Let There Be Light
My biggest take-away from this season is to try and maximize light on my plants. Light is of course essential for growth and it triggers flowering and fruit set.

I was amazed to find that the tomatoes that matured earliest in the season were smaller than usual and had under-developed seeds in them! It shows that light levels play a major role in many aspects of growth.

Next season I’ll make as many reflective surfaces as I can – from white card behind the seedlings, to white plastic sheeting inside the pollytunnel, on the floor and sides.

Seedlings and Light
Seedlings require a lot of light to prevent them from becoming leggy. Not in intensity, but in hours. The optimum amount of hours for lighting seedlings is eighteen hours – that’s a lot of light!

If you don’t live in an area near the equator, it is a good idea to choose varieties that don’t become leggy. Tumbling Tom is a great variety for developing a stocky habit, and Black Cherry also tends to keep from shooting up like a rocket on a cloudy day!

Of course, the later in the season you sow, the more light there is, but also the greater chance of ending the season with green tomatoes.

As with all tomato growing, if conditions are favourable it’s reasonably easy to grow a great crop of tomatoes. However, if conditions are challenging as they have been this season, we need to “pull out all the stops” and draw on the experience that we have gained from previous seasons.

Fried Green Tomatoes
If you are wondering what to do with green tomatoes – unripe ones that is – apart from green tomato chutney they also can be sliced and fried, grilled or even microwaved.

Here’s a recipe from a region where green tomatoes are very popular fried (the American South). You would think that if they have all that lovely weather, how is it they eat their tomatoes before they ripen? Fried green tomatoes must taste good!


Seeds for Next Season
If you are thinking about selecting seed varieties for next season , here’s a link to a very good selection at Plants of Distinction where you can order a brochure for browsing over the winter period.

List of varieties:

Order a catalogue:

I buy a lot of my seeds from this company and they are reliable.

As usual, if you have any comments, it would be great to hear from you.

7 Responses

  1. Diane Bostock
    | Reply

    HI Nick, I have a problem with the black cherry toms, although I have had a fair amount of fruit a lot of then have split skins, It dosnt see to be a problem with the other varieties, they all get watered about the same. What can be causing it ?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Diane,
      I had the same problem last season, so this season I pick them before they become very ripe. It’s always difficult to tell when black tomatoes are ripe. I also tried growing Chocolate Cherry which are similar to BC but supposed to be crack resistant – I found they aren’t crack resistant after all and not as prolific as BC.
      Sungold is also a variety that sometimes split but much easier to tell when they are ripe. I think lower temperatures at night could cause weak skins to contract and split – maybe?

  2. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Thanks Nick for a season of insightful, practical tips. Huge amounts learned and much appreciated.

    18 hrs a day of light sounds like planting at the summer solstice! Sounds like tomatoes should be sown/germinated where the Gulf Stream meets the Arctic Circle!!

    From my days as a biologist, the basics of enyzme reaction rates (kinetics) are these: at low concentrations of any substrate (be that light, phosphate or whatever), the rate of reaction is directly proportional to the concentration of the substrate, so if your substrates are not saturated, if one is limiting (in this case, light) more substrates may help. A daily foliar feed with seaweed extract diluent allowed my plants to keep growing well through the dull April we had – no science done there, just an observation.

    Next year I will test 5 plants with and without the foliar spray to see if there is a difference in growth in 3 inch pots. Whether of course the light will be different next year is anyone’s guess!

    Another area I’d like to optimise is the soil in 10 inch pots. Using traditional John Innes Number 3 compost for final potting up, the nutrients started becoming limited after about 6 weeks (mid July in my case). Whereas, when I created an in situ ‘slow release compost’ (after earthing up but prior to flowering) in between our potato rows, cropping has been very good. I do therefore wonder whether filling the bottom third of the pot with a mixture of fresh organic waste, grass cuttings, comfrey leaves, garden compost, fish/blood/bone will make a difference. I did do that in the garden-planted ones and the plants have done fine, so I suspect it won’t harm the plants.

    Do you have any experience in that regard?

    Going with 4 of your 2012 top varieties next year, as well as several others you have mentioned on the site. Experimenting too with some ‘black’ varieties from Russia and Japan.


    PS can you buy the grafting strain seeds at the linked site?

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rhys,

      Thank you too for your detailed comments this season which have been very helpful.

      I bought my Aegis rootstock seeds from http://www.heirloomtoms.org/store/index.php?app=gbu0&ns=catshow&ref=graft_seed&sid=ho59xd2ue5t6lshqbd7x984thtdpll7o they also sell grafting kits which include clips and a scalpel etc. but you can achieve the same with a razor blade. I’ve found that the important part is keeping the humidity and temperature at the right levels.

      The seaweed extract is great and next season I intend to combine it with fish emulsion up to flowering.

      Adding worm castings to the organic mix is also something I hope to experiment with next season, the mix you suggest sounds very good. I have used John Innes No. 3 often in the past with success, and its weight is great for pot stability.


  3. nik
    | Reply

    last year i was in a hurry to ripen my tomatoes so lit a parafin based fire lighter and threw it in one of my greenhouses and it filled with smoke . the toms in this greenhouse ripened 2 weeks earlier than the one without the fire lighter. couldnt taste the parafin on the tomatoes so that was good.

  4. jess allaway
    | Reply

    Hi Nick

    As usual, thanks for all the info and links. Weather here has taken a real downturn and I have had to strip most of the leaves off plants in greenhouse just to get maximum light at them and reduce dampness. Annoying when they all looked green and healthy but I suppose needs must. On a lighter note I remember watching an old film called Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and thinking “hope they give us the recipe”. So you have succeeded where Hollywood failed! Am definitely going to save some Glacier seeds as they have been extremely good. Wish I had thought of growing on the Aegis (grafting failed) plant to save some of its seeds as I might have another go next year. One thing about we gardeners I think is that we are eternal optimists.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Jess,
      Send me your address to [email protected] and I’ll send you some of my Aegis F2 seeds. I’m looking forward to sowing some of your Henderson’s Winsall seeds next season! I found that it is not just the humidity but also keeping the temperature high that helps, otherwise it takes too long for the graft to heal and the seedlings are affected by fungal mould etc. A heated propagator with a thermostat is obviously ideal, but a bit expensive!

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