Tomato

Common name: Love Apple

The cultivated tomato belongs to the genus lycopersicon, and it is believed to have originated in the mountainous regions of the Andes.

European explorers brought the tomato back to Europe during the 16th century.

Tomatoes are half-hardy and generally need some protection such as a greenhouse or plastic tunnel in the UK.

Having said that that they can be grown outdoors, in containers or the open ground if planted close to a south-facing wall / fence.

Apart from location tomato culture for in/outdoor cultivars is similar, although some varieties are better suited than others to growing outdoors.

Outdoor Cultivation:

Week 10: Sow outdoor varieties thinly onto the surface of well-drained seed compost, lightly cover, place in a propagator, and germinate at a temperature of 21°C (70°F).

Germination should take about four or five days.

Week 12: Prick out at the seed leaf stage into individual 70mm (3”) pots of potting compost.

Grow on at a temperature of 15°-18°C (60°-65°F)

Ensure plants do not become pot bound, and pot on as necessary until planting out time.

Seeds started between now or early April will give young plants ready for planting out during late May, early June.

Pricking Out:

 

Select Seedling

 

Rooted Seedling

 

Prepared Pot

 

Insert Seedling



 

Seedling in Place

 

Seedling pricked out

 

Water in Seedling

 

Ready for Growing on



 

Pricked out

 

Hardening off and growing on



Week 23: Once the risk of frost has passed, plant out cordon varieties, 400mm (16”) apart and bush varieties 900mm (36”) apart in rich deeply dug soil, in a warm, sunny, sheltered position.

Alternatively, plant out in containers of John Innes No3 potting compost (or equivalent) and grow on in a similar location.

Provide a 1200mm (48”) stake to cordon varieties and 900mm (36”) for bush varieties.

Loosely tie in the stem to the stake with soft string or twist ties.

Ensure that plants do not go short of water during the growing season.

Apply regular doses of a proprietary liquid tomato feed, to manufacturer’s recommendations after fruit sets.

Week 33: If not already done, tall outdoor tomato varieties will probably need to be stopped to encourage the crop to ripen before the end of the growing season.

Remove the growing tip at one or two leaves above the third / fourth truss.

Container-grown outdoor tomatoes require regular watering and feeding, but those in the open ground may only require a weekly soaking.

Apply about 10 litres (2 gall) per plant and omit the fertiliser.

Week 40: To speed up the ripening process of outdoor tomatoes remove the leaves and lay the stems down on white plastic sheeting, or a layer of clean straw, then cover with cloches.

Alternatively, the fruits will slowly ripen if the stems are stripped of leaves before pulling them up and hanging them by the roots in a dry shed or greenhouse.

When frost threatens to ruin the last green fruits, remove them and individually wrap them in tissue paper and ripen them off in a drawer or cupboard indoors.

Cultivation under glass:

Week 10: Sow greenhouse varieties thinly onto the surface of well-drained compost, lightly cover, place in a propagator, and germinate at a temperature of 21°C (70°F).

Germination should take about four or five days.

Week 12: Prick out at seed leaf stage into individual 70mm (3”) pots of potting compost.

Grow on at a temperature of 15°-18°C (60°-65°F)

Ensure plants do not become pot bound, and pot on as necessary until planting out time.

Week 17: Prepare beds in greenhouse.

Week 19>: Plant out 400mm (16”) apart in a cold greenhouse this month.

Avoid planting out in the same bed as last year, if this proves impractical, remove the soil at least 300mm (1ft) deep from the bed and replace with new.

 

Planted in border

 

Growing on


*Alternatively, grow them in Growbags allow two plants to each small growbag or three to a standard bag.

Prior to placing the growbags, cover the soil with a layer plastic sheeting to prevent contamination.

*Cut slits in the plastic for drainage.

*Another alternative is to use Growing rings (Ring culture)

Lay plastic sheeting as described above and cover it with gravel or well rotted manure or compost.

This acts as a moisture reservoir as the roots extend out of the bottomless rings.

Position 225mm (9”) diameter rings filled with JI No2 compost (or equivalent) 400mm (16”) apart on to the gravel/compost.

Insert canes into the rings and tie them in to overhead roof wires, these wil be used to tie in the plant stems as the plants grow.

*These are useful methods for greenhouses with paved floors.

 

Rings in Place

 

Part filed with manure

 

Part filed with manure

 

Topped up with compost



 

Plants planted

 

Plants growing on

 

Mature plants



Week 25>: Ensure the plants have a uniform supply of water and fertiliser.

Week 26: Watch ventilation on hot days, as excessive fluctuations between day and night temperatures can affect growth.

Provide shade if high temperatures are likely to persist.

Lower leaves can be removed to improve air circulation around plants.

Week 29> Depending upon variety harvest fruit as it ripens.

 

Tomatoes forming

 

Tomatoes Ripening

 

Tomatoes Ripening

 

Ready for harvesting



Week 36> If not already done, nip out the growing tip of each plant to encourage the crop to ripen before the end of the growing season.

Week 44> If harvesting is complete remove haulms and place on compost heap.

Feeding:

During the growing season tomato plants require different feeding regimes e.g.

Early in the season a weak solution of balanced fertiliser should be applied, (say quarter to half strength) at each watering, this will boost root production and encourage plant growth.

When the plants are well established, increase the strength of the balanced fertiliser to full strength as per manufacturer’s recommendations.

Once flower trusses begin to develop and you can see the embryo fruit change the fertiliser to a high potash tomato feed, applied to manufacturer’s recommendation.

The correct balance of nutrients is all-important to sugar/acid balance.

Potash is essential for acidity and plenty of sunshine will increase sweetness.

Watering:

Watering can play an important part in tomato flavour and texture.

For example; Too much water can result in a bland flavour, too little can cause toughening and splitting of the skin, so as with feeding, a regular regime should be adopted.

It is best to feed/water plants in the morning, this is when photosynthesis is at its optimum and most prolonged level.

In really warm weather it may be necessary to water twice a day as the plants grow bigger and thirstier, but be careful not to over-water.

If growing in growing bags, ensure that they are evenly watered and that the roots do not become exposed.

If roots do become uncovered as they often do, cover the said roots with a handful of compost.

Should you have difficulty gauging the moisture level in growing-bags, press a sheet of newspaper on to the surface of the compost.

If paper doesn't darken at the pressure point add water.

Tips:

Keep removing all side-shoots to direct the plant's energy towards further growth and fruiting.

These side shoots can be used for cuttings if necessary.

Place in jar/pot of water until they root, then pot them up initially into 3"(75mm) pots of compost, then when large enough transfer them into the greenhouse border or large pots.

Avoid widely fluctuating day/night temperatures, the latter will cause leaves to roll and slow growth.

Overhead sprays, or dousing plants with a fine rose on the watering can, will help fruit set.

Lightly shaking the plants occasionally will also help.

Watch out for first signs of pests or diseases, and treat accordingly.

Yellow sticky trap cards are a useful non-chemical alternative for control of white fly and other flying pests.

Throughout the growing season, ensure the growing tip is supported by carefully winding it around the support string / cane.

When the plants are about 1200mm (48”) tall, cut away the leaves below the first truss.

Remove yellowing leaves as they appear throughout the season but don't strip the plants completely.

Harvest fruit as soon as it ripens, if left on the vine the sugar and acid levels will start to decrease and the fruit will lose flavour.





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