Friday, 19 February 2010

Big Tomatoes

A neighbour came by the other day and asked if he could have 4 lbs of tomatoes ... I told him that I'm not prepared to cut one in half for anybody!

There are some fantastic big tomato varieties that are well worth a try. Brandywine which comes in pink, red and yellow - the original source of which came from the Amish farmers and is now a very popular heirloom variety with exceptional taste.

Caspian Pink (from Russia) and German Red Strawberry could become irresistable to grow once tasted!

A large Italian variety like Cuore di Bue (oxheart type) is also worth a try in your area. Just remember that these large varieties require good conditions to perform well. Also, large tomato varieties will usually take longer to mature than medium or cherry tomato varieties.

It is great to grow favourites each season, but it's also exciting to try something new ... I also recommend Oregon Spring as a great slicing tomato for sandwiches and terrific in a ploughman's lunch!

Don't forget to visit my tomato growing website for lots of tomato growing tips.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Choosing Varieties for Blight Tolerance/Resistance

There are two varieties that are often advertised as being blight tolerant - these are Ferline and Legend.

Anyone who has grown tomatoes outdoors will know that wet weather for long periods will cause blight ... a serious fungal disease that attacks plants and fruit, making them useless.

The varieties Ferline and Legend are said to have some blight tolerance/resistance so I guess they are worth considering if you expect to have prolonged periods of wet weather during the growing season in your part of the world. Here in the UK it is almost guaranteed!

A couple of seasons ago I gave these varieties a try but was disappointed with the result. The tolerance level was no more than many of my other plants.

However, the season was so wet that no variety would have been able to withstand blight, owing to the rain and constantly wet leaves.

The symptoms of blight are brown patches on the leaves, plants and fruit that result in making the whole tomato plant useless.

The best way to protect against blight is to keep the leaves dry and sheltered from the rain.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Tomato Maskotka

Maskotka is a bush cherry variety that I grew last season for the first time.

I now rate it among the best cherry varieties for container growing and I shall grow it again in 2010.

Its taste is excellent, it produces a good amount and the size is slightly larger than the average cherry tom such as Garden Pearl or Tumbling Tom.

I grew it in large pots to give it plenty of room. This usually produces a slightly larger fruit than if grown in crowded conditions.

If the weather is hot and you have a small container or hanging basket with several tomato plants in, you may need to water several times a day!

Adding water retaining gel or perlite to the soil/compost helps stop the soil from drying out. However, tomato plants, when fruiting, need lots of water and nutrients.

The taste of tomatoes may change from season to season depending on the amount of sun the plants receive.

In my experience I have found that a poor tasting variety one season, can have an excellent taste the following season. The amount of water or rain the plants receive, as the fruits swell, also has an influence on the taste.

Because of this, it is good to give a new variety two or three seasons to make a judgement on its taste - I hope it tastes as good this season!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Growing Red Alert Tomatoes

Red Alert is one of the more difficult cherry varieties to grow.

It requires a good amount of light to stop it becomming "leggy" (over-watering adds to this problem) and it needs a larger container than most other cherry varieties for it to produce a good crop.
However, it is one of the earliest varieties I have grown, it produces a huge crop when grown in a large pot or container and its tomatoes are among the finest tasting - given a reasonable amount of sun during the season!

As an open pollinated variety (not F1) its seeds are cheap and you can save them for the following season.

Red Alert is very similar to Tumbler in size and taste, but Tumbler is an F1 variety with expensive seed.

Here is a typical seed packet description. I don't recommend growing Red Alert in a hanging basket but Tumbler will do well with limited root room.

Felknor Ventures FV504C Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Hanging Tomato PlanterA superb flavoured, outdoor bush tomato which is very early to mature and heavy yielding. The size of the fruit depends partly on the amount of root space. If grown in a hanging basket, the fruit will be slightly smaller than if grown in a large container. You can expect weights of 4-5lb (1.8-2.25kg) per bush. 55-60 days from transplanting.

It is a good idea to limit the amount of tomato plants in a hanging basket - one or two will be enough.
One well grown plant with plenty of room will produce as many tomatoes as two or three plants that are over-crowded in a limited space.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Sowing Tomato Seed Early - Part 2

At this time of the year I can't wait to get started. Sowing different tomato varieties and seeing them germinate is one of the great pleasures of the season.

Most seasons I sow too early and end up with lots of plants that are unable to go outside overnight, because of the frost, and the house becomes crowded with tomato plants!

My plan this season is to sow a few bush varieties that can cope with lower light conditions without becoming too leggy - remembering that they need space as they grow and potted up into bigger pots. I tried this idea last season and it worked fine with Glacier - a variety that can cope with low temperatures and will grow as a bush or tall type.

The variety I recommend for this is Tumbling Tom. It comes in red and yellow types, doesn't get leggy and produces a good size cherry that tastes great.

Normally the sowing time for outdoor growing is around two months befroe the last frost date in your area.
However, it is possible to sow three months before the last frost date if you sow a bush variety like Tumbling Tom, keep them in as much light as possible and away from damp, cold conditions (inside of course) and don't over water them.

It's great to have your own tomatoes early in the season and there are ways to etend the growing season at the other end too!