More about growing Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes
Large Beefsteak tomatoe

Growing tomatoes

There are 2 main types of tomato plants, Bush and Upright also know as Cordon.

The first, Bush need little or no staking, which is a bonus. Some small varieties called Tumbling, as the name suggests, are sold as suitable for a tub or hanging basket which they are, but as containers grown plants they are more prone to drying out, especially on hot days. Irregular watering can toughen the skin and impair the flavour. Regular watering can be supplemented by using water retaining gel, but if you are seeking to garden organically be aware that it has chemicals in it. Bush tomato are shrub like in growth and need some support, a light cane will do.

The most commonly grown tomatoes are Cordon which are upright in growth,  which as the name suggest grow tall and will need supporting, especially when the fruits form.

Which variety to choose is a question of personal taste but bear in mind the large, Beefsteak type, because the fruits are so large take longer to ripen. This means if your veg plot, or greenhouse is in exposed area, or further north they may not ripen until late in the season.

There are lots of fabulous types of tomatoes to grow and those with the RHS garden merit award, which is always a good guide are: 'Sweet Million' a good variety for children as there a hundreds of tiny sweet fruit; 'Costoluto Fiorentino'  a good beefsteak variety.

Other good verities are the ever popular is 'Gardener's delight' which I grow most years and is very reliable with lovely sweet fruits; also good is  'San Marzano Red Plum' a lovely plum variety; 'Sungold' a small fruit variety with golden coloured tomatoes; and 'Moneymaker' a reliable larger sized tomato.

Problems with Tomato 

Curling leaves is caused by low night temperatures ideally the temperature should not fall below 15C. 

Yellowing leaves can be a magnesium deficiency feed with proprietary tomato food. If it persists despite feeding it can be too little or too much water.  

Problems with split fruit - literally the fruit splits caused by irregular watering. Given our very variable weather regular watering is far from easy.

Greenback where the top of the fruit fails to ripen fully is caused by lower temperatures of lack of regular feeding.

Blight can be prevalent in a wet summer by which the plants develop brown patches and keel over the killer disease; you can spray them with proprietary sprays available from the garden centre but you have to be quick off the mark, it's can too late by the time you spot the blight. If you don't want to spray, remove all infected leaves and dispose of not in the compost bin. Tomato plants grown in the greenhouse are much less susceptible to blight.

Halo Blight, small spots on the fruit surrounded by lighter rings which it is a water-borne fungal disease to minimise e risk of this avoid splashing the fruit when you water.

Blossom end rot: unsightly black patches on the underside of the tomato fruit. Caused by irregular watering, and more common in container grown tomatoes than outdoors.

Botrytis, grey mould which can also be a problem. 

Most of the problems with tomatoes are caused by irregular feeding or watering and some outside the gardeners control such as low light or temperature, for which reason in colder parts of the country tomatoes do best in a greenhouse.

All tomatoes need to be supported and staked. The image below shows how the wrong type of support can caused problems. Here the stem has folded over the support and is close to snapping. 

The Sunday Gardener's guide "Success with Tomatoes" is concise e-book of 55 pages and 23 illustrations, full of information and best tips on growing tomatoes. You can look before you buy and keep it on your phone or tablet for reference when in the garden or greenhouse. Look inside you buy for just £1.99

Blight on tomatoes

Tomato blight 

Tomato with broken stem

Tomato with broken stem