Growing tomatoes – off to a limping start!

This year I have often wondered if I would ever get any tomatoes at all – everything seemed to be against me! First there was a disaster that meant that virtually all the seedlings were killed so I had to resow in an unheated greenhouse so the plants were a month behind. Then I had another blow with the mushroom compost.

I was caught out by the mushroom compost this year and strong fumes scorched the young plants

I was caught out by the mushroom compost this year and strong fumes scorched the young plants

Last year I spread this over the beds as a mulch and to provide food and calcium and everything was perfect. But there was something about the compost – or this batch at least – that should have made me cautious. When it fell out of the back of the trailer the smell of ammonia was overpowering and I should have suspected something was wrong. But in haste I barrowed it into the greenhouse, planted through it and then watched as the poor seedlings were either scorched or, in about half the plants, died. I think the compost was not ‘spent’ mushroom compost but fresh, having not carried a crop of mushrooms. Even now, a month later, the remainder outside is unpleasant to move so I am using it with caution. Anyway, I am sure the ammonia was to blame and because the plants were set in hollow in the compost and were not in contact with the stuff I think the gas just suffocated them! Fortunately only about a third of the plants were put in that bed and I had spares so the disaster was not complete.

Flower trusses grow directly from the main stem and not in the leaf axils - where the leaves meet the stems

Flower trusses grow directly from the main stem and not in the leaf axils – where the leaves meet the stems

I now have 120 plants in 30 varieties, growing away and apart from a few they all look OK. Some are flowering and I have just been supporting them and taking out the first sideshoots. Tomatoes can be divided into two main groups according to their growth habits. Bush tomatoes are often called determinate tomatoes because the main shoot ends in a flower cluster (truss) and then produces sideshoots below that that also end in a truss. So the plants are compact, need no support or training and they tend to crop early and all in one short period.

Cordon or inderminate tomatoes are rambling and the main shoot keeps on growing with flower trusses produced along the stems. If left untrained they get into a terrible mess with masses of small fruit that don’t have much chance of ripening. So we train these and support the main stem and take out the sideshoots so they grow as a single stem (cordon) and we usually allow four to six trusses per plant.

Remove sideshoots as soon as possible on cordon (indeterminate) tomatoes

Remove sideshoots as soon as possible on cordon (indeterminate) tomatoes

Sometimes things go awry and the plants produce a terminal flower cluster as on this ‘Berkeley Tie Dye) plant below and so you have to allow one of the sideshoots to replace the main stem.

Sometimes flower trusses form at the top of the stems. This is normal for bush (determinate) tomatoes but not for cordon types - make sure you leave a sideshoot to grow up as the main stem

Sometimes flower trusses form at the top of the stems. This is normal for bush (determinate) tomatoes but not for cordon types – make sure you leave a sideshoot to grow up as the main stem

I am supporting the plants with twine. There is a wire frame above the plants and I tie a loop around the base of the plant and up to the supports. As the plants grow they are simply twisted around this. It is quick and also means it is easy to remove and clear the plants at the end of the season.

, , , ,

2 Comments on “Growing tomatoes – off to a limping start!”

  1. joy
    June 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    thank you im doing it all your way this year hope mine are a success in greenhouse . they are always weak and never much fruit

    • thebikinggardener
      June 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

      well i hope you didn’t have the problems I had at the start! I hope they are doing well now. Don’t forget to seed if you have them in pots or growing bags

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

IGPS Blog

The Irish Garden Plant Society - Lovers of Irish plants and gardens

AltroVerde

un altro blog sul giardinaggio...

vegetablurb

four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!

Flowery Prose

Growing words about writing, gardening, and outdoors pursuits in Alberta, Canada.

ontheedgegardening

Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I am a freelance Photographer born and raised in the Southeast. I have uprooted my life in Macon Georgia for a new life as an unlikely cowgirl in love with a handsome cowboy in Wyoming. I hope you enjoy my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

The world's leading garden plant conservation charity

HERITAGE IRISES

An English experience of gardening in Ireland - and back in the UK

%d bloggers like this: