It has been about a month and a half since I last wrote about the Office Tomato and it’s about time for a good news/bad news update.
The good news is that I returned from a 10-day trip to Thailand to two ripe tomatoes and a third that is very nearly there. I feel lucky to have made it this far and was equally impressed that our friend and house-sitter, David, was able to keep the plant alive, especially since the weather has been unseasonably cold and grey.
The bad news is that the reign of Office Tomato is coming to an end.
I had hoped that the plant would be able to hold on long enough to make it outdoors, but with another months or so to go before tomato planting time, it is clear that a quiet retirement soaking up the sun in the fresh air is not going to be a reality for Office Tomato. The hard work of producing fruit indoors in an inadequate lighting situation is taxing all of the plant’s resources — it is literally on its last legs.
But first, let me backtrack:
I took this photo on March 26, just before heading off to Milwaukee. Already I could see that Office Tomato’s days were numbered and that its health was on a downward slope. I observed that the leaves had begun to curl under and had lost their luster. They just weren’t as green as they should have been.
I am currently on a long flight to Thailand. Either that or I am currently in Thailand and passed out from a bad case of jet lag. I haven’t worked out the math. Before leaving for the trip, I assessed my seedling situation and decided that plants that were busting out of their seed starting pots would need to be repotted into larger containers if they were going to have a shot at thriving during my time away.
It’s surprising how much plants can grow in two weeks time!
I also decided to do this in consideration of our house sitter who is significantly over-loaded with plants to care for while we are away as well as a fussy, prima donna cat that will probably hiss and swipe at him at least once before our return. Plants that have overgrown their containers tend to dry out quickly and he’s got enough on his plate between my ever-expanding collection of houseplants and the myriad of seedlings I’ve got on the go in anticipation of gardening season.
Two months ago I had a brand new lighting setup and a hankering to test it out with some seeds so I sowed three packets that had been sitting around for a year: lithops, mixed succulents, and mixed cacti.
Back in January I introduced you to my office tomato, a mystery volunteer plant that I began nurturing for its delicious tomato leaf smell. Well, it looks like Mystery Tomato is about to offer up something else that is delicious — it’s making fruit!
Here is a photograph of my plant in the window it lives in, taken just this morning. The plant is over 2 feet tall now. I have steadily upgraded it into bigger pots as it has grown. It could have been taller, but I buried a large portion of the stem when I last upgraded it as a way to ensure a more stable root system. Its current pot is 9″ deep and 10″ wide at the top.
Surprisingly, the plant isn’t leggy. It’s growing in a south-facing window and it seems to be getting just enough light to keep it happy. Any less and I’d be concerned. One of the biggest challenges around growing tomatoes indoors through the winter is the lack of sunlight. For the most part, the sun isn’t bright enough and the days are too short. Tomatoes need a lot of sunlight to produce fruit. If you want to try growing your own, I’d recommend growing dwarf varieties that are less demanding and will fit underneath supplemental artificial lights. My plant is much too large for that so the most I can do is turn it regularly so that it receives an even amount of light on all sides, and hope for sunny days.
At about 2 weeks old. I’m not sure if they are developing colour due to age or the lighting. They were much greener shortly after germination.