Although my tomatoes got off to a dodgy start and the final plants were sown later than I would have liked they have reacted well to the decent summer we have had so far. With one exception, all the 30 varieties are cordon types so have had their sideshoots removed and they are supported by twine tied overhead. The soil in the beds was improved with mushroom compost and some pelleted chicken manure and once the plants reached the top of their supports, at about 1.5m, I gave an extra dressing of organic fertiliser. I have not been applying liquid fertiliser to the roots but obviously they are well watered. I have also applied seaweed extract as a foliar feed once a week once the plants reached their ultimate height.
What is obvious from the growth so far is how inconsistent and just plain ‘weird’ some of the heirlooms can be compared with the uniformity of the few F1 hybrids I am growing. Both have their place but it does confirm to me that F1s are probably best for beginners to grow. Because their growth is consistent and easy to understand it is much easier to remove sideshoots. They tend to be vigorous and and often early to ripen. What makes them less desirable is that they are all bred for commercial growers and of all the properties that are seen to be desirable by the breeders taste is not top of the pile. Even so, a lot of the flavour in tomatoes comes from how they are grown and if they are allowed to ripen on the plants (and not kept in a fridge – please!) so growing your own is a good idea even if they are F1s.
So this is a bit of a progress report of some of the toms this year so far. The photos were all taken a few days ago, on the same day.
‘Gourmet’ is a regular, round red tom and is very neat in growth.
This is the first to ripen of all the toms. This is rather surprising because a) it is a beefsteak and b) it is green. But this is a green tom that is ripe when it develops a yellow/gold flush. The flesh is green but really tastes like a ripe tom! The reason this is the first to ripen is that one plant grew oddly and had a terminal flower truss when the plant was about 40cm high. I had been removing sideshoots apart from the (sub) terminal one when I noticed this had happened. So I had a plant with one truss of three fruits. But I intended to train the one remaining shoot up the twine until someone helpfully snapped it off. The rest of the plants are growing normally and their fruits are nowhere near ripe.
This is a strong plant with dense foliage and the fruit have set well. It is odd that the fruit seem very variable in shape, even on the same truss.
This one has surprised me because although it is supposed to be a cherry tom the growth is very stocky and dense. The trusses are not huge and I will be delighted if it crops better than it has so far. It looks like a big cherry to me. The foliage is a bit odd too with new shoots springing from the leaves.
‘Tigerella’ is an established striped tom that has good flavour. The biggest problem with it is that the fruits are very soft when ripe. It crops well and is no trouble. The top trusses on the plants are quite big, with 30+ flowers and they set well.
I have to say that the two ‘blue’ toms are disappointing so far. They have no blue colouring and the varieties are spindly and the fruit on ‘Blue Berries’ are small and sparse – and green. So far I am gutted.
‘Orange Wellington’ is turning out to be a tomato-producing-machine! Big trusses with lots of flowers that are setting well.
‘Britain’s Breakfast’ is a reliable plum/lemon tom that is great for paste and cooking. It always has huge trusses and of the six plants I am growing I am limiting two plants to two trusses and the other four to three trusses.
I should really have nipped out and taken another photo of this because ‘tadah!’ a few are ripe today. This looks like a keeper with decent trusses, good set and dense, strong growth. I hope they taste OK. * it gets its name from the colour of the fruit – not the taste!
Another stripey one, this time a beefsteak. It is a thick, stocky plant and sets well with half a dozen fruits per truss.