Last Newsletter of the Season 2018

We are now in September – doesn’t time fly!

The season 2018 has been remarkable for its long period of hot weather and, for most of us, the absence of blight. We didn’t need those blight resistant varieties this season after all!

For those growing under cover, in a greenhouse or polytunnel, a big issue has been keeping the temperature down.

When temperatures rise above 36C, plants stop growing because they use up more energy than they produce. This can cause stress leading to all sorts of issues – from stunted growth to fruit ripening at a smaller size than expected.

For those growing outside, keeping the soil from drying out has been a big challenge – especially if growing in a small container or hanging basket.

Keeping plants watered in long periods of hot, dry weather is best done with a self watering planter – using a reservoir system such as the
Quadgrow and Oasesbox.

If you prefer not to use containers and grow directly in the garden or allotment soil (inside a greenhouse or outside), a soaker hose can be a good option. This can be attached to a tap timer for regular watering while away.

If hot summers are going to be a regular occurrence, growing outside, even in the border soil, is definitely going to be easier! Perhaps worth experimenting with next season.

A soaker hose is great for watering tomato plants in rows.
Soaker Hose – great for watering plants grown directly in border soil.

Each season brings new varieties.
I remember some seasons ago when the choice of varieties was limited. Almost every home-grower in the UK would include either Moneymaker, Alicante or Gardener’s Delight in their selection because there wasn’t much else available, especially as plug plants.

Shirley F1 was the main “show tomato” and Golden Sunrise and Yellow Perfection where the yellow options.

Then one day, Sungold came on the scene which transformed the taste of what we could expect tomatoes to taste like!

Since then, it seems that the market has been flooded with “extra sweet” tomatoes … mainly hybrids and even hybrid grafted tomatoes  that are very vigorous and disease resistant.

However, some of us still appreciate the old well-balanced flavour of a variety such as Gardener’s Delight or Alicante. I guess it’s good to have the wider choice these days – as long as we can still grow a traditional tasting tomato!

On that note, it’s time to start thinking about varieties for next season.

I might go retro and choose one or two of the old-timers above, plus an heirloom and one hybrid that I haven’t grown before.

When the time comes, I’ll probably end up with a lot more varieties – but I’m trying to hold back my enthusiasm at the moment! 🙂

If you would like to mention any varieties you would recommend, please do so in the comments below.

I hope you’ve had a great season – the Newsletter will be back next year, all being well.


21 Responses

  1. Robert Smith
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Forgive me, but I have been wondering for a while now if you have stopped your weekly tomato newsletter, if so I do hope it isn’t due to health issues and if not then perhaps my address has slipped out of your mailing list.
    Hope you actually receive this and that all is well with you.

  2. June Anderson
    | Reply

    My husband uses Tomato growpots, following the instructions to shake the bag to loosen the compost, he finds this very difficult due to arthritis, can you suggest an alternative way to loosen the compost within the growbag.
    I look forward to your comments

  3. David King
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    So it’s that time of the year when you say “See you again next spring!” 😞 But I’ve enjoyed each & every one of your newsletters again this year & I really appreciate the time & trouble you go to to produce them.

    I may not have written nearly as often as other years but I have never stopped reading your tips & even shared some with my son who has grown his own tomatoes from seed for the first time ever this year. Looking back through your website I found answers for problems that he was having & was able to help him, thanks to you!

    This year’s extremely long, hot summer went down very well with all the 20 odd plants I had in growbags & pots on our balcony! I had never grown so many at home before! I even had 12 plants of ‘Red Robin’ in 3 hanging baskets on the balcony! They have done very well & I will be growing them again in future years. I picked about a dozen yesterday & they have all now “disappeared”!

    I’ve also grown ‘Black Cherry’ & ‘Ukrainian Purple’ as well as ‘Alicante’. The first two I’ve never grown before but have done very well indeed. ‘Alicante’ has lagged a bit behind but has now caught up with the others. ‘Black Cherry’ I may well grow again next year but even though I have seeds of ‘Ukrainian Purple’ I don’t think I will grow them again. I can’t complain about size or number of fruits but I don’t find them at all tasty. 😞

    Until the spring arrives & brings with it your newsletters I wish you a great autumn & winter.


  4. Jess Allaway
    | Reply

    Hi Nick, Been a good season overall. I notice my plants seem to be dying back earlier and assume this is a result of the very hot weather earlier on which might have “aged” them a bit faster than usual. Much like the autumn colours coming on earlier in the countryside that seems to be happening. One of your recommended items which I can’t imagine doing without these days is the yo-yo support! So much easier, and neater too, than strings all over the place. Having used them for years now I am finding the plastic hook ends getting brittle and breaking off, but have fixed this by replacing hooks with little S shaped hooks made out of stiffish wire and they are good to go for a while yet. Looking forward to your ever welcome newsletters next year. Thank you and best wishes.

  5. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Thank you Nick for all your valuable advice as usual. Been a good season. Have found the plants going over a bit sooner this year which I suppose was caused by the extreme heat aging them a bit in advance of normal. One of your recommended pieces of kit I would never be without now are the yo-yo supports. A few years of use in the greenhouse has, as you would expect, made a lot of them brittle and the hook part to break off so, being very much a make do and mender, I am going to make new hooks from stiffish wire! They are so much handier that strings all over the place. Thanks again for all your advice and hope to hear from you again next year.

  6. Peter Goulding
    | Reply

    Thanks Nick for your news letters.
    I had a great crop of, Black Cherry, Sungold, Ailsa Craig, Alicante & Grand Marmande all grown in Quadgrow in a greenhouse which became too hot to venture into at times.
    Seeds being saved, see you next March.

  7. Robert Smith
    | Reply

    Dear Nick
    Can’t believe it’s that time again and your last newsletter of this season. A very sincere thank you for all your extremely helpful advice throughout the year. Not only is it interesting to read all the info. you post but also the comments and responses from your other “devotees” I do hope it won’t seem too long before we are all sitting glued to our screens again ready to digest your latest gems.
    Many thanks again
    “haste ye back”

  8. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Many thanks Nick.

    Happy Christmas,(Ha Ha)

  9. John Tinsley
    | Reply

    Thanks for all your work, Nick. 2 red, cordon, salad varieties that do well for me in the North West with our usually short and cool summers are Stupice and Bloody Butcher. Both are potato leaved varieties that are early and productive. Orange Paruche is worth a try if you like Sungold. Just as vigorous and hard to tell apart, with slightly less tendency to split. Also, one of my favourites is Ruby Falls, bred by Gourmet Genetics (Sweet Aperitif, Rosella and Garnet) which is available for the 2019 season. I was fortunate enough to beg some seeds before it was released and it is now one of my favourites, with what to me is the right sweet/acid balance. A very large cherry with dark shoulders, and very reliable.

  10. Nick Smith
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Thanks so much for all your hard work producing these very informative newsletters! I will now be planning for next year hoping that it won’t be as extreme as this.
    All the very best.

    Nick Smith

  11. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Another season moving to a close with watering now at an end except for Sungold which are still growing well. Ripening accelerating nicely.

    After six years of successful growing in a variety of seasons, I must say that both Super Marmande and Black Russian yield beefsteak/large tomatoes consistently in pots growing outdoors (under carport when raining). Whether it is cool or hot, they seem to yield well in my hands. I save my own seeds now, but both did well when I originally purchased them in 2012. Particularly good for soups and cooking.

    Red alerts growing under winter squash in the garden have yielded really well – yes it was hot and dry this summer, but I was pleasantly surprised. The squash will yield well too!

    I am also thinking that in very hot summers many black pots do better out of direct sunlight….orange ones heat up less.

    Rhizopots, which are excellent for aeration, dry out very quickly in hot summers and yields drop.

    Thanks for another season of timely insights, Nick!

  12. Doug
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    I have grown Piccolo this year, fantastic taste and yield plants cost me nothing, I used the seed from a tomatoe purchased from Waitrose, people have said the plants do not always reproduce the same as the original tomatoes as they are an F1 variety, perhaps I was lucky but mine have been great. I shall do the same next year

  13. Alex
    | Reply

    Dear nick,
    Thanks for the informative newsletters always a highlight of the week! I grew a lot of plum tomatoes (regular and mini / cherry) and they were definitely the highlight. They were really firm and sweet and produced alot of fruit – will definitely be getting them next year.

  14. Anonymous
    | Reply

    Thank you again for another wonderful year of successful tomato growing. Your weekly reminders are invaluable. I have such a glut at the moment. Alicante, Shirley, Harbinger, Black Cherry, Sungold. Even had some Black Russian. Can’t wait for 2019. I’m just preparing to save some seeds, and your previous advice on this is my favoured method.
    Thank you again. Until 2019 regards, JanG

  15. Diana Winfield
    | Reply

    Thanks for newsletter always interesting reading . As usual have lost the packets and so don’t know which one was best !!
    Best looking / tasting was the seedlings that I thinned out when repotting some grown from seed indoors . They looked too healthy to throw out so put them in container outside far to early. Much to my surprise they not only survived but thrived . I have come to conclusion that sometimes growing tomatoes is more luck than judgement .

    • Rhys Jaggar
      | Reply

      Diana, my experience is that growing outdors in soil is the most variable, whereas growing in pots is quite predictable.

      This year’s drought seemed good for soil-based plants whereas in rainy years, you need vigorous healthy plants to resist disease.

  16. Conor
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,

    I also grew a variety of tomatoes again this season, all in autopots. Again sungold comes out ahead of everything else for my palate and the way I eat tomatoes on the go.

    Thank you for your newsletters again this season.

  17. Laura
    | Reply

    Dear Nick ,thank you for your invaluable newsletters .This year despite the hot weather I haven’t had a good crop because I made the mistake of relying on plug plants that were widely advertised by a leading mail order company in March .They never quite caught up from arriving in early June .Next year I will be sowing on time,or buying plants locally .Last year my crop from a few plants following your advce was much better.Thank you for sharing your tips !

  18. John Tinsley
    | Reply

    2 early red salad varieties that do really well for me in the usually short and cool summers of North West England are the potato leaved Stupice and Bloody Butcher. An alternative to Sungold which is difficult to tell apart (but slightly less prone to splitting) is Orange Paruche. And Ruby Falls which will be available for the 2019 season, bred by Gourmet Genetics (Sweet Aperitif, Rosella, Garnet) which is a large cherry with dark shoulders, and for me the right sweet/acid balance. I was fortunate to beg some seeds before it was released, and it’s now one of my favourite tomatoes.

  19. Rob
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,

    Always a sad time of year. The end of the tomato season and your final newsletter. Thank you for all your help, tips and advice this year, and I hope you will want to produce another newsletter next year.

    Rosella was my favourite strain this year. My plants were a little later to flower/fruit than (say) Sungold but they were prolific and the tomatoes were delicious with a wonderfully rich berry taste. A must for next year!

    Kind regards,


  20. William forsyth
    | Reply

    do not like the last newsletter nick as its the end of another year, tried ferline this year great crop nice size and what a flavour been a good year and look forward to youre tips next year all the best.

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