In this Newsletter: Hardening off tomato plants, tomato growing Quiz 2, tips on setting up the Quadgrow Planter and Oasesbox self watering planters.
Potting our tomato plants into their final container or grow bag is an exciting time.
The chicks are fleeing the nest, so to speak, and becoming more independent out in the garden and greenhouse!
Hardening off tomato plants
The past few days I’ve been planting Crimson Crush and a few bush varieties into large pots and self watering planters.
Ten minutes on the patio, in the breeze and bright sunshine, and the leaves are wilting and plants looking as if they would much rather be back indoors!
The process of “hardening off” gradually introduces plants to conditions outside, which normally include:
- Lower temperatures at night
- Brighter light levels
- Airflow – breezy or windy conditions
The danger of frost overnight is an issue and so is airflow.
When there is too much airflow around leaves, young plants often wilt because they are unable to control the amount of moisture loss through their leaves – see transpiration.
Putting plants out during the day and taken them in at night, helps them get used to being outdoors and controlling their rate of moisture loss.
When first planted, it’s a good idea, after watering, to stand them in the shade for an hour or two. See how they get on, then put them in the sun and keep an eye on them.
With containers we can move them around the garden, but with grow bags – where we first put them, they stay!
This means that plants to be grown in grow bags need to be fully hardened off, before planting out.
Tomato Quiz 2
Owing to the popularity of the quiz we had a few weeks ago, here’s another one![Note: Requires Adobe Flash – works best on PC’s. For Android install the Puffin Browser via Google Play.]
The answers are included in the following text.
Tomato plants may be classified into two types:
- Indeterminate, also known as Cordon – fruit grows off one main stem (usually).
Popular varieties include: Alicante, Gardener’s Delight.
- Determinate, also known as bush. Varieties include: Red Alert, Tumbler.
Tomato plants are generally fed tomato food after they begin to fruit. If you feed them tomato food before they begin fruiting, the flowering period may last longer than desired.
Tomato blight and potato blight are the same disease – caused by the same fungal spores.
An F1 hybrid is a first generation cross between two other varieties. Sungold is an F1 hybrid and known for its very sweet taste.
Most large varieties are tall, indeterminate plants but one notable large (ish) variety, that is a bush type, is Oregon Spring.
Tomatoes come in many shapes, colours and sizes. Yellow and orange varieties include: Yellow Perfection, Golden Sunrise, Auriga and Sungold.
Nitrogen is the nutrient for leaf growth and best reduced when we want to encourage fruiting.
It is fashionable to eat flowers and all sorts of leaves in salads these days, but remember – tomato leaves are poisonous!
Soil pH is a measure of acid/alkalinity and is important because, if it is within a suitable range, the maximum level of nutrients is available to a plant. Tomato plants grow best in soil that is slightly acid.
Side shoots are removed from tall, indeterminate varieties – no need to remove side shoots from bush varieties.
Setting up the Quadgrow & Oasesbox
If replacing the capillary matting, cut into shapes like pieces of pizza – wide end in pot.
This ensures that there is plenty of matting inside the root zone to water the plants.
Fill the insert, after planting, to the brim of the top square area.
This ensures that surface roots get plenty of oxygen.
General tips for both planters
One thorough watering when tomato plants are first planted, then allow a few days before watering again to encourage root growth.
After several days the reservoirs can be filled to a minimum level – around a litre or two.
At this early stage, plants won’t need a lot of water and it’s important that the soil doesn’t become too saturated.
As plants grow, reservoir levels can be increased.
Feed after nutrients in the soil have been used by plants.
Quadgrow: four/five weeks
Oasesbox: three/four weeks
More on feeding in coming weeks.
It is still possible we could have overnight frost in UK…
Plant’s shouldn’t stay outside overnight until all danger of frost has past.
Having said that, I once left a Moneymaker and an Alicante out overnight in a severe frost – the next morning they looked a bit dodgy, but after a bit of pampering, recovered perfectly well!
That’s it for another newsletter – a week closer to our own home-grown tomatoes!