Friday, 10 October 2008

Growing Tomatoes in Containers and Pots - 4 Top Tips

I have been growing tomatoes in patio containers and pots this year with some success. I also have my beloved plot with tomatoes growing in the ground. I know the ones in the ground will work fine - they have done for thirty years. But growing my tomatoes in containers is anew departure for me.

The comparison between the pot grown tomato and those in the ground.

I grew 2 varieties this year moneymaker and an Italian cherry tomato variety. I cannot remember the name but they came free with a magazine. I sowed the seeds in March 2008 and grew them on in my conservatory in 6 inch pots. As Always I grew too many tomato plants and gave 20 away. I planted them out as 2 - 3 foot high plants in early June and a month later picked the first tomatoes. As I speak in late august I still have many fruits to pick so it has been a good year. The plants grown in containers have had similar results but I have noticed 2 differences.

Firstly the moneymaker tomatoes were slightly smaller than the ones grown on my plot.

Secondly there were not quite as many cherry tomatoes in the containers.

Other than that the results were very similar. The taste is uniformly excellent and the texture and colour very appetizing. For the container grown tomatoes I did treat them differently and with a bit more care.

1. Make sure you put tomato plants in a really big pot.

I like the root systems to have plenty of room and not become pot bound. You also need a big container to have enough depth for the support canes. I use standard clay terracotta pots but any wide and deep container will work fine.

2. Water your tomatoes even if it rains.

We have had a dreadful summer in the UK this year and it has rained constantly. I still found that the pot grown tomato plants were wilting a bit if I didn't check them for watering. The plants in the veg plot did not need this. The reason for this is that the leaves of the tomato plants deflect much of the water away from the pot. Very little water gets to the root of the plants. This is why I check them daily.

3. Be ruthless with pinching out side shoots on the tomato plants.

I only pinch out once or twice a season when growing tomatoes in the ground because they seem to do fine. I have learned this through trial and error. The moneymaker plants in pots were pinched out once a week to ensure that the fruits I did get were big enough and juicy enough. I never bother pinching out cherry tomatoes. They take care of themselves and always give plenty of harvest.

4. Remove excess foliage once you have the tomato fruits.

I have always done this to tomatoes and do not know where I picked this tip up. Once you have all the tomatoes set on the plant remove any leaves that are hiding the fruit from the sun. I prefer the tomatoes to ripen on the plant and this helps speed up the ripening process. Removing the leaves also gives you slightly bigger tomatoes.

If you have missed this tomato season then I encourage you to plan ahead for your tomato growing in 2009. Grow some in pots and containers as well as in the ground. They are a lot of fun and be grown on any sunny spot you have.

by Kenh Jones

About the Author

You can grow plants in containers very easily and without a large garden. Tomatoes are particularly suitable for growing in containers. For more gardening tips you can visit

Friday, 26 September 2008

Tomato Pest And Disease Problems - Preventing, Diagnosing And Treating

Tomatoes are notoriously picky plants. Tomatoes are in the potato family, which makes them susceptible to tens, if not hundreds of pest and disease problems; however, that should not stop any tomato loving gardener from harvesting buckets of healthy tomatoes. The key is to learn how to prevent, diagnose and treat tomato problems.

Tomato Disease Prevention

Disease prevention in tomato plants starts with healthy growing practices. Preparing the soil, watering properly, and feeding appropriately are all keys to tomato disease prevention. Tomatoes like a well draining soil filled with lots of organic matter. Tomato roots penetrate deeply into the soil, helping to stabilize plants and take up water. With well-prepared soil, watering deeply and infrequently-every 4-6 days, will allow the tomato plant to have enough water, without putting the plant at risk of problems of overly "wet feet." Always water in the morning, so plant leaves have time to dry during the day. Leaves are a perfect spot for disease incubation, and water ripens those conditions even more. Prune your plants to provide air flow through the leaves and branches, which will also aid drying time. Ensure that your tomato plants receive proper nutrition by conducting a soil test, and treating the soil according to the results. All of these practices will give your plants a good start fighting off diseases and pests.

Diagnosing Tomato Pests and Diseases

If all of your well-intentioned cultivation practices have not stopped your plants from succumbing to a problem, then you must diagnose the problem. Tomatoes can suffer from pest problems, nutrition problems, viral, bacterial and fungal problems.

Pest damage to tomato plants causes visible physical changes. Cutworms actually cut off the plant from its root system, causing the plant to wilt and die. Aphid damage results in sticky residue on the plant. Aside from the damage they inflict, you can often see the pest itself on the plant. Caterpillars bury into fruit and eat it, causing fruit to rot. Whiteflies and spider mites are visible on the leaves. Diagnosing pest problems is easier than other problems because most pests can be observed on the plant.

Nutrition problems in tomato plants manifest in several areas of the plant. Tomatoes absorb a wide variety of nutrients, minerals and trace elements from garden soil. Deficiencies in each nutrient result in specific symptoms in the plant. Excess nitrogen causes deep green, lush, leafy plants with little fruit. Nitrogen deficiency causes yellowing of lower leaves. Calcium deficiency causes blossom end rot, a common problem on tomato fruit characterized by yellow, leathery spots that spread into black, rotting patches on the blossom end of the fruit. (The end away from the stem.) Nutrition problems can be seasonal, or soil related. A soil test helps determine what nutrients are lacking in the soil. If all nutrients are in the soil, factors such as overly wet or cold soil can make it more difficult for plants to absorb nutrients.

Viruses, bacteria and fungus all cause tomato diseases and problems. Wilts, damping off, leaf spots, mildew, fruit rot, cankers, and leaf mosaic problems are all common tomato problems caused by a cocktail of tiny organisms. Each problem shows in the tomato in different ways. Leaf mosaic viruses show up in leaves, causing mosaic-like patterns. Cankers are growths on stems, leaves or fruit. Root rot often shows up in the leaves of the plant, as they shrivel and die from not having enough water. For a comprehensive, pictorial guide on diagnosing tomato plant pests and diseases, consult How to Grow Tasty Juicy Tomatoes (available from

Treating Tomato Pest and Disease Problems

The phrase: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure definitely applies to tomato growing. As earlier related, properly caring for tomato plants and their soil prevents many problems. However, should your plants fall prey to a problem, there are many ways to treat.

First, correctly diagnose the problem. Once diagnosis is certain, follow procedures related to the particular problem. Many plant problems can be alleviated by changing gardening techniques. Plants that are stressed are more susceptible to pest and disease problems. Examine watering, mulching, and feeding practices. If those techniques are in balance, many pest and disease problems will go away. Nutrition deficiencies may be corrected by adding correct nutrients to the soil in easily accessible forms. Some nutrients are best delivered as leaf or soil drenches, while others work well in time-release granular applications. Pest problems can be corrected with beneficial insects, changes in gardening techniques, and insecticides-both synthetic and organic. Viral, bacterial and fungal problems can also be treated with a combination of gardening techniques and soil and plant drenches and sprays. Safety is an important consideration when applying any sort of pesticide. Read the label carefully and follow all directions. More is not better when pesticides are concerned.

While all of this information can seem daunting, tomato growing is a rewarding hobby. Keep a good reference on hand, and whenever your plants are under the weather, open the book and identify the problem. How to Grow Juicy Tasty Tomatoes contains over 260 colored photos of diseases, pests and common nutrition deficiencies and is a must-have for any top-notch tomato grower!

If you want more detailed tomato garden advice and tips from a world horticultural expert, visit

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Art of Growing and Showing Tomato - by Trevor Dalley

Shop Bought Tomatoes Can Not Compare With The Old Fashioned Tomato Grown In Your Own Garden.

One hundred and fifty years ago the tomato (or, as it was then called, the Love Apple) was little known and less cared for. It was grown by a few only, and merely for the decorative value of the fruit. During the last one hundred it has grown rapidly in public favour.

With the aid of heated greenhouses it is possible and comparatively easy to have fresh Tomatoes all year round, though to provide a supply throughout the winter is an expensive matter.

Tomatoes may be grown in any sort of greenhouse, so long as there is means for ample ventilation and sufficient heat to extrude frost. But if the most is to be made of the plants, then a light sunny, polytunnel that can be heated is necessary.

Peat based growing medium is very good for the purpose, but Tomato plants are gross feeders so if an amount of loam can be acquired to mix with the base compost this will be very helpful. The mixing of the growing medium should be very precise, with equal parts of peat, pea gravel and loam, with a base dressing of Tomato fertilizer.

It is possible to acquire what are called Tomato grow bags, these are fine to start with but the feed in these bags does run out very quickly and supplement feeding is needed. Over the past twenty years we have done many tomato growing trials, and have concluded that the old ring culture is still the best way to grow and fruit tomatoes.

Outdoor Tomato culture:-

During the summer months Tomatoes are usually planted out in a prepared border, cultivation in pots being preferred for early crops. The border needs to be well drained and made suitable by deep digging and have plenty of home made compost incorporated into it, (home made compost making is dealt with in our article GARDEN COMPOST MAKING WORLD at

also if it is possible to obtain some well rotted farmyard manure this can be incorporated into the top 9inchs (23cm) also bonemeal is very beneficial, always use rubber gloves when handling bonemeal. From eight to ten week should be allowed from the time of sowing the seed until the plants are wanted for planting out, this time can be cut to six weeks if the more expensive F1 Hybrid seed is used. If a large amount of plants are required it is better to use the cheaper open pollinated seed.

Sow the seeds into seed trays of good quality seed and potting compost, specially prepare for this purpose. The seeds should be sown thinly as possible to stop damping of when they emerge in about ten days, hybrid seed will germinate much faster and have less failures.

When the seedlings have reached about one inch in height they are lifted and transplanted at about 2 inches apart into seed trays or single pots, they should stay in the greenhouse and be shaded from direct sunlight for a few days, then expose them to the light and give free ventilation.

In about three weeks the plants will be ready to pot into 5inch (13cm) pots, in which they will remain until planted out in pots or borders.

When nicely rooted in 5-inch pots, and from 8 to 10 inches in height they are ready for the final planting. If to be fruited in flower pots, choose a pot which is 8 inches wide; always plant the Tomato deep in the pot this will allow for top dressing of new compost, plus the stem of the plants will root into the new compost giving the plant more anchorage as it grows taller.

Press the compost firmly round and over the roots, stake the plants and move to the place where they are due to fruit. If planting in borders, let them be in rows and 15 inches apart in each direction. At every fifth row let the distance be 18 inches in order to allow room for the grower to get amongst the plants. Press the soil firmly round the roots in planting.

When growing in pots in the greenhouse the best way to train the shoots is to run a wire at roof height from one end of the house to the other, place a cane in the pot with the plant and run a string from the base of the cane and tie it to the wire at roof height, as the shoots grow on the plant twist them around the string.

Unlike, the cucumber and melon, the Tomato cannot be grown successfully without a certain amount of fresh air, which must be regulated carefully, so that the temperature is not lowered unduly, on cold days only a small vent should be left open, but not to cause a draft, when the days are sunny and the temperature is raised greatly both end doors can be opened if growing in a tunnel, in greenhouse all vents should be opened.

When Tomatoes are grown in pots the labour of watering is great, it is advisable to purchase an automatic watering system, the best system is a drip feed type, not a spray system these can scorch the foliage on the plants very easily on hot sunny days.

With most of the drip feed systems a bottle is supplied that can be filled with liquid feed, the system will dilute the feed as the water passes through the container and deliver it to the plant roots. With regular feeding the fruits will swell very fast so constant picking of the crop is needed, we have found over the last 20 years with the introduction of the new hybrid seeds that it is advisable to collect the fruit when changing from green to orange, these fruits can be stored in a box placed on the potting bench and they will ripen nicely there, the removal of the fruit allows more feed to go to the smaller fruits at the top of the shoots.

If you wish to read more please go to its all free, we have a Guest Book if you would like to leave any comments.

About the Author

Trevor Dalley has been growing Fuchsias and Chrysanthemums for sale to the gardening public commercially for the last 40 years and is now ready to pass on money making knowledge to you the reader for free.

Monday, 1 September 2008

What to do About Tomato Black Spot or Tomato Blight - by J Hfield

Have your tomatoes been struck by black spot? Are the fruits rotting and the leaves turning black? You may have what's called Tomato Blight.

Tomato blight is more common when the weather is cool and damp. It also occurs more if you keep planting your tomatoes/peppers/potatoes in the same place every year. They are truly a crop that needs to be rotated!

If your plant has fallen to the tomato black spot you need to act fast. Get rid of the plant, its roots and all leaves, burn it or put it in the garbage. Don't compost any of the waste or you can reinfect your plants next year.

It is also important to always water the plants down low, and don't sprinkle from overhead. Tomatoes just hate that.

Try to give your tomatoes enough space and good air circulation.

plant your tomatoes at the proper time for your area to ensure they are strongest during the best part of the growing season!

Good luck gardening! check out this website for more tomato tips For more Tomato tips, garden pictures and raised bed gardening check out

Friday, 15 August 2008

Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

Once you have had a taste of a home grown heirloom tomato you will never eat a store bought one again! Growing Heirloom Tomatoes can be tricky to grow so here are some tips.

I have found that starting them from seed indoors and then planting them outside at the proper time ensures the greatest success and volume of tomatoes. I've grown identical plants, but one from seed and one from a store bought plant. There was no comparison, the one grown from seed was stronger, healthier, produced more fruit and had less growing problems. Even though the store/nursery ones may look good, you never know how much stress they have been through. Stick with seeds if you can!

Even bugs know which tomatoes taste better. I have found that most tomato pests love heirlooms. Sure the hybrid plants may not suffer from some of the problems heirlooms do, but they don't have the taste or vigor either. Most heirloom tomato pests can be easily taken care of with a few simple steps.
Keep your plants clean, no loose fruits on the ground.
Make sure you stake your plants and tie them up well.
Pinch off any extra suckers, don't go overboard though.
Pick off any bugs, like tomato horn worm. If you see a huge weird moth around your plants get rid of that too, because most likely it is laying horn worm eggs. YUCK!

Heirlooms need consistant watering. If they go through too many periods of drought or overwatering they may crack. A good deep soaking is all that is necessary. Mulch your plants to keep the soil temperature more even and extend the growing season.

Plant marigolds and basil around your Heirlooms, they will ward off pests. Marigolds look adorable planted around tomatoes, and basil is a delicious companion plant for tomatoes.

Check out this website for free info on growing tomatoes and other veggies and tons of pictures!

Monday, 11 August 2008

How to Save Tomato Seeds

One of the best ways to save money on gardening is to use seeds instead of buying plants. You can save the most money by saving your own seeds. Here are steps on how to save your tomato seeds. This is a really wonderful way to save Heirloom seeds!

Step 1. Scoop the seed out of the tomato, be sure to pick good looking healthy ones from your garden.
Step 2. Put the pulp and seeds into a glass jar, you may need to add some water. Let this mixture rot for a couple of days. It may take up to four days. Be sure to put this somewhere discreet as this mixture really smells bad!
Step 3. A mold will develop on the top and the seeds should be able to be seen on the bottom.
Step 4. Remove the moldy top add water and rinse through a strainer. Try to remove all the bits and pieces to just leave the seeds.
Step 5. Now you can dry your seeds, a paper plate or glass plate works well. Don't use towels or paper towels they will stick and you will have a mess on your hands. Just let them air dry, don't use the oven or bake them in the sun. Make sure the seeds are completely dry before you store them.
Step 6. Take all the dry seeds and store in a cool dry place. An envelope works well. Label everything.
Step 7. Did you know that seeds make excellent gifts to tuck inside a card? You can also sell your excess seeds. Good Luck and have fun gardening!

by J Hfield

Check out this website for free info on growing tomatoes and other veggies and tons of pictures!

How to Grow the Perfect Tomatoes

Of all of the different vegetables that are typically grown in the garden, the tomato is by far the favorite. As a matter of fact, people have bragging rights in accordance with the size of the tomatoes that they grow in some areas. That is why it is important to make sure that you are growing the perfect tomato in every season. Even though a lot of people think that is has to do with the variety of tomato that you grow, it actually has a lot more to do with how you grow them.

Of course, you need to start with strong, healthy plants and then you need to add them to the garden properly. Many people will leave a lot of the plant sticking out of the ground in order to get a head start on the growing season but if you do, you may be hurting the plant more than helping it. A tomato plant has an amazing ability to produce roots from any part of the plant that is put underground. Whenever I first plant my tomatoes, I only leave a little bit sticking out of the ground and the rest I allow to go to root. This gives it the opportunity to pull as many nutrients out of the soil as possible.

Something else that you should start doing as soon as the tomato plant starts to grow is to pull the suckers off of the plant. These are the odd stems that seem to appear between the main stalk and any branches that are growing. Even though these will produce tomatoes on their own, they tend to draw a lot of the energy out of the plant and hurt its overall production. If you pull these as soon as they appear, you will be able to keep the plant healthy and producing large tomatoes throughout the growing season.

Finally, you need to make sure that you are treating your tomato plants organically. The last thing that you would want to do is to grow the perfect looking tomato but have it be poison on the inside because you were adding chemicals to the garden. Yes, it does take a little bit more work in order to have an organic garden but the fresh, clean vegetables that it will produce are a much better addition to your table than those with pesticides on the inside.

If you want to make your thumb greener, visit for more gardening tips and information.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Growing Tomatoes - How to Avoid Common Problems

Flower Set and Blossom Drop

One of the most exciting moments in tomato growing is when flowers begin to fade and the first little pea-like fruits appear. Each day they grow a little bigger until they reach their mature size when they start to change colour and become ripe tomatoes. They look almost too good to eat!

However, temperatures and humidity have to be right for flowers to set fruit. If flowers fail to set, blossom drop is the result and those pretty little blooms wither and break off at the knuckle. To avoid blossom drop, mist and tap plants daily to help release pollen. If the weather is particularly hot and dry, also water around the base of plants to increase humidity.

Watering and Blossom End Rot

Watering can be a tricky business when it comes to tomatoes especially if they are grown in containers. However, correct watering can help avoid blossom end rot, which is caused by a lack of calcium when the fruits are swelling and leaves a dark leathery patch on the underside of the tomatoes.

The first aim should be to keep the entire root area moist by giving them a thorough watering once a week (especially when the fruits are swelling) and water moderately in between. The reason is that roots are only able to feed and absorb nutrients (including calcium) from areas of soil that are moist. If half of the soil that your plant is growing in is dry, calcium uptake may also be reduced by half.

Increase Aeration and Disease Control

One way to keep tomato plants healthy, especially when grown in a confined space such as a greenhouse or where they may be planted close together, is to increase aeration. This may be done by removing old, lower leaves below the first truss to improve air circulation.


Opinion about deleafing varies considerably. Some gardeners will leave most leaves on their plants which helps shield tomatoes from direct sunlight. Too much direct sunlight and heat can cause sun scald, greenback and blotchy ripening. Some growers, especially those who grow in greenhouses, remove all leaves below the truss that is producing ripe fruit. This enables plants resourses to be directed into the fruit rather than having to support lots of leaves. Plants grown in greenhouses do not usually have their fruit in direct sunlight for long periods, so avoid the problems of sun scald etc.

Watering and Disease

When watering, avoid splashing soil up onto the lowest leaves which may transfer soil infections into a plant through the leaves. Splashing water up onto growing fruit may also create ghost spot which is caused by grey mould soil spores and displays small transparent water-like rings.

It's also a good idea to pull off suckers, side shoots and leaf branches by hand rather than cut them because the blades of knives and scissors can spread disease from one plant to another.

Nick Chenhall has been a keen tomato grower for many years and runs his own tomato growing website. If you would like to find out more about growing tomatoes, please visit:

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Tomato Plant Varieties

Tomato fruits come in a very wide range of sizes, shapes and colours. The largest are the American "beefsteak" and the roughly shaped European "Marmande" types - both considered well flavoured. Some exceptionally thick walled American types which are easily hollowed out are ideal for stuffing. Smaller tomatoes include "cherry" tomatoes, up to 2.5cm (1in) in diameter, and the tiny thumbnail sized "currant" tomatoes. Italian "plum" tomatoes, widely used for canning, are elongated; so is "Britain's Breakfast", a solid fleshed cultivar which freezes well. There are also pear shaped types. Tomatoes can be striped, red, pink, orange or yellow.

Opinions vary widely about the comparative flavour of different cultivars. Flavour is determined by both acidity and sweetness; these characters may be inherent in the cultivar, but are also influenced by watering, feeding, sunshine, growing methods and the stage when picked. The first fruits on a truss are normally the best flavoured. Over watering and over feeding probably lead to diminished flavour.

There are several types of tomato plant. The tall types are "indeterminate", in that a main shoot will grow indefinitely, given warm conditions; eventually it will reach a height of several metres (yards). This type is grown as "cordons", by removing the side shoots and tying the plants to some kind of support. Most greenhouse tomatoes belong to this group.

In the "bush" type there is rarely a main shoot but a number of side branches develop, which more or less stop themselves, to produce a somewhat sprawling, bushy plant. These can be grown without supports and are therefore useful under cloches or floating mulches. Generally, they have a shorter productive season than tall types. Many of the cultivars grown outdoors are of this type.

The "dwarf" types form miniature, very compact plants, sometimes no more than 20cm (8in) high, with only a few short side branches. They are generally low yielding, and mainly used for growing in pots, or on window sills.

Tomato cultivars are divided roughly into greenhouse and outdoor types, but in practice outdoor tomatoes can be grown indoors, and most greenhouse cultivars outdoors, except those bred specifically for heated greenhouses. Some modern greenhouse cultivars have resistance to the wide range of diseases encountered in greenhouse conditions but generally avoided outdoors.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Time is running out to plant tomato seeds

There's still time to grow your own tomatoes from seed, as long as you start soon. It's fun to grow your own; plus you can grow rare varieties that you are unlikely to come across at your local nursery. Plant the seeds in containers that are at least 3 inches deep, with plenty of drainage holes in the bottom. Half-gallon milk cartons cut down to size work well. Buy seed-starter mix at your nursery and plant the seeds 1 inch apart in slightly moistened soil, 1/4 inch deep. Use a spray bottle to water the soil with a fine mist. Tomato seeds need warm roots to germinate, but prefer cool air between 60 and 70 degrees. Keep the container on a warm surface in a bright spot or 2 inches under a fluorescent light fixture. Keep misting the soil enough so it remains slightly moist. As soon as the second set of leaves appears, repot each seedling in a 4-inch pot. Fertilize with quarter-strength soluble house plant fertilizer every seven days, and gradually acclimate your baby tomato plants to the weather until you plant them out around Mother's Day.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Time To Choose Your Tomato Seeds

For everyone in the Northern Hemisphere who would like to grow tomatoes, now is the time to choose your tomato seeds. Here are a few of the great deals for tomato seeds available on eBay. Many different varieties are available, if you cannot see your preferred choice just click through to eBay and use the search box.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Grow Healthier Tomatoes with Super-Oxygenated Water

Studies show increased levels of vitamin A/beta carotene and trans-lycopene from plants watered with oxygenated water.

Minneapolis (PRWEB) March 13, 2008 -- We all know tomatoes are among the top food source for vitamin A and the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Now, studies have shown it's possible to grow tomatoes that provide even more of these beneficial nutrients by simply adding oxygen to the water you provide them.

In studies conducted by Dr. Albert H. (Bud) Markhart, a member of the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota, super-oxygenated irrigation enhanced productivity, improved overall fruit size, and increased levels of vitamin A/beta carotene and the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes.

The tomatoes tested were from two growing locations and analyzed at two independent laboratories. Plants at one location were greenhouse grown and hand watered. Plants at the second location were grown outdoors in a high tunnel and watered through drip irrigation. One set of plants at each location were watered with super-oxygenated water. The hand watered trial used water produced by the Enki™ Watering Device. The drip irrigation location used a flow-through Enki™ System. The control groups were watered from a municipal tap water source at the greenhouse location and from a rural well water source at the outdoor trial.

Fruit grown with super-oxygenated water at both locations analyzed by either laboratory had higher levels of vitamin A/beta carotene. Pooling all data, the super-oxygenated grown plants produced fruit with about a 25 percent greater concentration of vitamin A/beta carotene than plants irrigated with control water.

Lycopene was analyzed from fruit from the final harvest. Care was taken to select a minimum of three fruit of equal ripeness from both treatments. The tomato fruit from the super-oxygenated irrigated plants had 63 percent more trans-lycopene than fruit from the control plants.

Why is this important?

Tomatoes are an important source of vitamin A/beta carotene and lycopene in a balanced diet. In addition to the general anti-oxidant activity, vitamin A plans a vital role in eye health maintaining a clear cornea and sensitive retina. Low vitamin A results in night blindness. Severe deficiency is one of the principle causes of childhood blindness in developing countries. Vitamin A also plays important roles in the immune system.

Beta-carotene is important because it is a precursor to vitamin A. The body rapidly converts beta-carotene to vitamin A.

Lycopene is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants in our diet. In fact, some researchers believe lycopene may be valuable in preventing and slowing the growth of cancers of the prostate, lung and stomach. These scientists describe lycopene as a powerful antioxidant, a compound that blocks the action of activated oxygen molecules - known as free radicals - that can damage cells. The antioxidant activity of lycopene is at least twice as great as beta carotene, another carotenoid that is also thought to be an effective cancer-preventing nutrient.

About the Enki™ Super-oxygenating Watering Device
This astonishing watering device delivers super-oxygenated water to plant roots - naturally. The patented water-electrolysis technology supplies up to 50 percent more oxygen than rainwater in just 30 minutes. More oxygen means healthier roots, resulting in improved plant strength and health, as well as an increase in the number of flowers and the yield of your fruit and vegetables. The Enki is available at independent garden centers nationwide or at

About Ovation Science
The Enki is developed by Chanhassen, Minn.-based Ovation Science, Inc. (, which seeks to provide innovative, green-focused gardening solutions worldwide. The Enki™ watering device is the company's first consumer product offering, but its patented super-oxygenating technology will be the basis of a variety of other consumer, commercial and industrial gardening products in the months and years to come.

For more information contact:
Suzanne Duecker
Ovation Science
suzanne.duecker @

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Home Grown Tomatoes

Having an abundance of seasonal, fresh vegetables changes the way you use them. Their seductive flavour frequently means they become a far more important part of a meal.

Growing them can be hugely satisfying and there is one vegetable you can never have too many of: home grown tomatoes. They are bursting with goodness, sunshine and anti-ageing properties.

Choose your varieties now, ready for sowing in a couple of weeks (for indoor tomatoes) to get a bumper crop.

How do you train and "stop" the plants, and why?

The simplest method to train the taller varieties is to suspend one vertical piece of string from the ceiling per plant and tie it loosely just below the lowest leaves.

Then, as it grows, twist the top of the plant around the string. I use an individual cane per plant outdoors but you could use a system of vertical posts and horizontal wires.

Remove the side shoots with your fingertips as soon as they appear so that all the energy goes into producing fruit from the truss. And when three to eight trusses have set fruit, "stop" the plant by pinching out the main shoot two leaves above the top flowering.

Exactly at which point you stop (or perhaps in sunny warm places do not stop at all) depends on whether the plants are indoors or outside. Trials have been carried out using both methods and it was discovered that the non-stopped plants produced many more fruit but very few of them ripened, whereas the stopped plants bore more ripe fruit. In a good summer, outside, you can ripen four to five trusses.

Joy Larkcom, a vegetable expert and author, lets some of her indoor plants grow unstopped and she is still picking a few now. Some years she picks her last ones as she sows her next crop. In sunny Japan, a gardener grew one tomato plant as a specimen (giving it near perfect conditions).

He merely supported it without stopping and it grew to over 12ft by 12ft and produced 16,054 tomatoes!

Are grow bags effective?

If you grow three plants in a grow bag, you can end up watering three times a day. If you do use them, two plants are a better bet. Just cut out a small patch in the top for the plant as opposed to making a wide slit.

Blossom end rot (where the base of the fruit goes brown or black) is a common problem caused by under- or over-watering, which adversely affects the plant's calcium supply. It is often exacerbated by the cramped conditions in a grow bag. If you cannot grow in the soil or are short of time, larger individual pots (a minimum size is 9in or 23cm) are better in my experience.

Which are the best varieties?

Garden Organic have a great range of heritage tomatoes, and they recommend Peace Vine, which is a small, wild type producing masses of 2-3cm tomatoes with a sweet, tangy flavour. Gardeners' Delight is prolific, easy and very tasty, but my favourites are the Japanese varieties, Momotaro, which translates as "Tough Boy" (a large tomato), and "Aiko" a cherry tomato.

In Japan, nearly all supermarket tomatoes are labelled by variety and I have never eaten a flavourless one. Blight resistant varieties will be big this year too: Ferline, Fantasio and Legend.

Is it worth growing grafted ones?

Sutton Seeds are selling grafted plants this year. They have selected vigorous disease-resistant rootstocks and have grafted tasty varieties on top, which, on their trial grounds last year, were resilient enough to grow through the blight.

They are offering three varieties: Conchita, a large cherry; Dasher, a tasty mini plum; and Elegance, a standard tomato with great flavour. The vigour of the rootstock means you produce fruit earlier (by two to three weeks) and for longer and they are more resistant to disease. I am growing all three this year, both indoors and outside in a sheltered spot.

Joy Larkcom believes it is worth using grafted plants in certain situations. She points out that, especially when you grow plants in the same soil, you can often suffer from unnoticed soil sickness. When she moved house (and greenhouse), she was stunned at the bumper crops which grew in the fresh soil.

The more vigorous rootstocks would be extremely useful if grown in a greenhouse, where it is more difficult to change the soil frequently.

What can be done about the dreaded blight?

Some gardeners declared that they would give up growing outdoor tomatoes after last year's blight. I love the outdoor varieties and strangely did not get blighted, perhaps because I grew them against a dry, sunny hedge (which is normally frowned upon).

Bob Sherman, from Garden Organic, recommends picking off affected leaves, which helps slow the disease. This, in conjunction with using grafted tomatoes in a sheltered place, should mean you can produce copious tasty tomatoes outside.

What about whitefly?

Yellow sticky strips are useful in the early stages, then bring in French Marigolds which, when they are in flower, deter the pests. Keep dead heading the marigolds to maintain flowering.

Any other useful tips?

High potassium feeds promote fruiting, but don't overdo it as too much will make for tough tomato skins. Avoid over-watering your plants too, as it dilutes the flavour. Keep them on the dry side in the early stages to help early fruiting. To ripen off your end-of-season outdoor plants, remove the support and carefully lay them on plastic on the ground and then cover them with a cloche.

Alternatively, lift up by the roots and hang them in the greenhouse or indoors.

Do not sow your seeds too late: for indoor tomatoes the end of February to mid-March is good, and for outdoor ones, sow indoors no later than the first week of April.

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Friday, 29 February 2008

What Tomatoes Will You Grow This Year? by David J Murray

As I write this in February (2008) it's the time of year for those of us in the northern hemisphere to be thinking about sowing seeds for a new season. Are you planning to grow tomatoes this year? If so, have you thought of the many varieties you could be growing to give a wonderful range of shapes, sizes, colours and flavours on your table?

Tomatoes can be as small as cherries or they can be several inches across. They may be bright red, or golden yellow, or dark purple almost to the point of being black, They may be spherical, cylindrical or plum-shaped. They can be sharp in flavour or lusciously sweet; firm-fleshed with liquid juice or soft and pasty, ideal for making purees.

Maybe you've done so in the past but if not, why not try growing some of the large "beefsteak" varieties this year? They're so good for slicing onto sandwiches. 'Brandywine' is a long-proven variety of this kind. Or how about the Italian 'Pomodoro Costoluto Genovese'?

Among the medium-sized varieties I've had good results with 'Ailsa Craig'. I'm not quite sure why but I've never grown 'Moneymaker', although it's been popular with generations of gardeners and is a firm recommendation from many growers.

Among the cherry tomatoes my favourite is toward the larger end of the group, 'Gardener's Delight'. My only hesitancy is that in our area we've had very bad blight for several years now and it does appear to be highly susceptible to that scourge of tomato growers. We'll return to the subject of tomato blight later, but I'm probably going to grow just a few this year, and under the protection of the greenhouse. A highly promising new cherry variety this year is 'Suncherry Premium F1 Hybrid'. For plum-shaped fruits why not try 'Olivade F1 Hybrid' or another Italian variety 'Pomodora Roma Nano'.

Earlier I mentioned the broad spectrum of colours available to tomato growers and thence to the cook and the salad bowl. Among the yellows 'Golden Sunrise' is a lasting favourite, and you could try 'Golden Sweet F1 Hybrid'. To give some dark contrast to the mix you can't get much better than 'Black Cherry'. Among the older, often labelled "Heritage" or "Heirloom", varieties are two Russians which produce beautifullly flavoured and large fruits: 'Purple Russian' and 'Black
Russian'. I first came across 'Black Russian' last year in a lonely-looking pot on a plant stall, bought it, and was won over. In future I must grow some from seed.

It is, of course, not necessary to have large amounts of space to grow tomatoes, even indoors or in the greenhouse. As well as the six to ten feet tall cordon plants there are also the small bushy varieties. 'Balconi Red' produces lusciously flavoured fruits, althogh I find it rather an ugly looking plant and prefer 'Gartenperle' for its combination of fruit and nicer appearance.

Some varieties are especially suited for particular uses or for growing under specific conditions. You can hunt around the seed catalogues for these, but here are a few. Two Italian varieties, 'Pomodoro Rio Grande' and 'Il San Marzano Lungo', are said to be especially good for making
tomato pastes. And if you live in a cold area where Winter turns to Summer only slowly then you may want to try 'Sub Arctic Plenty' which I understand was original bred for growing by army personnel stationed in Greenland.

I promised something about blight. It's not so many years since the gardening experts were telling us, "There's no such thing as a blight-resistant tomato", and of course they were correct. More recently bred varieties, though, have included some with greatly enhanced resistance to this disease. 'Ferline' and 'Legend' are two which I'm trying this year for the first time, having given up on growing my favourite 'Gardeners' Delight' out of doors in this area.

So then, that's a quick run down on the great range of tomatoes that you could be growing this year. Get out the seed trays, and on with the germination. I wish you success.

About the Author

David Murray has been an adviser on managerial and ethical issues to companies, governments and voluntary agencies for almost thirty years, but now as he enters semi-retirement is taking more time to enjoy his garden in the English Midlands, and to write material for several family-owned gardening and bookselling web sites.

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