Gardening > Grow Your Own... Outdoor Tomatoes

Grow Your Own... Outdoor Tomatoes

Tomato
It is scarcely possible to have a salad without a bit of tomato on the plate and picking a pound or two or ripe tomatoes every few days from the garden throughout the summer is a real bonus. Tomatoes are easily frozen for use in cooking during the winter months so there is no waste associated with this crop.

There are many varieties to try from huge Beefsteak and Plum to tiny Cherry. Colours range from deep red to light yellow. All outdoor tomatoes can be grown either in the vegetable plot, in sunny borders or in containers.

For tomatoes in the vegetable plot:


Prepare the bed during the autumn for planting the following year. Choose a sunny, sheltered site and dig the soil thoroughly incorporating plenty of well-rotted garden compost. Tomatoes prefer a ph of about 6.0.

Sow tomato seeds in trays in a good seed compost. In a cold area of the country it is best to choose an early variety so the fruit has time to ripen.

Sow seeds in early spring and keep indoors on a warm windowsill.

When the seedlings are big enough to handle transfer them to 3-inch pots and allow to grow until late spring. The plants then need to be hardened off in a cold frame or put outside during the day and then brought into the conservatory (or indoor room) at night.

Plant tomatoes out when the flowers of the first truss have formed and are beginning to open. Do not plant them out until early summer when all risk of frost has gone.
Plant the tomatoes at 2 foot intervals or plant them in large pots filled with a good compost.

Tomatoes can be planted into the soil through holes in a layer of black plastic which will not only keep weeds away but will help to improve the crop.

Varieties:


A cordon or upright variety needs to be given support. A cane is the best form of support. Tie the plant to it with string at 12 inch intervals. The upright varieties need to have side shoots pinched out and when 4 trusses have formed pinch out the growing tip. Remove yellowing leaves bellow the fruit as they appear but only do this in moderation.

Bush varieties do not need support nor does their growing tip or side shoots need to be pinched out.

Care of Plants:


Keep the soil moist during hot weather and pay particular attention to tomatoes in pots as they can dry out more quickly than those in the vegetable plot. Use a suitable tomato food following the directions on the packet. Harvest the fruit as soon as it is ripe.

Problems with tomatoes:


Blossom Drop: Flowers wither and break off.
Cause: Over dryness in the air and soil.
Prevention: Water regularly.

Blossom End Rot: Dark leathery patches appear at the base of the fruit.
Cause: Dryness in the soil leading to lack of calcium.
Prevention: Never let the soil dry out especially in pots or grow-bags.

Dry Set: Tomatoes stop growing when green and tiny.
Cause: Air being too dry and hot at the time of pollination.
Prevention: Spray tomato plants with water morning and evening.

Split Fruit: The skin of the tomato is split.
Cause: Allowing the roots to become very dry and then giving the plants a lot of water.
Prevention: Water evenly and consistently.