Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Tomatoes are not "Easy to Grow".

I would love to be able to say (like some who write on the subject of tomato growing) that "tomatoes are easy to grow".

If this were true, why do I receive so many emails of "help" from people who have been growing tomatoes for years?

The truth is, growing tomatoes can be easy to grow if ...

We have an ideal summer for tomato growing ... or,

The person growing the tomatoes has had years of experience and grows tomatoes in a greenhouse.

You can see that this limits the idea of "easy" to a limited few.

Of course, if you are a professional tomato grower you will know that science plays a big role in success. This success being the outcome of the controlled climate of a greenhouse.

However, what about the home gardener who is spending the little spare time he or she has, casting their seeds upon the flimsy soil and advice of the "tomatoes are easy to grow" personalities who do a good job of promoting vegetable gardening in general, but a poor job of really helping people solve the many difficulties that may arise when growing tomatoes in a short season summer, such as the UK.

Are tomatoes easy to grow? Not in my experience!

PS   If you need advice about growing tomatoes, I'll do my best to answer your questions at the website above.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Tomato Story

An old Italian who lived alone in New Jersey wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard.

His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,
I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year.  I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot.  I know if you were here my troubles would be over.  I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Papa,
Don't dig up that garden.  That's where the bodies are buried.

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Papa,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now.  That's the best I could do under the circumstances. 
Love you,

Thanks to John F. for sending me this amusing story!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Removing Side Shoots

Side shoots should be removed from tall varieties that are also called indeterminate or Cordon.

This keeps all of the new growth in the main stem from which the leaf branches and eventually the trusses grow.

Here you see two side shoots growing between the main stem and the leaf branches. You can remove these side shoots when they are about an inch or two long.

Trusses eventually grow from the main stem. They look like leaf branches to begin with, but then grow flowers on the end of the branches.

The flowers eventually fade and small pea-like tomatoes are formed.

If you are growing outside in a short season area, you would expect to grow about four trusses of tomatoes before stopping the plant by pinching out the growing tip.


For more information please visit:

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Tomato Problems

Chances are, if you are having problems with your tomato plants it will probably be because they are receiving too much water at this time of the season when temperatures at night are quite low.

The combination of wet soil/compost and cold temperatures overnight, will give tomato plants a hard time.

Here are a few tips:
  • Water in the morning so plants can use most of the water they are sitting in before the temperature drops at night.
  • Don't sit tomato plants that are in pots, in a tray of water for more than 15 minutes or so, otherwise the soil will become sodden.
  • Roots need air as well as water, so a root ball that is constantly wet will not grow to its full potential.
  • Tomato plants do not like wet leaves for more than a short time ... wet leaves overnight can trigger tomato blight and other fungal disease.
  • Keep plants indoors or under cover at night until all danger of frost has past. In the UK that will be around the end of May.
It is normal for the lower leaves of plants to show some signs of marks and blemishes with purple under leaves, these are just the leaves that struggled through the colder temperatures of early spring.

New growth should show a good leaf colour and eventually the lower leaves can be removed. Most of the plants energy goes into the new growth and the old leaves get left behind - as it were.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Nematodes - Good and Bad

Nematodes are microscopic worm-like creatures in the soil that can help the tomato and vegetable gardener by attacking slugs and other unwanted pests.
Professional growers use these to control all sorts of nasties in the greenhouse.
However, there are some unfriendly nematodes that attack the roots of tomato plants and will cause a lot of trouble. This happens when old soil is used or plants are grown in the same place and soil each season.

Symptoms of Nematodes Affecting Tomato Plants

The symptoms include wilting during periods when plants are in hot, direct sunlight because they are unable to absorb enough moisture through their roots.

Plants become stunted because of a lack of nutrient uptake caused by damaged roots.

Leaves can become pale and a reduction in fruit yield is experienced.

As nematodes increase each season, the problems becomes worse.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Tomato Plant Cuttings

Taking a cutting from a tomato plant is easy and will produce another plant that when its roots take, will be growing strongly in no time!

  • Remove the side shoot from a tall variety or one of the many shoots that grow on a bush plant that is about 3 or 4 inches in length.
  • Leave just two leaves on the cutting so that it won't need to support too many leaves.
  • Plant in seed compost and keep in a warm shaded place making sure the compost doesn't dry out. 
  • If the cutting starts to wilt give a spray/mist with water.
  • The roots should form in about two weeks.

This is a great way to gain more plants, you'll also find that it will produce flowers more quickly than a similar size plant grown from seed.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Tomato Plants and Rain - Don't Let Them Get Cold and Wet!

If you are growing tomatoes in the UK at the moment I recommend that you keep them out of the rain by providing them with some shelter during the day.

Of course, plants can't be left out overnight until the end of May - after the lost expected frost - but they also should not be allowed to stand outside in the cold during the day in the rain!

Sorry to be so direct about this, but if your lovely plants get cold and wet ... it will probably do them a lot of damage and they will be well on their way to a fungal disease!

It is now too late to start tomatoes from seed in the UK because the season (summer) will be over before the tomatoes mature, but if you still haven't started yet, tomato plug plants are the answer.

The low light conditions we are having in the UK at the moment are making tomato plants "leggy".

It is best not to water unless absolutely necessary when temperatures are cold and there is poor light, otherwise plants will become unwell (wet, cold soil makes them very unhappy) and leggy.

Hope to be more positive next time and also that the weather improves!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes Grow True to Type

There are many wonderful heirloom varieties available to grow that will give you the taste of "yesteryear", the seeds have been saved and handed down the generations because of taste and other qualities that people have considered to be worth preserving.

Heirloom varieites grow "true to type" that is they produce the same tomatoes from the saved seeds.

Hybrids or F1 tomatoes won't produce the same tomatoes from their seeds because they have parents of different varieties. These different varieties will show themselves when the seeds from the tomatoes of the first generation are grown - they are considered to be unstable and may produce all sorts of unusual shapes and taste different.

That doesn't mean you can't save the seeds from hybrids - if you want to try, you may end up with some very interesting results. Perhaps not for the serious grower but you may have a lot of fun with the results.