Leaves & Flowers – My Maltese Tomatoes

About 20 years ago my wife and I had a lovely holiday in Malta.

We went on several excersions in the coach and from the high vantage point of a coach window, we could see over the hedges into the fields, many of which were growing bush tomatoes!

Of course the next step was to find a locally grown tomato and take a few seeds home. That was easy because the hotel we were staying at served up tomatoes with nearly every meal – obviously they had plenty of locally grown toms!

Thanks To Alain Salvary For The Photo

They were a large blocky plum type, variety unknown, and as soon as we returned home, I germinated the seeds and planted the seedlings in a grow bag.

By this time the season was well under way – all of the sunny spots in my garden had been taken by other tomato plants and the only spot available was mainly in the shade.

The Results

The plants grew into huge bushes of leaves with almost no flowers – that was strange!

Well, I’ve learned a few lessons since then and here is a summary and a few tips along the way, that may come in handy!

  • Leaf growth (vegetative) is encouraged with nitrogen
  • Flower growth (reproductive) is encouraged by light

These are two fundamental principles when it comes to growing tomatoes.

Here are two questions for you …

  1. What do you get in a cloudy spring / early summer, especially if the tomato plants are overfed?
  2. What do you get in a sunny spring  / early summer, when the right amount (minimum required) of nitrogen is given?

Answers at the botttom of the page.

There are a number of geographical lessons too …

Tomato varieties grown in sunny climates usually require more light than we get in the UK in order to flower.

If grown in fields season after season, they are used to a lower level nutrient supply than most tomato varieties regularly grown in the UK.

Tips on feeding and weather conditions

When planting in a final position grow bag, large pot etc., the plants get a rush of nitrogen from the new compost. No need to feed at this point – especially if the weather and light conditions are poor.

If light conditions are high, as they have been in the UK these past few days, the sun will initiate a higher number of flower buds – we could be in for a good crop this season!

Feeding tomatoes in hot weather

Plants will need more water than usual, but the same amount of nutrients, over a given period.

If you have to water everyday, it’s a good idea to feed at alternate waterings, but with less food.

So if your brand of tomato food recommends 15ml per week, give 5ml at every other watering. This avoids diluting a once a week feed to almost nothing – if watered with plain water for six days.

Tomato Greenhouse
I can’t remember who sent this photo to me, but thanks!

Timing when planting in final position

It often happens – plants get a burst of nitrogen, when transplanted into all that lovely new soil, at the crucial period when going into reproductive mode – flowering.

The result is a delay in flowering and fruiting – not serious at all, but for those who aim to have ripe tomatoes as early as possible, getting the timing right is important.

Is there anybody in there?

A greenhouse with a jungle of leaves is easy to achieve – give lots of plant food containing a high dose of nitrogen just before flowering and you could be lost for days!

If you have any “jungle” experiences, please leave them in the comments below.

Have a good week,

Nick

Answers to questions above…

  1. Lots of leaves
  2. Lots of flowers

11 Responses

  1. Ted Sherriff
    | Reply

    Hi, Nick.
    My water butt started to smell stagnent and be home to alien looking wildlife. I have just emptied it out and given it a good scrub out,leaving me and the butt smelling of Jeyes fluid. Can you recomend any fluid or tablet that will keep the water clean and not harm the tomatoes growing inside the greenhouse.
    Many thanks, Ted Sherriff.
    P.S.Nice to see the full up greenhouse photo still in use.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Ted,
      I don’t know of any product that can be added to water butts without affecting the tomatoes. The best thing to do is to make sure that your water butt is light-proof. If you collect rain from a roof that has bird droppings, that can cause a problem with the water turning stagnant.

  2. Robert Smith
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Jungle ! inside my greenhouse is like a pre-historic forest, lots of leafy branches. Patiently waiting for your advice on de-leafing, there are trusses as well of course with flowers and some with small fruits so it does look promising. Couple of things I’ve noticed, one is that a couple of the Black Cherries have branched into two main stems at 3ft. above the rim of the Quadgrow pots, both branches have trusses and both look very strong, the other thing is that some leaves on my Mini Plum and Sun Baby have developed small sandy coloured spots, almost like splatter from a paint brush, could be a problem in the offing perhaps ? welcome your thoughts.
    Many thanks again for your very welcome bulletins, always look forward to them.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Robert, you can remove leaf branches up to the first truss when the toms on the first truss are well established – nearly ripe.
      Have two stems on the Black Cherry plants if they want to grow that way.
      Leaf speck or leaf spot – not a lot you can do except keep the area around the leaves well ventilated and remove the badly affected leaves.
      Good luck!

    • Rhys Jaggar
      | Reply

      Robert

      I have found the past few years with black cherry in pots that they grow like an apple tree with lots of side stems and then they produce lots of trusses (3 trusses on each of ten stems gives 30 trusses, after all). It does not seem to affect overall yield, but I do not get 40 tomatoes on a truss!

  3. Rob
    | Reply

    Thank you Nick. It was only through one of your previous years’ newsletters that I made the link between “jungle” experiences and premature feeding with Tomorite. Your newsletter taught me to feed young plants with all-purpose plant food if necessary, and to use tomato feed only after the reproductive phase had started. This year, I used Root!t on my seedlings and young plants, and they look the best ever. Cheers!

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rob, I’m pleased that you have found the newsletter helpful!

  4. Jess Allaway
    | Reply

    Have been battling the last three days to get temperature in greenhouse down – nets over roof and sides and constant flooding of floor, but outside temperature was 27/30c only dropping to 20c around 7pm. Didn’t manage to get gh below 32c no matter what I did, so keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t end up with inturned curly tops! Good news is that I have quite a lot of 1/2″ fruit on my Tumblers and Sun gold. Earliest ever for me.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Jess, I’ve got a couple of frazzled plants in the conservatory – it’s difficult keeping them happy when temperatures are so high. I’ve got a Sungold that’s ahead of all my other varieties – my bush varieties of Tumbler and Red Alert are doing very well too.

  5. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    What a great week for tomatoes here in NW London. Warm nights, plenty of fruit set, including on Beefsteaks.

    Most March sowings now have 4 or 5 trusses formed, with flowers now starting on truss 2. Maskotka from February is in full-on flowering and fruit set, hopefully to continue through June and July. Even the Red Alerts have perked up and have some fruit set now.

    April sowings going into Quadgrow this week which finishes the setting out phase.

    I am glad that I have tied my tomatoes to stakes twice already as we have had strong evening breezes which would damage unstaked plants.

    The weather forecast here suggests early fruit set this season will be good, albeit cooler thsn the past four days…

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rhys, It’s an exciting time of the season when so many plants are setting fruit – I think your plants are more advanced than mine!

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