October 14, 2009

Grow your own Tomatoes 2009

I got some free seeds from my BBC Good Food magazine and thought I might as well plant them, as I’d managed to make the free basil seeds I got to sprout!
These tomato seeds are called Gardener’s Delight and they’re cherry tomatoes, which I like to eat, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to enjoy them in some nice salads this summer!
Sowing the seeds:
Steve’s Mum had some peat pots lying around in the shed, so she suggested I use them to plant my seeds in. So I filled up the peat pots with multipurpose compost (should have used seed compost but didn’t have any) and then put about 3 tomato seeds into each peat pot. Then I put the peat pots into an empty mushroom tray (from when you buy mushrooms from the supermarket pre-packed) and they fit perfectly. I gave them some water, then covered loosely with cling film, then left them on a sunny (in England, yeah right!) windowsill.
It took a full 7 days before any of the seeds sprouted and out of the 30 seeds I planted, only 4 have sprouted, which is a bit disappointing. Hopefully more will come up if we get a bit of sunshine!

TomsWeek21I removed the cling film at the beginning of the week to give the seedlings room to grow. I’ve been watering only when the soil becomes dry to touch. Amazingly, a load more seeds sprouted and now I’ve nearly got a whole tray of seedlings! When they reach 12cm tall then I will need to re-pot them.

TomsWeek31I’m really pleased with how well the tomatoes are doing! The seeds I planted in 2 of the peat pots failed to start growing, so I dug out the soil and stuck it into some of the other peat pots. I packed it down a little bit and I think this helped the established seedlings.
In the 2 empty peat pots I decided to try and grow some chili seeds I got free from Wahaca (a Mexican restaurant in London – quite a disappointing eating experience!). We’ve successfully grown chilies from plants we’ve bought from the garden centre, so hopefully I’ll be able to get these seeds to sprout!
I’ve only been watering them every 2-3 days so that the soil is kept moist.
TomsWeek4I’m really impressed with how well the tomatoes are doing!

I got impatient with the chili seeds I planted, so I stuck another seed into each empty peat pot and I think I’ve finally got 1 to sprout! I’ve also tried the method I saw on TV where you moisten a piece of kitchen towel, place the seeds on it and then fold it in half. Then you put this into a plastic bag and seal it with some air trapped inside. I haven’t managed to get anything to germinate with this method yet!
The tomatoes are doing really well and will be ready to move outdoors permanently soon (when I finally get my raised bed!). I’ve been putting all the plants outdoors during the day and bringing them back inside at night to acclimatise them to the weather.
The 2 pots where I planted the chili seeds (middle front row of the photo) have got quite big seedlings now, but I’m not sure if they’re tomatoes or chilies! We’ll just have to wait and see I guess – but even then I don’t know what kind of chilies they are! I have germinated some chili seeds separately though….
The photo below was taken on 10 May:
I forgot to say that I use a spray bottle to water all the plants as it gives me more control and should hopefully prevent me from overwatering them.

The photo below was taken 18 May:
Toms 18 May side
I thought it was better to take a photo from the side as it shows the difference in size much better. It’s quite weird how some of them are so much bigger than the others and yet I haven’t done anything different. I always turn the plants so they face the sun equally.

The photo below was taken 22 May:
I planted the 3 biggest tomato seedlings in the raised bed and I’ll put the next biggest 3 in the grow bag. They were bursting to be moved to a bigger place, as the roots were coming through the peat pots.

The photos below were taken 27 May:
Bad tom leaves 2 mm Bad tom leaves 1 mm

All the tomato plants have got white marks on some of the leaves, the worst ones are very dry and papery. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, so I joined a gardening forum and the lovely people on there confirmed my suspicions that it was wind/sun burn, as the weather has been very changeable lately. So I just removed the damaged leaves as they suggested. Other than that, the tomatoes and other plants seem to be doing OK.
The photos below were taken 1 June:
Tomsinpots1June1The tomatoes I put into the grow bag got totally saturated when it rained really heavily and I read that grow bags aren’t the best way to grow tomatoes. So I moved them into large pots (11 inch diameter) and the soil is only just starting to dry out after 3 days of full sun! The leaves on these plants are a much darker green than the ones in the raised bed and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not! I had quite a bit of soil leftover from the grow bag, so I’ve managed to put another butternut squash plant in a pot and I’ve got an extra pot ready for chilies too.

The tomatoes in the raised bed seem to be doing very well and I expect the first truss (A truss is the stem that carries the flowers, which turn into tomatoes) to form soon, which is when I will start feeding them.

The photo below was taken 5 June:
The plants in the raised beds are making good progress. The first truss hasn’t appeared yet, but sideshoots have been growing, so I have been pinching them out so that all the energy goes into growing the main stem and the flowers/fruits. I won’t tie them to the supporting canes until the first truss has set.

The photos below were taken on 13 June:
As well as the sideshoots, I’ve also removed the lowest branches that were growing on the stem. They were getting really big and creating too much shade over the other plants. Another reason for removing them was I was told that by removing them it would allow all the energy the plant makes to go into making the fruit. I’ve also tied them to the supporting cane even though the first truss hasn’t set, because they were getting blown over in the wind and rain we had recently!

The photos below were taken 25 June:
Toms 25 June flowerThe tomatoes are all doing really well. The stems are thick and strong and the plants are about 25 inches tall now.  I have been removing all the lower branches to concentrate growth in the top part of the plant. I think I have my first set of flowers/truss growing now too.


Toms in pots 25 June
And here are my tomatoes growing in pots, which are now 12 inches tall.

The photo below was taken 29 June:
Tomato flower 29 June
Wahey! My first tomato flower has opened! I thought it would never happen! With all the hot weather they’ve promised us this week I should get a lot more opening soon. I must remember to feed them some tomato feed!

The photo below was taken 3 July:
I’m quite surprised the tomatoes that I’m growing in pots have started to flower already. They’re only 17 inches tall, so they’re half as tall as the plants in the raised bed, which are now 38 inches tall. It’s perhaps they’re getting a lot more nutrients from the grow bag soil that they were planted in and they don’t have to compete with lots of other plants like the ones in the raised bed.
The ones in pots used to have much darker green leaves (see photo 1 June), which I’ve read means they have a lot of nitrogen. Too much nitrogen results in lots of lush green leaves and little fruit, so I’m glad the leaves have turned a lighter shade of green now.

The photo below was taken 11 July:
Tom fruit 12 July
The tomatoes are starting to bear fruit now which is good. I haven’t been at home to give them any tomato food, but it doesn’t seem to be hindering their growth!

Raised bed 12 July
In fact, the tomatoes in the raised bed are growing like crazy and have now reached the kitchen windows! I cut all the lower branches to let all the energy go into growing the fruit and also to allow the sun to reach the plants underneath.

All the plants in pots are still half the size, but they’re still doing quite well.

The photo below was taken 18 July:
The tomatoes are doing really well and I’ve got quite a few fruits growing, even though I haven’t given them any tomato feed for the last few weeks due to forgetting! I’m not at home during the week as I’ve been doing my cooking course, so when I come back at weekends I’m amazed at how much they’ve grown in a week.
Toms-18-JulyThe branches are really thick so I’ve cut a lot of the lower ones off and I’ve also cut the top of the plant now that 4 trusses have grown to stop the plant growing anymore, as I want all the energy to go into the fruit.

The photos below were taken on 1 August:
The tomatoes have grown a huge amount over the last week and I had to add a few more canes to give them support. I’ve got loads of fruit growing so I had to cut back a few branches.

Whilst I was tending to my plants a lovely bumblebee came to collect pollen and I managed to take this photo of him hard at work. I’m pleased that my plants are helping the dwindling bee population!

The photo below was taken on 9 August:
This is just a small example of the amount of tomatoes I have growing! All the plants have got fruit on them, like big bunches of grapes, and I’m just waiting for them to get bigger and turn red before picking. I think I’ll be making a lot of tomato sauce…

The photos below were taken on 15 August:
I had a bit of a disaster occur with the tomatoes today! It was really windy and one of the branches which had loads of fruit on it snapped.

So I lost quite a few tomatoes on this branch, but I’m not too worried as the other plants are bearing loads!

Luckily there is some trellis attached to the wall next to the plant that has the most fruit on it, so I’ve been tying the plant to it for support.

A couple have started changing colour, so hopefully I’ve be able to start harvesting soon and relieve the plants of some weight!

The photos below were taken on 23 August:
Red toms 23 Aug
Well a load of tomatoes have started turning red on all my tomato plants so I’ve been busy picking them this week! They taste really good, not amazingly sweet but I didn’t really expect them to as I don’t think they’re a particularly sweet variety. I’ll be using them in a tomato sauce tomorrow to go with some pasta and I’ll probably chuck in some basil too as that’s doing quite well now!

Not all the tomatoes have been perfect. I’ve found a couple that have split and according to ‘The Vegetable & Herb Expert’ book by Dr. D. G. Hessayon, this is caused by heavy watering or rain after the soil has become dry around the roots. The sudden increase in size causes the skin to split. So to prevent this you have to keep the roots moist. I admit I’m not very confident when it comes to watering my plants as I’m always scared of overwatering them. Sometimes Steve’s Mum waters my plants but forgets to tell me, so I go out and water them as well! I think that is what caused my squash to rot. Ah well, I’m pretty chuffed with how well the tomatoes are doing and I’m really pleased (and quite shocked) that they haven’t suffered from more serious problems like Blossom End Rot or Blight.
The photo below was taken 29 August:
Well I’m beginning to harvest quite a few ripe tomatoes at the same time, so I’ve made tomato sauces for pasta and curries. I also had them in a ham and salad roll which was really nice and I’ve even converted Steve to liking cherry tomatoes! He usually hates them because they’re not very sweet and he thinks the skins are tough, but he really likes my home-grown tomatoes so I’m really pleased.

The photos below were taken 5 September:
TomsandherbsWell the tomatoes are pretty much the only things that I’ve planted that have successfully grown and allowed me to enjoy the fruits of my labour! Here they are just about to be cooked with some sausages for the Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake recipe I did, along with some rosemary and thyme fresh from the herb pot!

The plants in the raised bed went absolutely mental and grew into huge plants, so I had to be quite ruthless and cut loads of branches to allow sunlight to reach the other plants. But this didn’t seem to do them any harm and I’ve still got loads of tomatoes growing. The plants grew so tall that I had to use lots of canes and the trellis on the wall to support them. They grew very long horizontal branches too, so I now have quite a strange framework of tomato plants!
Tomsinpots5Sept The plants growing in the pots are much smaller and more conventional in shape. I moved these two plants to be next to the wall because it has been very windy here recently and I didn’t want them to fall over.

The photos below were taken on 11 September:Blackstemtomatoes11Sept9
Today I’ve just noticed one of my tomato plants has a problem on the stem. It’s turning all black! The actual fruits don’t seem to be affected and are still ripening, but if this is a disease that can spread then I will move the plant away from the others.

Blackstemtomatoes11Septclose6 It’s really difficult to find out for sure what the cause is. None of my research in books or the Internet has come up with an answer!
OK I think I’ve just found out what the problem is with the tomatoes, I think it’s Late Blight. This website has lots of pictures of how the leaves and stems are affected. The leaves on my plant don’t actually look bad, which is why it took me so long to notice that something was wrong with the stem. Apparently late blight will spread like wildfire, so tomorrow I will have to dispose of the plant!

The photo below was taken 19 September:
I did end up binning the plant that I suspected had become a victim of Late Blight. I didn’t feel too bad because I’ve still got loads of fruits growing on the other plants.
Toms 19 Sept
So far none of my other plants have been affected and are still providing me with lots of lovely tomatoes. I’ve been reading about the different varieties of tomatoes and apparently Gardener’s Delight are an “exceptionally sweet and delicious cherry tomato” (well this is according to the Marshalls Seed Catalogue!). I’ve been really pleased with how they’ve grown and I will grow them again next year because I haven’t had too many problems and more importantly I still have loads of seeds! I’m definitely going to grow them just in pots and not in the raised bed again, because they just grew far too big and completely overshadowed everything else. In their place I will try peas or sweetcorn.
The photo below was taken 13 October:
This is the last of all my lovely tomatoes. I decided to cut them all off the plant, leaving them on the vine, and bring them indoors to finishing ripening as it’s too cold and wet outside.
I’m really impressed with my crop of tomatoes and I would have had even more if I’d let the fruits grow on the plants that I planted near the garage. But after I planted them, I found out that the garage roof is made from asbestos and I was scared that the rain water that ran off the roof and onto the soil might be contaminated, so I didn’t want to risk it!
But I really recommend the variety Gardeners Delight as they were really easy to grow and a great cropper!


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