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.

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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.

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