It’s been a busy but exciting week in my little world of tomato growing.

On Sunday my wife and I visited the Home Grown Expo at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.

Exhibitors from around the world, including Holland and the USA, showing off their products. Many of these products were nutrient feeds for tomatoes, peppers and of course other vegetables and flowers too!

Nick and Steve Fry from Hydrogarden.
Steve Fry from Hydrogarden and Nick

Some of the nutrients in the show were suitable for soil and coir (shredded coconut husk) as well as for the usual hydroponic growing in rockwool.

From Grow to Flower
Most growers are aware of the different needs that a tomato plant has as it goes from the grow phase – developing stems and leaves, to the reproductive phase – flowering and fruiting.

When feeding tomatoes at home, we can liken this to general/balanced feed before fruiting such as Miracle Grow, then tomato food such as Tomorite when the plants begin to set fruit.

Nutrients Already in Soil
Through the potting stage plants receive new compost each time they are potted on and therefore more balanced feed is available to them in the new compost. Usually, we only begin to feed them when they have used up the nutrients in their final position grow bag or pot – then we feed them tomato food.

This doesn’t have to be the case though … we can give them a general feed when they are fruiting or even a little extra flowering food such as potassium before they start to flower.

The idea is to listen to what your plants are telling you – or perhaps I should say, be able to see what nutrients they need by the colour of their leaves and general appearance.

Friendly Fungi
There are products that enhance the microbes in the soil such as Mycorrhizae Fungi which improves root structure and nutrient uptake. Many large garden centres are selling these products now.

There’s even a microbe available that takes nitrogen from the air for the roots to use – nitrifying bacteria, but you probably won’t find that one at the garden centre at the moment.

Latex Spray
Another product that’s been available for a while is a latex spray. It coats the leaves in a very thin layer of latex – the leaves can still breathe – but it makes it more difficult for fungal spores to attack leaves. It could be very helpful against blight!

Watering Down Taste
One of the many tips that I picked up at the show was about watering, soil drainage and taste.

The lady on the chilli stand from Holland mentioned that in order to grow chilli’s so they taste very hot, it’s best to grow them in coir (shredded coconut husk) because it is free draining and doesn’t hold as much water as some soils.

It seems that to enhance the flavour and strength of a chilli, the plant is best under watered. We know that this also applies to tomatoes and that a watery tasting tomato is usually the result of over watering.

By creating a better draining soil (or using coir) we can also enhance the flavour of our tomatoes.

On Tuesday evening a was involved in a webinar with Mark Ridsdill Smith from “Vertical Veg”.

A webinar is a bit like a radio show but on the computer. People can talk together and ask questions by using their computer keyboard or just listen in to the conversation and pick up lots of tips – hopefully!

A regular webinar for next season at “Tomato Growing” is definitely on the cards.

Hozelock Waterer
Mention has been made about a problem with the Hozelock Grow Bag Waterer.

It seems that grow bags can sink down into the reservoir slightly if the water level is at its maximum height. The result is saturated soil and plants that are severely over watered.

Our good friend Steve has suggested that canes can be used across the bottom of a grow bag to stop it from sagging down and also, not to fill the water reservoir to the top.

Thanks Steve for suggesting a solution to the problem.

Yoyo Supports
I do have some Yoyo’s available, which are supports for tall tomato varieties, if anyone is interested. They not only support plants but are good for supporting heavy trusses too!


12 Responses

  1. Valerie
    | Reply

    Thank you Nick for the tip about cleaning dirt pots.They will be easy to store and I hope a long term investment.

  2. terry
    | Reply

    Hi Nick, I wrote to you last week regarding my non-flowering Sungold Toms, Pleased to say that true to your word they have now come into flower, However one question Nick are all Tomatos self polinating or just some species.
    Many thanks from terry.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Terry,
      As far as I know, all tomato flowers are self pollinating but many need a helping hand with getting the pollen into the ovary.

  3. Catriona Ferris
    | Reply

    Goodness, sounds like I’ve had 2 lucky escapes then (and both by complete serendipity!). I’ve always put a wee handful of Growmore in each aperture of my growbags when planting out my tomato seedlings in May, then once they started flowering made a start with the Tomorite. Turns out there was method in my madness, even if I didn’t do it deliberately!!

    I’m using the Growbag waterers this year. I was watering as usual initially while it was still relatively cool & the plants were small, but about a week ago filled up the troughs. I only filled them about half way, mainly cos it took a surprisingly long time to fill them all, so I decided half was enough!! Turns out that was the right thing to do too!! Brilliant. Will remember the horizontal cane trick for next year though 🙂 Thanks for the tip

    • stephen clark
      | Reply

      Hi, I had major issues when filling these hozelock waterers to the max , the growbags get sodden then sink at various points into the water, all my tomato plants suffered badly and the tops clenched up into a fist, they only recovered once I reduced water level to halfway, I have 4 short canes across the width to correctly support the growbags, upon contacting hozelock they think am doing something wrong and one of the responses was that tomato plants love their roots being underwater, bad so bad response, as yet I’ve still not got a proper response on what is clearly a bad design that needs a little tweek.

      • Nick
        | Reply

        Hi Steve,
        Here’s the reply I had from Hozelock … short and not very understanding I think!

        Good Morning Mr Chenhall

        Thank you for your email

        I have checked this for you and we are not aware of any problems with our waterers if the growbag is the correct size and fitted evenly then it should work correctly without sagging

        Thank you

        Kind Regards


        Karen Flaxman
        Consumer Service Advisor

        • stephen clark
          | Reply

          thats typical rubbish reply Nick, i used the exact growbag used in their advertisement, i have responded to my reply with photos of my setup and the growbag sinking issue , whe i get a response ill post, i like the we are not aware of any problems, oh yes they are as i complained enough, as i can say until i get a proper response is if you use these systems do not go beyond half full, i should come up with a patterned fix and sell it to them, surely during the growing season others will complain and i guess they will only act when the complaints hit a certain level

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Catriona,
      I would call it tomato grower’s instinct! I used to put a handful of chicken manure pellets under the roots of my bush varieties when planting into their final pot (with new potting compost) and the results were always very good. I tend to give them a liquid feed of seaweed extract these days.

  4. Mick Loughrey
    | Reply

    Hi Nick. Question. If over watering makes tomatoes watery, does this apply to hydroponic tomatoes ?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Mick,
      Good question! Hydroponic tomatoes are grown with particular attention to EC values ie nutrient strength. This controls the amount of water plants can absorb as well as mineral salts. High EC values are shown to increase tomato taste and limit water intake, but they also reduce yield.

  5. Valerie
    | Reply

    Good Morning Nick.Well I am glad My toms are all still in the greenhouse! Very heavy rain this morning.
    Steve Fry was most helpful in putting me in touch with a supplier of dirt pots and this year I have three plants in 17ltr pots,four in 11 ltr pots and the remaing six in deep plastic pots with “halos” .Four of the plastic pots are standing in B&Q buckets and all the rest are on trays,so all will be watered from below.So far I am using a Verve fertilizer seaweed plus with NP K.The first flowers are showing so When the first fruit appears I think it will be time to change to Tomerite or similar. I am a great fan of comfrey and nettles but have been a bit late making tea! If anyone has difficulty getting comfrey try your local allotment.Someone usually has a spare root.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Valerie,
      The dirt pots are very good and I’m using them too this season. At the end of the season clean them with a hose then put them in the washing machine – that’s how Steve does his!
      Good advice about leaves for making tea … a comfrey root is very handy!

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