Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tomatoes setting

Isn't it amazing - from a packet of seeds

to this

in just 10 weeks.

Plants are flowering away like mad and the first fruits are just starting to set.
Tomatoes being almost my very favourite things in the whole world....I couldn't wait to get growing and started these off (admittedly a little on the early side) in February, in the greenhouse, in a wooden seed tray and got almost 100% germination from both varieties - Sungold and Gardeners Delight, varieties very carefully picked from some considerable experience and extensive tastings!
When the seedlings had formed their true leaves and were big enough to handle I transplanted them into individual paper pots. When roots started showing out of the bottom they went lock stock and barrel into 15cm pots before being transplanted into their final home - with 4 plants to each Willow Vegetable and Tomato Planter.
I hadn't banked on quite such germination success and as a result have more plants than I could possibly house in the Tomato House - so I've put 3 in a Grow Bag outside, cunningly disguised with the help of 'Hide Those Ugly Grow Bags' and passed the rest onto friends and family - noting with some delight (detect a hint of smug here?!) that my plants were about 4 times the size of those bought by one friend from the garden centre for £1 each! There's an interesing post in My Tiny Plot this week about waiting for the right night time temperature before planting out (55 degrees) - I put mine out in the grow bag a week ago and so they could well have been set back by the cold nights of the last few days.

To get the best crop it's important to pick out the side shoots that form between a leaf and the main trunk - these are suckers - if left they will develop into mini plants but will take strength from the main trunk, divert sugar from the fruit and turn the plant into a bushy thing that will compete with its neighbours for space and light. There's  a very interesting article on when to pick off the suckers and when it's ok to leave them, here http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx

I've been playing hunt the sucker every day and pluck away with great relish - how could I have missed this one - I swear it's grown like a triffid overnight!

The plants are all firmly staked and I've used the best tie-ing method I know - our galvanised wire Plant Support Rings.
Simply pull the ring open, wrap it around plant and stem and squeeze back together, Couldn't be easier, doesn't damage the stem and can be quickly taken off and re-used next year.
When a few more fruit have set I'll start feeding them with Organic Tomato Fertiliser.
The smell of the leaves left on my fingers from picking out the suckers is just heavenly and has me nearly drooling in anticipation of a bumper harvest - fingers crossed!

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