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St Austell, Cornwall, England                    Duana Pearson                    ediblestaustell@gmail.com 

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Tomato

Solanum lycopersicum

 

Tomatoes are my absolute favourite to eat and to grow. Here are some tips for growing your own at home; indoors and out.

Tomato varieties are either indeterminate or determinate. Indeterminate tomatoes are taller varieties, also called cordon types. These need supporting, either with stakes or wires. Keep tying the plants in as they grow and carefully pinch out side-shoots as to encourage 1 strong stem and lots of fruit. Side shoots grow at the axil where the leaves join the main stem. 

I usually stop my tomatoes at a height of 5 feet and limit each plant to 5-6 trusses which makes the plant put its energy into ripening those fruits. This is especially important if you are growing your tomatoes outside as they will be slower to ripen than under cover.

Determinate varieties are bush types that are perfect for pots and hanging baskets. These are much shorter, 1-2 feet high and wide, and don’t require any side shooting. 

 

Water tomatoes evenly and often, ideally in the morning or evening for efficiency. To help prevent blight, make sure you only water the soil and not the foliage itself. If your tomatoes do show signs of blight, you can help prevent its spread by removing infected leaves. Start feeding when the fruits start developing. There are many tomato fertilisers available, follow the instructions on the one you get. Or if you have comfrey or nettles in your garden, you could make your own fertiliser by making a tea. If you are growing several tomatoes, make sure they are well spaced to allow good air flow around the plants. This is good practice any way and helps to maintain good plant health.

 

The biggest problem your likely to face with outdoor growing is blight, Phytophthora infestans. Spores survive in infected seeds or travel in from miles away, but will only affect a plant if landing on wet foliage or fruit. It starts as ugly, brown patches on the leaves, but can quickly spread to fruit and other plants. Sign up to the free Blight Watch service, which sends alerts about blight-risk periods, based on temperature and humidity.

Picking resistant varieties will delay any infection, and perhaps avoid it all together. Use crop rotation and avoid planting tomatoes in the same ground where you had members of the Solanaceae family in the previous year. Similarly, if you grew tomatoes, peppers or aubergines in pots last year, change the compost before putting in your new tomatoes.

We can’t guarantee a hot and sunny summer, which encourage tomatoes to ripen. However, cherry types ripen more quickly - because of their smaller size. As do yellow varieties - because you don’t have to wait until they turn red!

 

Great varieties:

‘Sweet Olive’ - delicious cherry, cordon type

‘Gardener’s Delight’ - large cherry, cordon, a real do-er!

‘Tigerella’ - attractive stripey medium sized cordon tomato, blight resistant

‘Golden Sunrise’ - medium size yellow cordon type

‘Romello’ - blight resistant cherry bush type

‘Tumbling Tom’ - cherry bush type

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