What with everything else going on this year my range of tomatoes is seriously smaller than usual. Of course no summer would be complete without ‘Sungold’ and ‘Rosella’ and I even decided to grow that old favourite ‘Ailsa Craig’ though it is from self-saved seeds and the plants are a bit uneven. I am developing a fondness for ‘Amish Paste’ which has curious, pointed, large fruits and although it has a very wayward growth habit and is not a prolific cropper, I value the large, luscious fruits. The trouble with developing so many favourites is that it does not allow much room for new tomatoes to try and another that I grow every year is ‘Britain’s Breakfast’. It is a ‘multiflor’ variety with massive trusses of lemon-shaped fruits that are perfect for sauces. I think I will continue to grow it just because after Boris has ‘****ed’ up the UK perhaps breakfast will be just a memory, just like democracy.
A few fruits on ‘Britain’s Breakfast’ and ‘Amish Paste’ (above) is showing signs of green back or green shoulder. This is a cultural condition where the tops or shoulders of the fruits remain green and if you try to eat them these areas remain stubbornly unripe and even crunchy. Some varieties are more prone than others – cherry toms are rarely affected – and it is caused by sunburn.
It is a curious tradition among gardeners to strip off the lower leaves of tomatoes. There is some sense to this because, as the days get shorter and humidity rises with dewy nights, it is essential to maintain airflow around the plants to prevent fungal diseases. But these lower leaves are making food for the plants and they protect the fruits from sun exposure. It is warmth and not direct sunlight that ripens tomatoes. Yes, I do remove leaves when they turn yellow and I do shorten them sometimes to allow me to get to the fruits but exposing them to the sun is not a good plan.
My excuse for this fruit is that it is growing on the south side of the tunnel and is naturally exposed to the sun.
By now you should have stopped the plants because any setting now are unlikely to mature and ripen. Cut the top of the plant off after one leaf after the top truss so that leaf brings up nutrients to it. Unless it is warm and sunny, be careful with splashing water around now – water the compost but keep the plats dry to prevent fungal problems. Watch for moth caterpillars eating the fruits and leaves – pellets of frass on the leaves is a big clue. And keep control of sideshoots. Use secateurs or a knife for this – if you snap them unsuccessfully and you tear the main stem fungal problems are very likely to set in at this time of year. You still need to feed plants if you want them to develop fruits.