This week in the “sow-a-long” we’re potting the five Tumbling Toms up into 4inch pots.

It’s been six weeks since sowing and the plants are doing very well.
Because they were sown at the beginning of March, it will be at least ten weeks before they can stay outside without the risk of frost, so I use three different potting stages between sowing and final position (3, 4 and 5inch).

If you have sown your tomato seeds later, such as the beginning of April, you can get away with just two potting stages, with a 3inch and the 4 or 5inch pot.

I like to pot into a bigger pot every three weeks, but this can be extended a little if necessary.

My time-line in the sow a long:

  • Seed to 3 inch pot = 3 weeks
  • 3inch to 4inch pot = 3 weeks
  • 4inch to 5 or 6inch (depending on variety) = 3 weeks
  • Then a further 3 weeks to final position

That takes us nicely from the beginning of March to the end of May.

I intended to name the five plants in the sow-a-long A, B, C, D and E. However, my wife insists that I give them proper names so we now have: Alice, Brian, Charlie, Daisy and Eric!

Each one will receive a slightly different treatment (nutrients, watering etc.) and we’ll be able to note any differences between them, in growth and taste.

Three modes or stages in tomato plant growth.

  • The Leaf
  • The Flower
  • The Fruit

Each requires a different treatment.

When gardeners give tips about growing tomatoes such as “not to over-feed” or “over-water” or remove leaves etc., the first thing to be aware of is that each of these bits of advice is both right and wrong – depending on the stage of growth plants are at.

It is wrong to over-feed them when they are young plants but when they are mature and bearing fruit they require a lot of food (nutrients).

They also require nutrients of a different kind when they are mature than you would give them when they are young plants.

Confused? … so was I until I learned from experience what tomato plants need at the different stages of their growth.

Tip: Growing tomatoes successfully is all about understanding what tomato plants like at the different stages of their growth.

The Leaf Stage
The leaf stage is when plants are developing both their root and top growth. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient at this stage along with all the other in smaller amounts.

If you’ve grown tomatoes in the past and found that you’ve been over-whelmed by lots of green healthy leaves and hardly any tomatoes, it is because the plants have received too much nitrogen just before the flowering stage.

This is often the result of transplanting into the final position – and lots of new compost containing lots of nitrogen – just before the plants have begun the flowering stage.

Tip: It is best to transplant into the final position after the plants have begun to flower.

The Flowering Stage
It is exciting to see flowers open because each one is a potential tomato! However, it is important to be aware of Blossom Drop – this happens when flowers fail to pollinate and the flower buds drop off the end of their stems.

Whole trusses and clusters of flowers can fail which is very disappointing. Pollination fails owing to very dry or very damp weather.

Other reasons for Blossom Drop include too much of one nutrient and/or too little of another.

Stress can also cause plants to abort their flowers if they feel they cannot cope because of being over-watered or over-fed etc.

Tip: Tap and mist plants to help pollinate flowers. Also, be careful not to stress them – applying a foliar feed with something that they like such as liquid seaweed or SP Plant Invigorator can help strengthen their immune system and keep them happy when conditions are unfavourable.

The Fruiting Stage
This is when flowers begin set, that is, have started to show tiny pea-like tomatoes as the blossoms fade and die away.

It is at this stage that they need plenty of food – potash (potassium) to be exact. It is also at this stage that if they don’t receive enough calcium, the fruit gets Blossom End Rot – I’ll explain more about this in a later newsletter.

As always I’m please to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions.

5 Responses

  1. Andy
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Although mine still haven’t got to the same stage as yours they are taking off now, but unfortunately I’ve grown too many so the whole of the East Midlands have now got tomato plants. I can now see the little hair like structures on the stems and have gardeners delight, black cherry, tumbling red and yellow, vilma and Alicante. With mine been as big as yours, may be a week or two behind your growth (possibly due to them been a little chillier on a night) should I not but them into the larger pots until they get to the size of yours at the moment?

  2. Gill
    | Reply

    Hi, Is a 30 litre pot too big to grow a tomato plant in – or is it ok to put 2 plants in this size pot?

  3. MRS MARY NORCOTT
    | Reply

    HIYA NICK,
    I HAVE 2 GARDENERS DELIGHT PLANTS, NOW ABOUT 3 INCHES HIGH, 2 BOTTOM LEAVES EACH, AND 2OR 3 LEAVES ON THE TOP, I STILL HAVE THEM IN 3 INCH POTS, IS THIS OK STILL ? MY SISTER GAVE THEM TO ME, SO THEY WERE ALREADY GROWING WHEN I RECEIVED THEM.

  4. DAVID
    | Reply

    I have ordered plug plants. When I pot them on do you recommend trying to remove or cut the outer layer or leave the plant to grow through?

    Thanks

    David

  5. Derek
    | Reply

    Thanks Nick, I just planted my seeds yesterday evening here in Uganda(East Africa). I planted 5 different varieties of Heirloom tomatoes I got last year off a friend. I hope I’m not too late for the sow along though definatly will get the benefit of you going ahead of me 🙂 Thank you for this weeks issue because it sheds light on some of the problems I got the last time I planted. I didnt get any blossom end rot but had alot of flower drop from a particular tomatoe plant. I had alot of splitting at the end of the crop, I think it was partly due to the increased rain we received then. How do I send you some of my pics?

    CHEERS.

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