After my success in growing the Juiciest Tomato at our recent Christmas in July event I thought I would share with everyone what I do to grow this most useful of vegetables, which is really a fruit.
There are more varieties of tomato than any other type of vegetable or fruit. They range in size from ones as small as a currant to whoppers weighing 1 kilo each (Brandywine). We all know how tasty and easy to grow the small cherry tomatoes are, they come up by themselves out of the compost, or where they've landed after the birds have eaten and dropped the seed everywhere. In my opinion these are the best ones to grow over the hottest months, they just need some water and a spot in full sun, although they will also grow in semi shade, but one of the best aspects of growing these is the apparent absence of the dreaded fruit fly. I say "apparent" because I believe that the fruit may have been stung but the speed of the growing and ripening of this tomato means that if they have been stung then the maggots or eggs laid, have not had time to develop sufficiently to be seen or begin the process of destruction of the fruit.
This is a little like the commercial tomato which is sprayed with a systemic insecticide. This insecticide travels inside the fruit to kill any developing eggs/ maggots before the deterioration of the fruit begins. So with commercial fruit we eat not only the fruit but the insecticide and the tiny eggs / maggots. Roger would like comments on this, is he on or near the truth with this or are his opinions way off?
The recent tomato comp showed that indeed the smaller tomatoes are nearly all standouts in the taste department, but while they are great in salads, sometimes we want a bigger more meaty type. while cherry tomatoes give low yields (a really good yield being around 4 - 5 kilos for these) most are quite a bit less. While some of the big slicing types give yields of nearly 20 kilos, e.g. Big Rainbow, and Tigerella
Most of us want something that falls roughly in the middle of these two extremes. Most of these tomatoes are indeterminate (climbing). I have always believed that by pinching out the lateral growths that grow in the Vees of the plant it produces a bigger plant which gives more fruit. Clive Blazey of the Diggers Club found that light pruning gave a 25% reduction of fruit and heavy pruning an 83% reduction.
I do believe that we should prune the leaves of indeterminate plants, as they grow, to remove the lowest branches. This can stop the spread of disease which travels up the plant, started usually by watering the plant from above. Always try to water without wetting the lower leaves. Train the plants onto stakes to produce tall vigorous plants.
Keep the fertiliser up to the plant, I find horse manure good but most work very well. Little and often is the best.
Tomatoes do not need bees to pollinate them. Pollination is done by vibration, mostly created by the wind. If the days are very still, you can shake the plants gently. One way to vibrate the plants is to use an electric toothbrush against the leaves. I have never had to resort to this.
I try to grow tomatoes in beds that have not grown plants from the same family for at least 3 years and do not grow in my impoverished sandy soil as nematodes play havoc with the plants, burrowing into the roots, producing large lumpy growths which stunt the growth of the plants.
I have a diagram of all of my garden beds/ baths/raised beds, etc. I colour code what I grow in each of the spaces for 3 months at a time. This gives me an easy reference of what I can and can't grow each time I want to plant out.
Finally to save your tomato seed, you need to put the flesh into a container in a wet state and allow to ferment for a while (perhaps a week in summer). Take it out of the container and wash the seed in a sieve so that the flesh is washed off. Dry on a paper towel and leave to dry out completely. Refrigerate if storing long term.
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