Posted by Wayne Robinson
Tomato

Tomato varieties are either grown as Indeterminate or Determinerate, what we know as ‘Cordon’ that grow tall and require staking, or ‘Bush’ variety that don’t require staking. They require a long growing season, with plants positioned in full sun.

As well as plant types there are quite a number of different tomato fruit types:

  • Standard – the ‘normal’ tomato, spherical in shape and around 2.5cm in diameter
  • Cherry – just a small version of the normal tomato, often marble sized from dwarf bush types
  • Beefsteak – a large version of the normal tomato. Because of their large size, these tomato varieties take longer to mature and ripen so must be grown in a greenhouse.
  • Plum – the firm fleshed oval shaped fruit you find in Italian canned tomatoes. Tend to have been bred to store well as bottled (or canned) and they freeze well
  • Marmande – large irregular shaped tomatoes, but very very tasty

They can be grown indoors in glasshouses or polytunnels and some varieties even benefit from growing outdoors. Seeds are best started under cover earlier in the year.

Tomato plants are hungry feeders and can suffer from blossom end rot when food and water is sporadic. Keep plants mulched to help keep moisture in the soil.

How, Where & When

Start seed in seed trays or coir pellets, indoors in heated propagator and under grow lights late Jan or in greenhouse late March, the young seedlings need to be kept at a temperature around 18C. Once germination takes place 7-14 days later and the seedling has 3 true leaves, pot on to individual 7cm pots.

Spacing

When planting, a pot size of 10ltr will provide sufficient room to stake or cordon the plants. Planting can also be done direct in soil keeping 40-50cm between plants (variety depending).

On Going Care

Cordon variety will need to be tied to a vertical cane, remove regularly side shoots that appear between the main stem and main leaves. When the plant has reached the top of the greenhouse or have set seven trusses remove the growing tip of the main stem at two leaves above the top truss.

Bush varieties do not require support and there is no need to remove sideshoots.

On the onset of flowers, start a high potash feed once a week. Keep a good watering regime as sporadic watering can lead to the fruit splitting; only apply feed when plants are turgid.

Harvest

When fruit starts to show signs of change in colour from, dark green to light, cut away the leaves stalks from around the fruit to allow sunlight to ripen the fruit. Start picking when the fruit is ripe and fully coloured.

Nutrition

Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.

Culinary

Where to start…Tomatoes offer a myriad of uses…one of our favourites is to cut them in half, with a splash of olive oil and a liberal sprinkling of sea salt flakes and then cooked slowly in the oven and voila slow roasted tomatoes for simply amazing pasta dishes or even eaten on their own with a salad…create a stunning summer Gazpacho soup…liven up salads by turning tomatoes in to salsa accompaniments, experiment with different herbs…sow many choices!