Growing tips at the end of July
At this time of the season, most of us will be looking at our plants and seeing two things –
- Lots of flowers and growing fruit
- Quite a few discoloured leaves and marks that look worrying!
Problems with the leaves can be divided into three groups –
- Problems caused by nutrient deficiency
- Or by stress
- Or by disease (and sometimes all three!)
Nutrient deficiency is very common at this time of the growing season especially on lower leaves because plants send the nutrients absorbed by their roots to the growing tips. This means that the lower leaves go hungry, so to speak, and the new growth gets all the food!
The easiest way to get nutrients into a plant is with a foliar spray of a balanced feed like Miracle Grow.
It will help plants by providing extra food to the growing tip, but the affected leaves below will still show deficiency. These leaves can be removed up to the first truss, and higher as each truss ripens.
The most common sign of stress is leaf curl on top growth.
Leaf curl on the lower part of a plant is usually OK and some varieties curl their lower leaves by default.
Stress can be caused by wide temperature fluctuations or over watering and a lot of other things too – check that there is good drainage because a build up of water at the bottom of a pot or grow bag can cause all sorts of problems!
Plants usually settle down after a period of stress and you’ll probably still get a good crop of tomatoes.
The third cause is disease and with tomato plants, once a disease has taken hold, it can be very difficult or impossible to cure.
Fungal diseases are perhaps the most common and can affect the stem, leaves and lastly the fruit. Most are incurable but can be contained and stopped from spreading to other tomato plants.
The best method is to spray with a fungicide like Dithane 945, as a last resort of course, and this will help prevent the spread but probably not cure the disease.
Touching leaves, from plant to plant, can also spread disease and so can using the same blades when removing side shoots etc.
It is a very satisfying moment when biting into your first home-grown tomato of the season!
Every variety has is own particular characteristics where taste is concerned. Some are on the acidic side, others are on the sweet side of the taste scale and others are well balanced – somewhere in the middle.
Sometimes the taste of tomatoes can be disappointing and considered “watery”. This usually happens when plants have been over-watered and under-fed. Plants can only absorb the food (nutrients) they need with water and if the food has been watered-down (by over-watering) less nutrients are absorbed.
It’s a bit like calcium and Blossom End Rot – you can’t get nutrients into a tomato if it’s already fully grown.
Unlike the leaves, that can perspire or transpire so that water can be replaced, tomatoes can’t do this, so what goes in stays in and when they reach full size, nutrients can’t get in!
Again, foliar spraying is the quickest way to get nutrients into a plant’s system.
Flowers are Setting
These past two weeks have have seen a marked improvement in the flowers setting on the Tumbling Toms. I thought they would never get there! I’ve also seen a lot more bees and butterflies in the garden too, which may or may not have some connection?
As soon as the bush plants are covered in tiny green pea-like fruit, it’s best not to over-feed as they may ripen before they reach full size. Premature ripening is quite common and you often see a few tomatoes that are smaller than they should be that are fully ripe.
Follow the instructions on your tomato food box – whatever brand it is – and your toms should be OK.
One of the advantages of growing cherry varieties is that they won’t get Blossom End Rot because they don’t need as much calcium as the larger varieties.
Until next week …