Tomato Varieties, Pruning & Feeding

Bush Varieties
I have to admit that I have a soft spot for growing bush varieties. No pruning, little staking, feeding is easy and they among the first to mature – just some of their benefits!

Tumbling Tom Yellow
Tumbling Tom Yellow

Of course they do tend to mature over a shorter period than tall (cordon) varieties, but in a UK summer, we don’t get a very long fruiting period anyway!

There are many great bush varieties such as Red Alert, Maskotka, Legend, Oregon Spring and Black Sea Man – not forgetting the many “Tumbler” types. The quickest fruiting variety I’ve ever grown is Red Alert, with mature fruit by the end of May or beginning of June – sown in February.

Pruning bush varieties
Although we don’t usually prune bush varieties, there are times when if a plant produces too many flower buds or clusters, we may decide to prune a few, in order to promote better growth of the flowers that have already set fruit.

When tall varieties are not pruned
Tall varieties are sometimes grown as bush varieties – by allowing all the side shoots to grow – creating a big untidy bush! The plant that holds the record for the most cherry tomatoes was grown this way.
In long season areas, this is a common practice and gardeners in these areas can’t understand why those in short season areas remove side shoots at all!

Quicker to ripen
However, like many things we do when growing tomatoes, pruning is done in order to bring fruit to maturity sooner – in a short season area like the UK, this is obviously important.
Feeding with tomato food high in potassium is also done to make tomatoes ripen more quickly before temperatures drop and the autumn chill begins.

The record breaker
It’s interesting to note that the record breaker tall variety, grown as a bush variety, was fed on a balanced vegetable feed. The average pack of tomato food, heavy in potassium, will encourage fruit to mature more quickly, but also bring a plant to the end of its life cycle sooner. Given a long summer with plenty of time for fruit to ripen, a balanced feed may be more suitable.

Feeding tip for boosting upper truss growth

  • Feed tomato food as soon as fruit appear on the first truss.
  • When the first trust has set fruit, giving a balanced feed for a week or two (with more nitrogen than tomato food) will encourage the development of the upper trusses.
Sweet Aperitif on three stems growing in an Autopot system.
Sweet Aperitif on three stems growing in an Autopot system.

Season so far
It’s been an unusual season so far in the UK, with reports of stunted growth, leaf curl, tomatoes maturing before they reach full size and fewer fruit on trusses to name but a few issues!

It’s mainly the weather – tomato plants like consistent conditions so when we get such wide variation in temperatures, wet/dry conditions etc., we get plants behaving badly!

I hope yours are on their best behavior!




4 Responses

  1. Chris

    Thanks Nick
    Interesting info today.

    • Nick

      Thanks Chris – I’m pleased you find the Newsletter helpful.

  2. Valerie

    Good Morning Nick.Thank you very much for your most helpful reply last week.I have taken of a shed load of leaves and given the toms a drink of soluble sulphate of potash so we will see what happens .
    I too like growing bush tomatoes and did so for many years.I think it was a variety called Pixie but I can’t remember.They were certainly a lot less hassle than cordons. I am growing Tumbling Tom and Tiger in hanging baskets and they are coming on well but I may have to give them a gentle prune .Once more many thanks.Valerie F.

    • Nick

      Hi Valerie, You’re welcome – let me know how the plants respond.