Growing tomatoesPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
It’s mid-April and I’ve planted my tomatoes this week, sowed in early January, but now rather ‘leggy’ as they have had to wait too long indoors until warmer weather has arrived. If you are lucky enough to have a greenhouse or polytunnel – read on, as it’s time to get those sturdy tomato plants which you have been nurturing on a sunny window sill planted into their final position. With a bit of warmth and regular watering and feeding they should put on rapid growth and the first, tiny toms will appear in no time at all. If you aren’t able to grow tomatoes ‘under glass’, don’t despair. If you hold back until the risk of frost has passed, growing tomatoes in the open will be fine, but be sure to choose a sunny, sheltered spot.
Tips for planting tomatoes under glass
Where to plant…in pots, growing bags or directly into a greenhouse bed? I’ve tried all these over the years with equally good results, but I now prefer growing bags for ease of use and to make maximum use of the space in one half of my greenhouse. Whichever method you decide to use, bear in mind that tomato plants need a good depth of compost in which to spread their roots and draw up water and nutrients. For this reason, I add purpose-made plastic rings which I fill with vegetable compost and sit on top of holes cut in the growing bag. When I plant my tomatoes, I aim to sit the root ball of each plant deep in soil as this will encourage roots to grow along the length of the buried stem: more roots = stronger plants = better crop of beautiful fruits!
Support for the growing plants
I like to grow ‘vine’ tomatoes where the fruits develop along the length of a tall, single stem – rather than ‘bush’ varieties which produce smaller fruits but are simpler to manage. Vine tomatoes must have good support, such as a cane or length of strong twine up which they can be trained, so with this in mind I have constructed a simple, but strong framework to support my plants. The strand of twine method works just as well and involves less ‘jiggery pokery’ with canes and the like, but bear in mind that ripe tomatoes are heavy and the plants are liable to snap under the weight if not properly supported.
Feeding and aftercare of tomato plants
As the young plants grow, water them well with a weekly feed of a general purpose organic fertiliser, to the point when the first tiny green fruits first appear. You may see this referred to as ‘when the first truss has set’. From now on the plants will need regular feeding with a food which is rich in potassium, which is where home grown comfrey ‘tea’ comes into its own. Erratic watering and lack of feed is likely to result in the fruits developing blossom end rot which appears as a black patch on the base of each fruit.
My favourite varieties of tomato
Of all the varieties of tomato that I have grown in recent years, the best performer has been ‘Cuor di Bue’, a dependable Italian version which produces beef-type fruits. This year, I’m also growing another Italian variety, ‘San Marzano’, for its long plum-shaped fruits; ‘Tigerella’ for the medium-sized fruits with delightful red and orange stripes; and a cherry tomato called ‘Sweet Aperitif’.