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Growing tomatoes in pots

Some of the pots lined up in the conservatory
Some of the pots lined up in the conservatory

Why I’m ditching grow bags this year

While it’s good to see more peat-free grow bags on the market, I’ve decided to give them a miss this year.

Why? I hear you gasp. It’s a matter of logistics and constant nagging from my family over my ongoing balance problem (you’ll soon see why).

Most of my tomatoes grow in the conservatory, a 30ftx5ft structure which was originally a path around the side of the house.

As with so many houses in Gateshead, it’s built on a hill, so the house has two storeys at the front and three at the back. To reach the kitchen and conservatory, you have to go up a hefty flight of stairs.

Rosella flower truss
Rosella flower truss

Lifting sacks of soil upstairs

That means carting large quantities of soil up there, never a popular job. With the conservatory being so narrow, grow bags and tray hang over the sills, held up by Heath Robinson-type stakes.

It always was an accident waiting to happen and made watering (and access to the kitchen) a thankless task and a complete trip hazard.

There was also the added problem of lugging the used bags back out at the end of the season, where they were invariably dumped until bit by bit, I used them as mulch. With this system, I have a manageable pot I can carry down without pestering other people for help.

Placing ring culture pots on top of grow bags is another tiresome chore, as I find they dry out too quickly without them.

Tomato grow bags
Tomatoes Artisan Mix, Rosella and Sweet 100 in extra-large grow bags and ring culture pots in 2017

Pots all the way

All in all, quite a case against. What to use instead? It’s a combination of 10″ pots and solid 10″ ring culture containers (they’re bottomless).

They all fit well into windowsill drip trays – the ring culture pots squeeze into the trays, getting four plants per tray. Using this method, I’ve fitted in 43 plants, about double that of my normal tally.

Excess water soon evaporates away, so I’m hoping root rot won’t be a problem with the bottomless pots.

I plan to stop them before they become too unmanageable and have to be picked by ladder (again, not great for the balance deficient), so even if the yield per plant is less, I should end up with a bigger overall crop.

Sungold
Sungold

Tomato catch-up – early June

My tomatoes are horribly late according to my seasonal timetables – I sowed them later than usual due to the bad weather, then I was too busy to pot them on like I normally do, so they’re a bit straggly but still have their first and second flower trusses.

As to the varieties, there are five – the usual Sungold, Suncherry Premium and Rosella, joined this year by Garnet and Santonio.

I’m using New Horizon Peat Free & Organic Multi-Purpose Compost because it’s the only one my local garden centre stocks. I don’t drive and beggars can’t be choosers when you have to rely on multiple trips for soil!

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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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