As we approach the end of July, it’s a good time to take stock of what we can  realistically expect to be fully grown and ripe before the season draws to a close and the cold weather sets in.

There are always plenty of side shoots to remove – it’s amazing how easy it is to miss one or two and they can grow very long before being spotted!

If you have a truss with plenty of tomatoes at almost full size with a few flowers and very small fruit on the end, it’s best to remove them (as below).

Stragglers End of Truss

There’s no point in slowing down the growth of a truss for a few stragglers on the end.

Stress – mild stress that is!
Any action that causes stress to a tomato plant will encourage it to produce more quickly, that is, become more generative than vegetative. That’s one reason why branch removal (at the right time) is a way of encouraging fruit to grow and ripen early.

Leaf Branch Removal – A Summary

  • Remove leaf branches up to the first truss.
  • Branches above are best removed when fruit on the truss above is ripe.
  • If there are three leaf branches between two trusses, the middle branch can be removed.

Organics
There’s been some discussion in the media lately about whether organic food is better for us and a new report that support that idea.

One approach is to consider whether it is better for the plants, because if it is, it will probably be better for us too. For example, soil that has organic material added to it usually contains more air spaces between the soil particles.

Soil that holds plenty of oxygen is excellent for plant roots and encourages friendly microbes. This one benefit of organic material added to soil would make nutrient uptake more effective and vegetables more nutritious – all other things being equal.

It’s also good to know that food hasn’t been sprayed by chemicals … to my way of thinking, it’s the insecticides and fungicides that I don’t like added to my food. Whether it’s horse manure or Tomorite that feed my plants, I’m not too concerned as long as the plants haven’t been spayed with a chemical that may prove one day to be dangerous!

Organic or inorganic plant food and ions
Plants absorb nutrients in the form of ions. It may start off as organic or inorganic, horse manure or Tomorite, but if it isn’t an ion, plant roots can’t absorb it!

A bottle of Tomorite is full of ions ready to be absorbed. The horse manure has to be gradually decomposed by bacteria to produce ions. Either way, plants get fed.

In theory there should be no difference between a plant that’s been fed with organic food or a plant that’s been fed with Tomorite – they both absorb the same ions.

However, in my view, it isn’t really as straightforward as that.

Organic feeds usually enhance the soil structure and microbial life which is better for the roots and the general well-being of plants (as stated above). This makes them less vulnerable to disease which often makes spraying unnecessary.

Hot weather increases organic food supply
When soil temperatures are high, organic matter decomposes more rapidly, supplying more ions to plant roots and increasing their food supply. Of course this also means that the soil may run out of sufficient nutrients sooner in warm weather and may need a top-up with more organic feed.

Of course different organic compounds decompose at different rates. Using organic food that decomposes gradually with organic food that is more readily available (as ions of course) will make a good organic feeding plan.

I’m away at the moment and hoping that the auto watering system is working properly!

Regards,
Nick

7 Responses

  1. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Thanks Buster

    I’m also making a big batch of compost this summer – I just turned the first bin today after 3 months fermenting – it’s coming along very well. The second is still only half full as the drought has stopped us having to mow the grass as often.

    Last year I added commercial farmyard manure and the results were epic. This year I tried using my own and it’s not been quite as good (probably hadn’t rotted down enough). Your approach of adding some pellets sounds a good idea too…….

  2. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Just harvested the 400th tomato of the season to end July!

    Maskotka sown early February is almost finished now – just about 15 left to get some seeds from for next year.

    The other very clear message I”m getting is that saucers under pots prevents Blossom End Rot (zero cases across 12 plants), whereas using smaller pots or Rhizopots without under-pot watering has led to a few cases across Red Alert, Zenith, Cedrico but not, to date, Apero Sungold, Tigerella. It’s clearly water, not calcium as the feeding regimens for all has been exactly the same.

  3. MICK WEST
    | Reply

    my tomatoes have and are looking realy good a heavy crop, however some skins are thick and chewy can you advise me on this

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Mick,
      There’s not a lot you can do to avoid thick skins on some varieties other than keep temperatures from getting too high – almost impossible in this weather!
      Nick

  4. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply

    Nick

    One thing I’ve read about is the ability of vermicompost to be a ‘concentrated nutrient store’ for tomato plants – apparently, you don’t need to put too much in for it to work.

    I started a wormery 9 months ago so should hopefully have a full 3 trays vertical by next spring (it will be fullish by September and then top-ups over winter in the garage should see it ready by spring).

    Have you tried this and, if so, is this also a way to be able to ‘top up’ plants in final pots by adding a second dose of vermicompost with GPC or farmyard manure??

    The real question for me is whether the vermicompost would provide enough nutrients for the whole ‘final pot’ life cycle to remove the need for regular feeding or whether, by giving enough for that, you would poison the plant through too high an available dose at final potting up time??

    • Buster
      | Reply

      Hi Nick & Rhys.

      Having good success this year with my own compost mix (garden + kitchen waste) + 20% all purpose comp. Claggy when wet but dries with big air spaces for the roots. I mixed in poultry pellets for slow release nutrients. Now giving some high pottasium feed the toms are my best ever. May be an exceptional year though with the weather.

      buster

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Rhys,
      I haven’t tried it, but I know that everyone who has speaks very highly of worm castings and vermicompost.
      Because it is more or less a balanced feed, depending on what the worms are fed on, I would top-up with an organic feed that is higher in potassium at this time of the season.
      As I’m sure you know, one of the advantages of organic feed is that it is hard to overfeed plants – however, the difficulty is to know just how much food is available to plants at various times throughout the season.
      The way I would go is with vermicompost as a base, then top-up with a liquid feed like Bio-Bloom from Bio-Bizz, Miracle Grow Organic Choice or any other liquid feed high in potassium.
      Nick

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