At this time of the tomato growing season, the most visited pages on the website are concerned with feeding, watering, pruning and tomato problems.
Like most subjects, we can make it as complicated or as simple as we wish to. Perhaps if we were supplying Sainsbury’s, or entering a contest, we would need to get the very most from our plants and optimize in every aspect of tomato growing.
However, given that most of us are probably growing for fun and the great taste of home-grown tomatoes for our own kitchen, here is the straightforward and time saving approach!
For tomatoes grown in containers and grow bags.
- In warm weather, feed half strength every third day.
- The idea is to feed little and often rather than a lot once a week.
- If your large pots/containers are stood in trays, water in tray – feed/water in soil.
- The idea is to keep the whole soil area just moist – impossible really!
- The best way is to have the soil wet in the morning and dryer in the evening – known as a wet/dry cycle.
- This is done so that air can enter back between the soil particles – roots need oxygen as well as moisture.
- However, the soil should never dry out completely.
- During this hot period, I’m watering my containers twice each day.
- Bush varieties do not need pruning.
- Remove side shoots from tall varieties.
- Remove leaf branches up to the first truss on tall varieties.
- Remove the growing tip after four or five trusses when growing outside.
- Remove the stragglers – very small toms and flowers at the end of trusses – when the truss already has fully grown fruit.
The hot weather we’ve had in the UK means that there are fewer diseases around than usual. Many problems that effect tomatoes are caused by low temperatures and wet weather. Thankfully, it’s been a warm, dry summer so far!
Heat stress is probably the biggest issue at the moment.
Curled and cupped leaves that turn away from the sun, and fruit that has green shoulders (greenback) or patches where the lycopene (red pigment) hasn’t been able to develop because of the hot direct sunshine.
Keep roots cool
Tomato plants can also become stressed if the root area in a container becomes too hot. This happens especially when growing in dark coloured containers. Sticking a sheet of white plastic or paper to the front of dark or black pots helps!
If you grow tomatoes in a greenhouse, you and they will be feeling the heat. One newsletter reader suggested taking one or two glass panes out of the roof. A bit tricky but one way to get some fresh air in and heat out!
Flower set and humidity
In hot weather, when humidity is either very high or very low, flower set can be a problem too. Flowers fail to set as pollen is too dry to fertilize a flower’s ovary.
In dry air conditions – low humidity, pouring water on the greenhouse floor or around the base of a plant can help. When the air is high in moisture, tapping plant stems to help dislodge and move pollen around the flower can help too.
That’s it for another week … I believe we have more hot and humid weather on the horizon but It has rained overnight here in my part of the UK – we could do with it!