Home My garden Red alert! Tomatoes ripening at last

Red alert! Tomatoes ripening at last

Suncherry Smile
Suncherry, growing in the conservatory

Better late than never for conservatory tomatoes

Up the ladders tying in tomatoes…

The dull summer so far has really slowed down the tomatoes – thank God they’re under glass, or they’d all be dead.

The result is a surfeit of leaf growth at the expense of trusses and the usual poor setting of the first truss.

Even though they’re under glass, nights can still be cool early in the season, so you get big temperature fluctuations which tomatoes really don’t like.

However, the first ripe tomato has made its appearance – Suncherry Smile, a new variety this year, a shiny-skinned, red cherry.

Even the one-truss tomatoes, stopped after the first one has formed (saves wasting spare plants and you’re supposed to get earlier crops) are way behind. Best of these plants seem to be Crimson Crush and Sunchocola.

Crimson Crush
Crimson Crush

The several Green Zebra plants are behind the F1 varieties and boy, do they produce a lot of leaves – they’re one of those tomatoes that don’t have what I call a ‘clean’ truss, but have leaves and stems shooting out all over the place.

Of course, the poor light has led to the plants hitting the roof already – literally. I keep stepladders in the conservatory to reach the tops, stop them when they hit the roof and nip out side shoots (mine are all cordons because the structure is long and narrow).

On the subject of nipping out side shoots, try and do it once a week, otherwise tomatoes really take advantage – I’ve just found two I missed last time and they were 3ft long!

Nipped out the leader? No problem

Blind tomato
The tomato on the right was ‘blind’ – I allowed the next side shoot down to become the new leader

If you manage to nip out the leading shoot by accident, don’t panic. I did this – on some varieties it can be hard to spot which is a side shoot, as they can be as thick as the main stem.

You can also end up with a ‘blind’ plant, which happened to one of mine too – the leader simply stops growing.

In both cases, train the next side shoot down to take over, which it will. The plant will be a little stockier and later, but you’ll still have a productive plant.

It’s usual to hack back a lot of the green growth later on in the season, so tomatoes get more light to ripen and the plant’s energy goes into producing fruit.

However, with the excess leaf growth now, I started the process, only removing leaves that cover already-formed trusses.

Bit of detritus on the floor there

Also, make sure you keep up to date with your tying in of cordons and that their canes are tall enough.

A couple of mine have outgrown theirs, which is my own fault, I should have put bigger ones in at the beginning. Tomatoes carry heavy crops and it’s easy for plants to keel over.

Keep watering regularly – as it’s been cool here, a soaking every third day has been sufficient for the ring culture/grow bag plants, every other day for the one-truss plants.

It’s traditional to start feeding when the second truss is pea-sized and mine are, but I found last year I needed only half the Tomorite I usually use, as I grew plants in Dalefoot Compost, a peat-free sheep’s wool/bracken mix, which cuts down on watering and feeding. The ring culture pots will be getting a top dressing of this.

I feel a glut coming on…

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


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