Blog: Or how my crop was nobbled by postal delays and poor compost!
It’s been a so-so year for tomatoes. I grow them under glass in the conservatory and greenhouse because summers in North-East England are usually too cool and dull to get a reasonable crop outdoors.
First, the practical successes. As I mentioned in a previous post, because of my health problems, I decided to try bush tomatoes on the higher benches in the conservatory instead of cordons. I still used cordons in the greenhouse and the conservatory windowsills.
I happened to have a free packet of Maskotka bush tomatoes and they were far easier for me to look after and harvest.
Root Pouches – how did they do?
I was also trialling several different sizes of Root Pouch containers (read more about them here). They proved to be most useful, as I’ve always had problems fitting big pots on the conservatory windowsills.
The material is tough, made from recycled pop bottles, and flexible, so I could shape them into the drip trays and no falling over when the plants get top-heavy.
They’re also really light, so another benefit if you struggle to lift things. Well worth investing in, especially the ones with built-in handles – even easier to lift and something to tie canes onto.
They fold flat for easy winter storage too – full marks! For more details visit www.rootpouch.com.
Let down by postal delays
Now the negatives, out of mine, or anyone else’s control, thanks to the effects of coronavirus.
Firstly, a trial of Ruby Falls tomato plants from Thompson & Morgan. The postal service failed us, as the package was delayed in transit and five of the six plants were DOA.
One survivor did still have a root system and showed its tenacity by recovering and flowering but too late to set fruit at the end of September. A real shame, as it sounds like a great tomato but it may be good for beginners if it can recover from the brink. I’ll give it a go from seed next year.
Aloe Safari Sunrise was in the same pack and survived unscathed, although it hasn’t flowered this year.
Sour-faced over sour soil
Getting hold of multipurpose compost after lockdown was next to impossible, with so many new gardeners wanting to buy the same amount of resources.
I don’t have enough space to make my own, so like most people, I buy it, which meant whatever was available.
I bought 16 bags of a peat-free multipurpose compost from an online supplier, as the garden centres were still shut. When it eventually arrived, the compost was soaking and gave off a sour smell. My suspicions were that the supplier was selling old stock that had been saturated for some time, causing the smell and leaching out nutrients.
After opening the bags to dry it out, the compost improved a bit but I feel many of the nutrients had already gone. I won’t be using the supplier or the particular make of compost again.
How did the tomatoes do? From best to worst…
Rosella (cordon): My favourite tomato for taste and reliability, with a good yield. Plants are still bearing the dark smoky pink fruit in the greenhouse. Recommended
Reisetomate (cordon): A trial variety from Suttons, after a slow start, these oddities gave a reasonable crop with good taste. You can pull sections off each fruit, leaving the rest on the plant, hence the name the Travellers’ Tomato. Recommended
Maskotka (bush): From a free packet, these bush tomatoes meant I could pack more plants in than normal. Yield was middling, as was the taste.
Apero (cordon): I had high hopes for this one but the crop was really poor, suffering from poor fruit set. The taste was very good though.
Yellow Pear Shaped (cordon): After a bumper crop last year, this heritage variety was absolutely useless this year!