We’ve had a great season in the UK and apart from a wet spell in August, the summer has been dry and bright.
Good weather enables us to focus more on growing techniques and performance rather than disease control. However, making sure that disease and aphids etc. don’t get a stronghold, will always be an important part of growing tomatoes.
I did get an attack of caterpillars but surprisingly, I haven’t seen one greenfly or whitefly this summer.
This season has been the most experimental so far – trying out all sorts of watering methods, and using as many different containers as possible.
The best watering systems I’ve tried, without using electricity, has been the ones that use reservoirs, which include:
- Hozelock Waterer
- Quadgrow Planter
- Dirt Box
Issues with the reservoir method
Every growing method has its advantages and disadvantages – for the reservoir system the main disadvantage is the limited amount of water that the reservoir can hold. The bigger the better – especially for holidays.
Capillary flow rate
Another issue, when using capillary wicks, is getting a quick enough flow rate of water to the roots above when the weather is very hot and plants need a lot of water. It’s best to use two wicks for each pot – of course as plants establish, roots grow down into the reservoir and are quite happy as long as the water reservoir is light-proof to avoid the growth of algae. One of the problems with algae is that it competes with roots for oxygen.
These issues are easy to avoid and I’ll be showing how to make an excellent reservoir system for around £3.00 (three pounds) per plant in the newsletter at the beginning of next season.
Valves and trays
The “valve in tray” such as the autopot system also performed very well, it’s very similar to a reservoir system, but “smart valves” in trays struggled with the hot dry weather, to supply water fast enough. Issues with large trays include, keeping them light-proof and using more water than needed because of evaporation.
Two top cherries
I wanted to make a comparison between Suncherry Premium and Piccolo.
I found that Suncherry Premium is sweeter and contains more juice. Its high liquid content along with irregular watering means that it is also more likely to split.
Piccolo has a little less sugar and slightly more acid content. It is less likely to split, has a longer shelf life but the seeds aren’t available from retail outlets, however, seedlings are available online in the spring and early summer.
Unless you are growing tomatoes for the supermarkets, Suncherry Premium is in my view better. It is a sweeter “home-grown” tasting tomato. Like Sungold, don’t leave it too long on the vine otherwise it may split. Sungold and Suncherry Premium come from the same Japanese seed breeders.
It’s funny how some varieties just do better outdoors!
You might think that being grown under cover in a greenhouse or polytunnel, in a nice warm spot, would mean success for every tomato plant variety but experience shows otherwise.
So why do some plants perform better outdoors?
Advantages of outdoor growing
- Better air flow – increases transpiration.
- Plants receive some rain water – often slightly acid in pH and contains less additives than tap water.
- More pollinators – bees and insects help pollinate flowers.
- It’s less hot during the afternoon outside than in a greenhouse – high temperatures can stress many varieties, especially if grown in containers that dry out quickly.
Disadvantages of outdoor growing
- Wet weather – blight!
- Colder at night – but in the early spring you can move plants in containers into a greenhouse if a frost or wet weather is predicted.
I find that Red Alert and Tumbling Tom do better outdoors than in a greenhouse or polytunnel. However, most varieties perform better under cover.
Thank you to all those who have submitted a recipe – always happy to receive more … the recipe page will be ready shortly.