It’s about this time of the growing season that I take stock by looking at the successes and challenges that have come along, not just for me, but also for many other tomato growers who have emailed me about their ups and downs.
The most obvious challenge we have all faced in the UK, has been the months of wet, dull weather. This destroyed many gardeners tomato plants completely – especially those who were growing on allotments or outside in the garden and patio.
If We Get Another Wet Season
I think that spraying with a fungicide next season is a necessity for outdoor growers if we get long spells of wet weather again next year. The organic option for outdoor growing in a similar season is probably a non-starter – or at least until we get good and affordable organic fungicides on the market.
Most of us in the UK grow our tomatoes in containers of some kind – large pots or grow bags. These produce good results for a number of reasons but perhaps the main advantage is that we can start with disease free soil.
However, the disadvantage of container growing is the difficulty in keeping the entire root zone moist with water and correctly fed.
Ring culture – using grow pots in grow bags – partly overcomes these difficulties and helps get the best possible results from a grow bag. However, the next step up from this is a reservoir system.
The Reservoir System
The Quadgrow Planter has out-performed my grow bag/ring culture efforts this season. The Quadgrow Planter (below) is simply a container of water (and nutrients) beneath pots with holes in the bottom.
Capillary matting (acting as a wick) draws up water from below, into the tomato pot above.
This could easily be done using a bucket with a lid, and a tomato pot to sit on the lid. I’m sure that most gardeners could come up with their own version of this reservoir system.
The important thing is that the lower pot containing the water with food, is light-proof to avoid algae growing. Black plastic buckets would be ideal for this purpose.
Here’s a rather posh version (left) that pumps water upwards in a constant flow – great stuff, but you will still achieve good result from a more simple setup – placing a pot above a black plastic bucket.
It’s also very good if you are away for a few days as onve the reservoir is filled, it will keep the plants watered for several days depending on the size of the plants and reservoir of course!
I love looking through the seed brochures, but they aren’t always as accurate as they should be.
One disappointment this season has been Chocolate Cherry, a sister version of Black Cherry. Chocolate Cherry is described as being split resistant but so far I’ve had more split than ones that have not!
Still, the only way to find out is by your own experience – grow it yourself and discover what works best in your garden – just in case those who write the descriptions in the seed catalogues have become a little too optimistic!
Two varieties that are doing well are Large Red Cherry and Beam’s Yellow Pear.
Large Red Cherry is an old collector’s variety with uniform trusses of good size tomatoes and strong growth.
Beam’s Yellow Pear looks fantastic – perhaps not as intense in taste as many other varieties but the colour and shape make up for it.
That’s the latest from my garden … if you have any comments about your season so far, please leave them below.