Tomato Newsletter Week One

Welcome to the First
Tomato Growing Newsletter of 2017!

After last season’s break, the Newsletter is back each Saturday with lots of tips and suggestions for a successful summer of tomato growing!

It’s always great to hear from you with your suggestions and tips. Many of you are experienced tomato growers, so please leave comments below or join the Facebook Group here.

The first few weeks will be mainly about getting started, especially for those who are new to growing tomatoes. As the weeks progress, there will be links at the top of this page to more in-depth topics.

A Few Recommended Varieties For This Season

The easiest to grow and usually the sweetest tomatoes are the cherry varieties.

Tall Cherry Varieties

Two varieties that have been around for a while are Black Cherry and more recently Sweet Aperitif.
They have been crossed to produce the new variety called Black Opal – a tomato I shall be growing this season – available here.

Bush Cherry Varieties

Red Alert has been around for some time and produces a very early crop of cherry tomatoes. Maskotka and Tumbler are similar.
It has often been stated on the back of seed packets that Red Alert is so early it matures before it can catch blight.
One siimilar tomato variety that is truly blight resistant is Lizzano available here.

Medium/Large Varieties

Most larger size tomatoes are grown on tall plants – also called Cordon or Indeterminate. One such tom is Crimson Crush. It is a new variety that is blight resistant and I highly recommend it – especially if you intend to grow outdoors in a UK summer!

It’s usually best to choose a vigorous plant when growing medium and large varieties because it takes more energy for a plant to produce larger tomatoes!

Hybrid F1’s produce vigorous growth and among these are: Big Daddy, Big Boy and Brandy Boy which is an improved Brandywine.

Timing – When To Sow

Perhaps the most important tip for this end of the season is not to sow too soon.

If you are an experienced tomato grower (with lights!), sowing in February is fine, but without grow lights, it’s best to sow from the middle of March to the middle of April in the UK. This helps prevent seedlings from becoming leggy, by sowing when days are longer and brighter (hopefully!).

Leggy seedlings will grow into leggy plants that produce fewer tomatoes. Trenching, a technique for burying leggy stem and gaining more root growth, is no substitute for a well grown plant.

The Goldfish Syndrome

If you have ever had an over fed goldfish, where each member of the family feeds it as they pass by the bowl, you will empathise with the seedlings that get over watered!

Over watering seedlings reduces root growth and increases the chances of damping-off which is a fungal disease that can wipe out a whole tray of seedlings overnight. Heavy wet soil also makes it much harder to transplant seedlings with their roots intact.

Varieties & Containers

Part of being successful is choosing the right variety for the right container.
You wouldn’t grow a Gardener’s Delight (tall variety) in a hanging basket (unless you don’t mind climbing a ladder to pick your tomatoes!), or grow a trailing variety such as Tumbling Tom in a grow bag where the branches and fruit rest on the ground for the
slugs and snails to eat.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

Tall varieties in grow bags and large pots …
Sungold, Gardener’s Delight, Black Cherry, Moneymaker etc.

Grow bags are great for tall varieties. Large pots with high sides are good for trailing plants such as Tumbling Tom.

Trailing varieties in high sided pots/containers and hanging baskets
Tumbler, Tumbling Tom, Hundreds & Thousands etc.

Some bush varieties will grow in a 6 inch pot and are known as Dwarf varieties. These will grow on a sunny windowsill.

The Whole Packet Of Seeds!

A common situation is overcrowding
It’s easy to sow a whole packet of seeds and before you know it, there are 30 to 50 seedlings to take care of.
Too many to put in the windowsill so they go out during the day. Along comes a pidgeon and bites the top off every one!

It’s happen to me on more than one occasion. Much better to sow fewer seeds that can be managed more easily.

Tips from this week’s newsletter:

  • Sow from the middle of March to avoid leggy seedlings.
  • Resist the temptation to over water seedlings.
  • Choose the right variety for the container or area you intend to grow in.
  • Remember that seeds grow into big plants and can’t be put outside until after the last frost in your area – around the end of May in the UK.

It can be quite confusing if this is your first season growing tomatoes, so if in doubt, ask questions below in the comments or join the Facebook Group.

Next week we’ll get into more detail with options for sowing media – composts, Jiffy pellets and sponges – propagators etc. and temperatures for germination. Plus a few tips on how to stop your seedlings becoming leggy.

Which varieties will you be growing this season?

Happy Tomato Growing!

Nick

Email: [email protected]

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/tomatogrowing/

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216375252171863/

Links to supplies…

Tomato Seeds, Propagators, Jiffy 7 Pellets, I’m told they also have Jiffys in Wilco, Rootit Sponges, Grow Lights.

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14 Responses

  1. Terence Bateman
    | Reply

    Hi-Nick, I wonder if any of you have considered buying (Honeymoon) F1 from one reputable English firm, and is well publicized , according to the details it is supposed to be put of this world for flavour and taste, way above anything else available, and is quite a large tomato in size, I jumped in two months ago and bought four packets straight away- available from (Kings Seeds UK) according to them it’s the best flavoured tomato they have ever had.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      It’s a variety I haven’t yet grown so I can’t give you any info. I’ve seen a video on youtube about HoneyMoon variety and it looks very good!

  2. Geoff
    | Reply

    Hi Nick thanks for doing the news letter again this year.
    Father Christmas brought me the garland micro grow light, but what’s the best method ? Does it need to be on a windowsill with natural light & the light on for say 16 hrs a day or can it be in the garage with only its light on ? Also how important is room temperature to success?
    Many thanks in advance Geoff

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Geoff,
      I would put the unit in a light bright windowsill and have the light on early morning and early evening to extent daylight hours. When light is on have the canopy close to the seedlings (without burning them with the heat of the bulb) when the light is off, raise the canopy to allow as much natural light in as possible.
      Try not to have soil too moist, especially overnight. Temperatures lower at night, 12 -15C and during the day around 18 – 20C the warmer it is the more light you need to prevent leggy seedlings. 12 to 16 hours of light is ideal for seedlings.
      If you put the unit in the garage you’ll need to have the light on for the whole 12 -16 hours of course and the extra natural light on the windowsill does help. Good luck!

  3. Rob
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,

    It’s always a joy to receive your newsletters – especially the first one of the new season! Thank you.

    Last year in addition to my usual indoor favourites, I grew Sweet Aperitif and Rosella. I liked these so much I will grow them again this year. My neighbour grew Sweet Aperitif very successfully outdoors, too.

    After a lot of experimentation over the years, I have found the best time for sowing seed is the Vernal Equinox (March 20). I can hardly wait!

    • Rob
      | Reply

      I forgot to mention – I intend to use your root aerators (perforated overflow pipe) with all of my plants this year. Last year’s plants with aerators were noticeably more healthy/productive than those without. Cheers!

      • Nick
        | Reply

        As you have found, it really does make a difference when the roots have access to plenty of air/oxygen.
        Cheers!

  4. Jess Allaway
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    I had quite a bad season last year so am going to cut back a bit this year (I had too many plants crammed into my greenhouse). Heeding your advice about sowing a few seeds at a time, something I always intend to do but somehow I end up with far too many seedlings. Will be sowing my usual favourites, Red Alert, Tumbler, Sungold and Black Cherry, plus maybe a couple of new varieties which I haven’t tried before but haven’t decided which yet! Have to be indoors for me of course in the far north!
    Best wishes for a good season. It’s great to have the newsletter back.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Jess,
      Sorry to hear you had a bad season last year … it can happen to the best of us!
      For the first season ever, I’ve managed to stop myself from sowing more seeds than I can cope with. I used to grow well over a hundred plants but this season It’s going to be under 20.
      It’s good to hear from you as always, have a great season!

  5. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Strains this year Nick:

    Early sowings: Red Alert, Maskotka.
    Main March sowings: Super Marmande, Black Russian, Black Krim; San Marzano; Alicante, Tigerella; Black Cherry.
    Competition sowings in April: Sungold, Zenith.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rhys, Good to hear from you!
      You’ve chosen two early varieties that I’ve always had success with – I’ll be growing Red Alert this season and trying out Lizzano for the first time.
      The black varieties have an amazing taste given a good season.
      Have a great season!

      • Rhys Jaggar
        | Reply

        Yes, Nick, I started growing both Red Alert and Maskotka after your newsletter mentioned them, a great testimonial for the value of your efforts.

  6. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Hi Nick

    Best wishes for a successful 2017 season.

    Just a couple of comments:

    1. I have sown red alerts in early to mid Feb the past 3 years, trying to create a ‘First Early Tomato’ concept where earliness is more important than yields, a bit like potatoes. The results have been successful. I have grown four plants in 15 cm pots each of the past three years and obtained 2-2.5lbs per pot, all before the end of July. Maskotka is the other strain I have found which works well on this timetable.
    2. I have also grown using lunar timetables and biodynamic principles, which has worked very well. This year, the 10th March is absolutely ideal for sowing tomatoes, being 2 days before full moon and a fruit day in the Maria Thun scheme.

    I will be sowing the majority of my seeds this year on March 10th.

  7. Nick
    | Reply

    Please leave a reply below if you would like to add a comment or ask a question – it’s always good to hear from you!

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