Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Challenges Of This Season

One of the main challenges for me this season has been tomato flowers slow to pollinate. This was partly because of a lack of flying insects in the early summer. Also, when you have sunny days, you also have cooler nights in the early summer, and a wide fluctuation between day and night temperatures, which can cause a delay in flowers setting fruit.

The other problem I had was fruit splitting on my outdoor plants. Black Cherry and Sungold were badly affected with just one downpour of rain!

I will change these varieties next season to Chocolate Cherry and Golden Cherry F1 which are supposed to be less prone to splitting or cracking. Another two varieties to add to my list!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Fried Green Tomato Recipe

Fried green tomatoes are popular in the Southern United States and made from green tomatoes (unripe tomatoes that is - some varieties are green when they're ripe!) and coated with cornmeal and fried.

In the UK cornmeal is available in health food shops and is sometimes found in the supermarket called maize meal or polenta.

Traditional preparation of fried green tomatoes begins by cutting the tomatoes into approximately 1/4-inch  slices. They are then seasoned with salt and pepper, coated with plain, coarse cornmeal, and shallow fried in bacon fat for a few minutes each side, or until golden brown.

Shallow frying is preferred, as the tomatoes do not float in the oil, which allows the weight of the tomato to press the cornmeal to the underside of the tomato.

Alternatives include using breadcrumbs or flour instead of cornmeal, and frying in vegetable oil or other fat.

The sliced tomatoes may be dipped in a beaten egg before the cornmeal is added which helps the cornmeal stay in place during the cooking process.

Information from wikipedia.org.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Indian Summer Tomatoes

For those of us who are lucky enough to be experiencing the sunny weather, it's given the tomato plants an extended season. There are new shoots sprouting from a number of the tomato plants around the garden and the cuttings that were taken in July/August have also started producing ripe tomatoes!

It's not unusual to have a spell of good weather in the Autumn, but the past few days have been particularly warm and tomato plants growing in container need watering once or even twice daily.

My list for 2012 includes Golden Cherry F1, Chocolate Cherry, Red Alert, Tumbling Tom (red and yellow) and Oregon Spring.

There are literally hundreds of varieties from which to choose and the seed brochure says good things about all of them - how do we make a decision?

 My plan is to grow varieties that I know will produce a good harvest in my area, plus two or three new ones - split resistant, blight tolerant and disease resistant to start with! That should offer the best chance of success.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Heirloom Tomato Seeds

If you are thinking about growing heirloom varieties next season, you can do no better than get hold of the Plants of Distinction "Simply Vegetables" seed brochure 2012. They also have a website with a very good online selection: http://www.plantsofdistinction.co.uk/acatalog/A-Z_of_Vegetables_TOMATO.html

I would suggest that if you are new to growing tomatoes that you include a cherry variety in your selection as these are usually the easiest and most likely to produce a successful harvest.

Large varieties usually produce a limited yield and take longer to grow - in a poor summer they could run out of steam before they mature and ripen. My favourite large variety is Oregon Spring which is a bush variety and will grow well outdoors in a sheltered position.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Saving Tomato Seeds

There is no better time for saving tomato seeds than at the end of the season.

Save seeds from tomatoes that are fully ripe and open pollinated. Hybrid F1 varieties won't grow true to type - like the previous harvest - so it's best to choose heirlooms or older varieties that have been around some time because of their special qualities. 

Here's a link to more information about saving tomato seeds. It's very easy to do and will not only save money but you will know where the seeds have come from!

Seeds that have been saved from last season will usually grow stronger plants than seeds that have been around for two or three years. Some people store them in the fridge which helps to keep them fresh.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Quadgrow Planter

I recently had the opportunity to check out the Quadgrow Planter which comprises of four good size pots that sit on a reservoir of water and nutrients.

One of the problems with traditional pots and grow bags is that they dry out so quickly in warm weather.
Dry soil can create all sorts of problems including nutrient deficiency, poor root development and Blossom End Rot to name but a few!

Two of the benefits of the Quadgrow planter is that tomato plants have constant access to both water and nutrients - just like professional tomato growers grow their plants.

Another major benefit is its large reservoir which enables auto watering when on holiday and it's very quick to set up.

Overall, I would recommend the Quadgrow Planter as a great piece of kit for the home tomato grower.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Last Newsletter of the Season

This weekend it's the last newsletter of the season from the Tomato Growing website until February and I start writing again.

My original intention with this blog was to write daily, as the title suggests, but I didn't manage to stay up to date! However, now I have a little extra time on my hands, I intend to write a small post every day for 365 days.

Each post will be related to tomato plants and growing tomatoes in some way which will also include a bit of plant biology as well as tomato growing tips and a few things of interest that are not often covered in tomato growing blogs and websites.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Tomato Blight Treatment

Tomato blight, also known sometimes as potato blight, is a fungal disease which is caused by wet, damp conditions and mainly affects tomato plants growing outdoors.

However, greenhouses that are poorly aerated can also be a cause of blight because of high humidity and condensation.

If it has been wet in your area for a prolonged period, and you are growing tomatoes outside, it is possible that your plants have, or could soon have blight.

The combination of wet leaves and high humidity over a prolonged period is almost curtain to cause tomato blight. As a fungal infection, it can easily spread from plant to plant and on fingers too, so it’s best not to touch plant leaves and run the risk of contaminating healthy plants.

It is common to have a touch of fungal infection on one or two lower leaves when growing outdoors if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain. Remove the infected leaves and leaf branches, and keep the base of plants free from decaying leaves. Good air circulation at soil level helps keep plants healthy.

Tomato Blight Treatment
However, if blight has affected a number of leaves it is time to spray with Dithane 945 or apply Bordeaux Mixture. This may stop the disease spreading, and more importantly infecting other plants, but there is no cure for blight, it is only possible to stop it getting worse.

Treatment for tomato blight may be different depending on country regulations regarding the use of chemicals for garden use, but just ask at your garden center  for a systemic fungicide.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Brandywine for Taste

Brandywine is considered one of the best of all tomatoes for taste. However, because it's a late maturing variety, it is best grown under cover in short season areas. As you'll see from the quote below, it is also low in yield and and ripens unevenly. But these are a small price to pay for such a great tasting tomato!
Brandywine is an heirloom tomato, which means it’s open-pollinated and not a hybrid. It’s a large, meaty, pink, late-season tomato. Gardeners excuse its low yield and uneven ripening because of its classic tomato flavor.
I grew this variety outdoors and it produced about half a dozen tomatoes per plant. You'd need to have quite a few to want to give these away to the neighbours!

Friday, 29 July 2011

Tomato Fun Information

One of the great tomato fests or even pilgrimages is La Tomatina tomato fight, where people throw tomatoes at each other. I expect that wearing a white t-shirt makes it all the more fun!
La Tomatina (BÅ©nol, Valencia, Spain), held annually on the last Wednesday in August, attracts tens of thousands of visitors. The highlight is the tomato fight, in which 30,000+ participants throw an estimated 150,000 overripe tomatoes (100 metric tons) at each other.
I hope they are all ripe - a few unripe tomatoes could hurt a lot!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Where To Plant Tomato Plants

Tomato plants are vulnerable and sensitive things, and don't like soil that is old and possibly infected with disease and full of bugs waiting to eat as much of them as possible!

If you are an experienced allotment grower and plant tomatoes directly into the soil, you will know about soil preparation and the care needed to get a good crop from this tender and sub-tropical plant.

However, for the home gardener, tomatoes are best grown in new compost and in containers and grow bags.

If you plant them directly into the garden soil, they'll get eaten by bugs and infected with disease.

Containers, including hanging baskets and grow bags are ideal for growing tomatoes and there is no huge concern as to whether your plants will survive. Just plant them in new compost/soil and they'll be happy.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Tomato Tips - Keeping Plants Healthy

Tomato plants grow at an amazing speed under the right conditions and it is keeping them happy that will ensure a successful crop.

Here are a few tips on how to manage them - especially how to avoid those conditions that are a threat to their health.
  • Wet leaves for prolonged periods will result in fungal disease and kill them!
  • Soil that is soddon through heavy rain will be air-less and the plants will struggle.
  • Cold temperatures combined with wet leaves will result in tomato blight.
  • Even when growing outdoors, try to shelter them from rain.
I guess the biggest threat to the health of tomato plants is rain. It lowers their immune system and they will be vulnerable to every disease in the garden.

Of course a drop of rain on a warm day won't do them any harm, but wet leaves overnight when temperatures drop is a problem - especially if they are stood in soaking wet soil.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Tomato Club

Join the Tomato Club and get lots of tips and advice about growing tomatoes - it doesn't cost anything!

There is also a sow-a-long where you can follow the progress of five Tumbling Tom seeds that were sown on the 4th March and have just been potted into bigger pots.

There's a tomato growing newsletter which is published online every Friday with lots of advice and the opportunity to add your own tips and suggestions.

If you have a lot of tomato seeds left over this season, do a swop with someone who has too many seeds of a variety you would like.

Ask questions about growing tomatoes and get a reply within 24 hours - and that doesn't cost anything either!

Visit:  Tomato Growing  and get started now!

Monday, 14 March 2011

When To Sow Tomato Seeds

Knowing the best time to sow tomato seeds in your area is one of the crucial ingredients for success when it come to growing your own tomatoes.

Sow too early and the plants suffer from conditions that are too cold with days are too short and light levels too low. Sow late and there may not be enough time for the tomatoes to mature and ripen before the autumn weather turns too cold to grow tomatoes.

For growing outside, the best time to sow is about eight to ten weeks before planting out. Decide when your last frost may be, then give it another week or two just in case. 

My last frost date is around the middle of May so I aim to plant out the end of May or beginning of June.

For those with a short season, choose early varieties like Stupice, Siberian, Latah and Red Alert.

These tomato plants can cope with short summers and will do well even if the weather is poor.

More about when to sow tomato seeds can be found at this link.