity.
Like last year, I plan to let my tomatoes sprawl again this year. This saves a lot of trellising and pinching out of side shoots, not to mention tying (and untying, and un-trellising!). Sprawling tomatoes have far heavier yields, but of smaller fruit.
The thing is, I think I was lucky last year that we had a hot, dry summer, so the sprawling tomatoes remained free from moulds and other nasties that like the dark, damp conditions under the vine. The coming summer is forecast as warm and wet, so I have to take action to avoid potential trouble.
Firstly, I'm going to lay dripper pipe down the rows, so that irrigation is delived directly to the soil, avoiding creating wetter conditions in the leafy part of the plant.
Secondly, I plan to mulch heavily over the pipe and around the plants. For mulch I am using spoiled silage. Silage is moist hay that is cooked (hot composted/fermented) in plastic rounds. Apparently the heat from the fermentation kills all the hayseeds in the silage, so my mulch should not sprout a forest of grass like mulch hay does. (Note the "apparently" in that last sentence....)
Here are the rounds of spoilt silage (the cows got to the silage and ripped the plastic, letting moisture in so that it is no longer suitable as animal feed):
However, I do have a final trick to keep the vines off the ground: wattles.
There's a couple of stands of young black wattle on the reserve road that runs between my land and a neighbour's.
This is fairly adventurous gardening. I hope it works.
In any case, my cunning plan will keep me busy for a little while, once I've planted the corn and tidied the place up for a farm visit this week and dealt with this week's succession plantings.........and hoed up the spuds.
Wish me luck!