Saturday, 31 May 2008

Micro Tom - small but easy to grow

As we reach the end of May, planting tomato plants in their final position, is what occupies the time of most tomato growers.

This is a very satisfying time knowing that all the potting on, lifting heavy bags of compost, moving trays of seedlings into the sun and bringing them in at night is over. You can now stand back and admire your healthy looking plants (hopefully) and imagine what they will look like laden with fruit ... in about two months time!

However, if you haven't sown any toms this season it's now too late for outdoor growing as from seed to fruit takes at least 4 months and that will take us to the beginning of October when the weather will be too cold for growing outdoors.

Nevertheless, you could try Micro Tom ... my first variety to mature this season. Although the toms are only small, they still look great in salads and can be grown on a sunny windowsill indoors.

They do need some support though, because their stems aren't strong enough to support their fruit.

On the subject of support and canes, be careful with canes around 2 or 3 feet high. It is at this height that they are most dangerous. You bend down to look more closely at your toms and if you don't see the end of a cane you could lose an eye!

Attach heavy duty tape (or something similar) to make the ends more visible.

I use canes in large pots and containers to support my bush varieties and have had the end of a cane in the face on more than one occasion ... I now make them easier to see!

Friday, 30 May 2008

Tomato Varieties This Season

I normally grow around forty plants each season which includes about fifteen different varieties.
However, earlier in the year I got a bit carried away! Here is a list of this season's varieties:


New Yorker
Oregon Spring
Tumbling Tom
Pepolino F1
Micro Tom
Minibel (pot)
Garden Pearl
Alaskan Fancy

Cordon (tall)

Suncherry Premium F1
Jelly Bean Hybrid
Brandywine (Sudduth's)
Caspian Pink
Ferline F1
Glacier (semi-determinate)
Cuore di Bue
Black Cherry
Gardener's Delight
Golden Sunrise

The problem was, just when I reached the point where I could not grow anymore, my neighbour turned up with more seedlings and I just could not refuse them!

Anyway, I am growing a number of these varieties for the first time and will enjoy watching the individual characteristics of each as they develop.

Since I started growing tomatoes, about twenty years ago, I am continually amazed by how different one variety can be from another.
Some like it hot (usually the Italian varieties), but others don't like to sit in the hot, direct sun all day (those that originate in cooler climes like Siberia!) but would rather have some shade.
Some set their fruit (pollinate) at lower temperatures than others such as Glacier and Siberian (perhaps their names give it away!), while others are very fussy and require long periods of good weather before they start to perform.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Removing Old Infected Leaves

Today, now that the sun is out again, I'm moving my large pots from the greenhouse and back onto the patio. The plants that were in the greenhouse are looking a bit sorry for themselves after a week of damp air and poor aeration.

Some of the lower, older leaves will need to be removed as they are infected.

To remove leaf branches (petioles), hold the branch about two inches from the main stem and pull upwards ... the branch should snap off cleanly. It is better to remove branches and side shoots by pulling them off without contact with the open wound because a knife or scissors can spread infection from one plant to another.

I'll dispose of old infected leaves and wash hands before touching any of my other plants because I may spread fungal infection etc. to my other plants.

Removing lower leaves (at the right time) helps keep plants healthy and helps air circulation which is also beneficial.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Growing Tomatoes In The Rain!

My outdoor tomatoes have been rained on every day for about a week now, so I have resorted to using plastic covers attached with pegs.

The problem with wet weather for long periods is blight ... a serious fungal disease that attacks plants and fruit, making them useless.

The varieties Ferline and Legend are said to have some blight resistance so I guess they are worth considering if you expect to have prolonged periods of wet weather during your growing season.

I do have Ferline growing so I shall be inspecting the leaves closely over the next few days to see if they display any of the brown patches on their leaves - the symptoms of blight.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Tomato Blight

The biggest challenge for the outdoor tomato grower (in the UK at least) is avoiding tomato blight.

Many gardeners had a problem with this last season and quite a few people who I've talked to lost many of their plants to this fungal disease.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to avoid blight.

  • Grow varieties that are resistant such as Ferline & Legend.

  • Spray with a systemic fungicide (Dithane 945 in the UK).
    Find some way to provide cover to keep rain off leaves.

  • Sow later in the season with early season varieties.

  • Avoid condensation in the greenhouse with greater ventilation.

  • De-leafing (to a degree) helps air circulation.

  • Keep plants as healthy as possible ... seaweed extract stimulates growth and helps plants combat disease.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Buying Seedlings

This weekend my wife and I visited two garden centers where, much to our surprise, tomato seedlings about 3 weeks old were on sale (they were struggling to develop their first true leaves). In each case, the seedlings looked starved of light, leggy and generally in poor condition.

Normally, the advantage of buying from a garden center is that much of the hard work has been done. That is, the seedlings have been under lights at a nursery for several weeks, and also at the correct temperature, before being displayed as strong, healthy plants with at least 3 pairs of true leaves. These specimens weren't!

If you want to buy tomato plants at the seedling stage, it would be better to wait until April when the plants for sale are healthier, or sow your own in March or April and choose a variety that suits your particular situation.

More advice on seedlings and growing tomatoes can be found at Nick's website or newsletter.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Varieties That Mature early

It is important to grow varieties that mature early if you are growing outdoors.
The following is a list of varieties that I have grown and can recommend.

Bush Varieties

Tumbler - cherry - early
Red Alert - cherry - early
Garden Pearl - cherry - early
Tumbling Tom - cherry - mid-season
Alaskan Fancy - medium - early
Siberian - medium - early
Balconi Red - cherry - early
Legend - large - mid-season
Oregon Spring - medium/large - early
Glacier - medium - early

Cordon Varieties

Gardener’s Delight - cherry - early
Money Maker - medium - mid-season
Alicante - medium - mid-season
Ailsa Craig - medium - mid-season
Sungold - yellow cherry - early
Sun Cherry Extra Sweet - early
Marmande - large beef - mid/late-season
Peron - medium - mid-season