Tomato progress update: June

After a bit of a shaky start – cold weather made it impossible to clear the decks of all the veg plants to make room for the toms to go in – I am glad to say that the tomatoes are all doing OK (touch wood). Some are setting – mostly the cherry toms – and the rest are growing strongly. They are all supported by twine and they need the sideshoots removed twice a week, they are growing that fast!

I have the cherry toms and cherry-plums on the side of the greenhouse with the most height so I can get lots of trusses (clusters of fruit) on these and the stockier beefsteak and other big toms are on the shorter side. The big’uns take longer to ripen so I can’t get so many trusses on these before the weather cools so I only need height for about four trusses.

So far I have done no extra feeding – they had chicken pellets and dried seaweed added to the soil before planting and the beds are mulched with about 8cm of partly composted strawy manure and oak leaves (it was composted for about 6 months). This will add humus to the soil, keeps in moisture, keeps down the weeds and feeds the plants. Weeds are important because just a few stray chickweed plants will attract greenfly.

A general view of the plants

A general view of the plants with physalis in the foreground

janets jacinthe jewel june 15

Some of the plants are ‘potato-leaved’ varieties like this ‘Janet’s Jacinthe Jewel’. Most (but maybe not all) potato-leaved toms have large fruits.

You can tell if a plant is going to have large fuits by the flowers. Instead of the usual starry flowers with five petals the flowers are almost double with lots of petals. Do not expect every flower in the truss to make a fruit. Usually only three to five flowers 'sets' but when the fruits weight 500g or more that is still a lot for the plants to support

You can tell if a plant is going to have large fruits by the flowers. Instead of the usual starry flowers with five petals the flowers are almost double with lots of petals. Do not expect every flower in the truss to make a fruit. Usually only three to five flowers ‘sets’ but when the fruits weight 500g or more that is still a lot for the plants to support. You also often find with these older types that things get mixed up and the trusses may end in a leaf or even a shoot. Just pinch that off.

In contrast, a cherry tom like this 'Sungold' will have regular, starry flowers. Notice the more spindly growth that is typical of cherry toms.

In contrast, a cherry tom like this ‘Sungold’ will have regular, starry flowers. Notice the more spindly growth that is typical of cherry toms.

This is 'Amish Paste' which has the unnerving habit of looking like it is dry, even when it is not. The leaves hang limply at the top of the plant. Note that, like so many heirloom types, it does not always know what to do and the 'lead shoot' split into two where the truss of flowers was produced so I just cut one off.

This is ‘Amish Paste’ which has the unnerving habit of looking like it is dry, even when it is not. The leaves hang limply at the top of the plant. Note that, like so many heirloom types, it does not always know what to do and the ‘lead shoot’ split into two where the truss of flowers was produced so I just cut one off.

Although everyone grows their toms in a different way I prefer to control their growth and remove sideshoots so I get larger, better quality fruits and to allow the air to get to them. I do not strip off the lower leaves until they turn yellow though - it is warmth and not direct sun that causes them to ripen. This 'Black Russian' has a sideshoot at the right that needs to be removed. If the plants are full of water, early in the day, they snap off easily - later they are cut of with a knife so I do not risk damaging the main stems

Although everyone grows their toms in a different way I prefer to control their growth and remove sideshoots so I get larger, better quality fruits and to allow the air to get to them. I do not strip off the lower leaves until they turn yellow though – it is warmth and not direct sun that causes them to ripen. This ‘Black Russian’ has a sideshoot at the right that needs to be removed. If the plants are full of water, early in the day, they snap off easily – later they are cut of with a knife so I do not risk damaging the main stems

This is 'Britain's Breakfast' my favourite cooking tom. Each truss can have 100 or more flowers and a large proportion of these 'set' so I only let two trusses develop on each plant.

This is ‘Britain’s Breakfast’ my favourite cooking tom. Each truss can have 100 or more flowers and a large proportion of these ‘set’ so I only let two trusses develop on each plant.

'Tomatoberry Garden' is supposed to have strawberry-shaped fruits. It is looking distinctive already. I have not grown this before even though it is not very new and I have a nasty feeling it will be a bit too firm and crunchy for my taste - we will see.

‘Tomatoberry Garden’ is supposed to have strawberry-shaped fruits. It is looking distinctive already. I have not grown this before even though it is not very new and I have a nasty feeling it will be a bit too firm and crunchy for my taste – we will see.

On to the grafted tomtatoes that I mentioned earlier in the year. Despite my worries they are romping away and are now just about as big as the 'normal' toms. I have just potted them into big pots. They are various cherry toms grafted onto 'Mayan Twilight' potatoes.

On to the grafted tomtatoes that I mentioned earlier in the year. Despite my worries they are romping away and are now just about as big as the ‘normal’ toms. I have just potted them into big pots. They are various cherry toms grafted onto ‘Mayan Twilight’ potatoes.

My only worry with them is that the potato stems have not increased in girth so I will have to be very careful with my staking. It seems impossible that the tiny potato stem can push up enough water to feed the tomato. Removing suckers from the potato base is a constant job

My only worry with them is that the potato stems have not increased in girth so I will have to be very careful with my staking. It seems impossible that the tiny potato stem can push up enough water to feed the tomato. Removing suckers from the potato base is a constant job

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6 Comments on “Tomato progress update: June”

  1. fernwoodnursery
    June 19, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    Tomatoes look great, nice dark green foliage! Very informative post. The cherries have just begun to set fruit here in Maine, the slicing tomatoes and pastes are following right behind with promise. We grow several plants in the hoop house, and another 40 or more in the garden beds. Over the last several years Maine has had the tomato blight sweep through. We have managed to avoid it, at least until the very end of the season, after a full harvest of fruit. Hope you get plenty of sunshine this summer, we have been a bit on the cool side this spring so far …still plenty of time for heat, we hope!
    Best to you!

    • thebikinggardener
      June 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

      Glad to hear your tomatoes are doing well too – sound like they are in a similar state to ours. We did not have the extremes of weather that you had but May was cold – apparently the coldest for about 20 years – but then every month seems to have a record these days!

  2. Dan
    June 19, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    Wonderful-looking tomatoes, and a very interesting post! So many clusters bodes well for you. And a tomato grafted to a potato stem? That’s something I’ve never encountered. What’s the theory/purpose? And how many tomato plants do you have?

  3. thebikinggardener
    June 19, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    Thank you. I originally posted about the tomtatoes on April 27 – this is the link –
    https://thebikinggardener.com/2015/04/27/grafting-tomatoes-on-potatoes-not-such-a-new-idea/ . As to why I do it – well its a bit like why does someone climb a mountain! In the UK tomtatoes are being sold retail by one seed company and they have obviously done research into the best potato and best tomato but I tried just one potato and various toms but all have done ok once the grafts took. I suppose in theory you get two crops from one pot but I am not totally convinced you really gain. But it is a bit of fun! I have ‘rationalised’ the toms this year after last year when I grew 30 varieties and this year have 22 and a total of 110 plants. I find it really difficult to narrow the choice down! Next year when I am back in the UK and have only my 10x3m greenhouse I will have to be more sensible!

  4. gardeninacity
    June 20, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    Those are some very healthy-looking tomatoes! Never heard of chicken pellets before – I’m guessing that is chicken manure?

    • thebikinggardener
      June 20, 2015 at 9:19 am #

      Sorry – I mustn’t assume you know what they are! Yes it is pelleted chicken manure. It is widely available in various brands and is a good general fertiliser with a broad spectrum of nutrients. It is easy to use and acts quite quickly. It is supposed to be organic but I can only assume it comes from caged birds or at least from roosts – it would be a lot more expensive if it was collected from fields by someone following the hens with a shovel!

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