It’s at this time of the season that I receive emails about the success’ and failures that people have experienced this year.

It’s been a good season in my part of the world, mainly owing to a dryish summer and the only problem I had was late pollination with some of my varieties.

However, north of the border it’s been a dull and damp season for many. So here are a few ideas about how to increase the chances of a successful crop – tips that may come in handy next season, wherever you are!

Minimising The Risk of Disease
We all know that tomatoes need warmth and sunshine to produce a good crop, but is it possible to get results in a poor season and short season area?

So what can be done to minimise the risk of disaster – or perhaps I should say, maximise the possibility of success!

Choosing The Right Varieties
Varieties like Moneymaker, Alicante, Gardener’s Delight and Ailsa Craig have been popular in British gardens for years, but in a poor season aren’t the most likely varieties to produce a good crop.

Bush Varieties
Also, many gardeners have yet to grow bush varieties and think that cherry tomatoes are just too small!
I can say that in my experience, bush varieties will mature quicker than tall varieties, and cherry toms will mature more quickly than medium or large tomatoes.

Find a quick maturing, short seasoned bush/cherry variety like Red Alert. Red Alert, when performing well, will produce larger than average cherry tomatoes and the taste is excellent.

Getting Off To A Good Start
Developing healthy plants with strong immune systems will go a long way to delaying the inevitable blight!

Healthy Plants
Tomato plants are like humans in the sense that if they are in top condition, they are less likely to fall sick if there is a cold going ’round. For tomato plants, it’s usually fungal infections brought about be rain, condensation or infection from other tomato plants that infect them and slow down their growth and eventually reduce the amount and size of tomatoes they produce.

The best product I’ve used to help seedlings and young plants is Liquid Seaweed Extract. It’s organic and helps stimulate the immune system – if it tasted better I’d probably drink some myself! (not that I’ve tried it of course!)

Balancing Greenhouse Condensation With Aeration
Rain and wet leaves is the biggest threat to outdoor grown tomato plants, but plants in the greenhouse can also be at risk from condensation. Wet, damp air with no circulation will also make tomato plants vulnerable to fungal diseases.

Greenhouse Heating Is Expensive
Obviously a greenhouse heater would do the trick, but its expensive, however, one of the less expensive options would be to have an economy heater on a timer. This would take away some of the condensation that gathers first thing in the morning and create an airflow of rising heat to circulate the air.

Deleafing To Improve Airflow
Another way to help improve airflow is deleafing tall varieties – below the first truss to start with then below each truss when it begins to produce ripe fruit.

Keeping the greenhouse door slightly open at night is an option – it is better to have plants a degree or so colder if it keeps the condensation away.

Fewer Trusses
Also, growing less trusses will also give you a crop sooner and a lower yield of ripe tomatoes is better than a higher yield of green tomatoes – unless it’s a green variety of course!

Feeding for Optimum Growth
This is an area of some difficulty … tomato plants won’t absorb nutrients in cold conditions however much you give them! The reason is because they don’t need feeding, because in cold weather – they don’t grow!

Underground – Overground
One tip about feeding is that it is always best not to give anything but tomato food through the roots – keep all supplements like magnesium and calcium for feeding through the leaves – foliar feeding.

The reason is because too much of one nutrient can totally block another nutrient from being absorbed by a tomato plant’s roots. If everything goes in the soil, it can get complicated down there!

Growing tomatoes outdoors or in a cold greenhouse, is a big challenge in a short season area. It seems to me that the quicker you can get a plant to produce ripe tomatoes the more chance you have of success. However, plants may need help along the way, from a little extra heat or circulation to cut down the condensation.
Also, help to boost their immune system to help fight off diseases, and if all else fails, a fungicide like Dithane to help stop blight from spreading out of control.

Here’s a list of products that can help in a poor season.
Liquid Seaweed Extract – helps boost immune system and growth.
Crop Aid – a product that I haven’t yet tried, but suggests that it can help against damage from the cold???
SP Plant invigorator – similar to Liquid Seaweed but also helps prevent aphid attack in the greenhouse
Dithane 945 – the last resort but it will stop blight from getting worse and spreading to your other plants if used in time.

If you have any tips please leave a comment below.


13 Responses

  1. Ina Smith
    | Reply

    I live in Fife and this is my first time growing tomatoes. Have grown them all outside in containers . Containers are a bit small but my plants have produced an abundant and healthy looking crop. Lost a lot of Tumbling Toms to wind when a branch fell off but lesson learnt and will be more attentive to it’s needs next year. Now just need some sun to ripped them all 🍅

  2. Dr Frank Gattoni
    | Reply

    I am in theLeicestershire countryside and garden both inside and outside a glass house
    This year -2019- I grew outside
    (1) outdoor girl – plants easily grerminated-rapid to establish when transplanted-sturdy plants-early to set fruit- some fruit matured before in glass house varieties -prolonged fruiting period – and at end of season fruit showing initial ripening continued to ripen well off the plant
    (2) first in the field -poor germination-plants slow to establish- late to set scanty fruit — rather hopeless
    Both varieties grown under identical conditions
    Any other views on these two varieties

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Frank, sorry for the late reply.
      I’ve grown both varieties but was not impressed with either. There are many varieties that will perform better, especially the modern F1’s.
      I would recommend trying the new blight free varieties and perhaps a Moneymaker to compare the results.

  3. Mr M H Develin
    | Reply

    Looking back on the varieties of tomatoes I have grown this year, I seem to have done fairly well, on all varieties, apart from an early dose of ghost spot, due partly to my not opening my tunnel early eneough each morning, I combatted this by making a door with windbreak netting for each end of tunnel, giving me good circulation, day and night.
    The varieties grown were Alicante, and monymaker, and also tried a T&M, variety called Cristal, and they have been magnificent, very large fruits on all trusses, and a good colour and flavour, although an F1 seed very worthwhile, will be growing a lot more next year, and the other two varieties will have to be left for a couple of seasons.

  4. Andy
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    This season definitely isn’t as good as last year. We’ve had lots of tomatoes which at first were slow to flower and now they are late to turn from green to red, purple or yellow dependent on the variety. However looking around the gardens in this area (East Midlands) it seems many people still have lots of green toms. However the tumbling toms have all turned but just getting the Alicante’s and Black cherry’s turning now. Thanks for all of your tips and info since its inception in March. PS took your advice and have got yellow and black banana skins hanging from my tom plants in the back garden. My wife thinks I’m mad.

  5. Graham
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    Great website and newsletters. Thanks for all the tips! I only signed up recently. It’s my first year of gardening mania and I’m really enjoying it. I bought some small red alert tomato plants from a local nursery, earlier this year. They’ve been great! The only thing is, being a complete amateur I didn’t realise there were tall/cordon type plants and bush varieties, so I pinched out al the side shoots! They’ve been really good, producing loads of fruit. I wonder how many there would have been if I’d grown full bushes! Thanks again,

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Graham,
      Red Alert is one of my favourite varieties and each plant will produce at least a hundred larger than average cherry toms – and the taste is excellent!

  6. Wally Pearce
    | Reply

    Hi Nick.
    My plastic greenhouse has dissappeared in high winds and also, ruined my plants.
    I now have about 50 or so green tomato’s in a basket. Is there any way in which I can
    ripen them and, a few at a time rather than, all at once?
    Thank’s for any help you can give. Regards. Wally

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Wally,
      Put those you wish to ripen in a bowl with a ripe banana, the gas from the banana does the job!
      Best wishes,

  7. Jane
    | Reply

    I have grown cherry tomatoes for the first time ever outside and I am in the north. They are ripening lovely now and they keep oncoming I’ve had masses and masses. Thanks to your tips.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Jane,
      Sounds like you have green fingers – which variety are you growing?

  8. Roy
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Many thanks for all the info about growing tomato plants.
    have grown mine outdoors this season and only just enjoying them.
    Next year will have a greenhouse,so hope to be having earlier crops.
    Many thanks. Roy.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Roy,
      A greenhouse will extend the season at both ends, the problem is, whatever size greenhouse you buy, it will always be just a bit too small!
      Best wishes,

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