Growing tomatoes indoors is best
EVEN before I caught the gardening bug two things I remember from our hotchpotch family garden as a young child were new potaotes and home grown tomatoes. Both keenly anticipated in equal measure. Maybe this was the early catalyst for my love of both horticulture and food.
It was certainly the key to my first job working in a large country house garden. There were two acres of walled kitchen garden and four acres of ornamental gardens, back then it was the kitchen gardens that grabbed my attention. As with most growing in this well run garden diversity was always in evidence. We grew beefsteak tomatoes as large as your fist, sun bright yellow tomatoes, sweet little cherries and old favourites like the variety ‘Moneymaker’.
Growing tomatoes in greenhouses and polytunnels is a pretty easy and generally successful affair even in Ireland where we are not always blessed with copious amounts of sunshine. Growing tomatoes outdoors in Ireland outdoors can be another matter all together.
The choice of varieties and types of tomatoes available can be head spinning. There are four main types to consider, cherry, salad, beefsteak and plum. Within these types there are a multitude of varieties, yellow , tiger striped, black/ purple and even a few red ones. If buying seedling plants from a garden centre, these are already germinated plants usually around six inches high grown in nine centimetre pots, you have a head start.
This method of buying is particularly useful when you only need a couple of plants. While the varieties supplied are all top class, Alicante, Alisa Craig, Gardeners Delight and the afore mentioned Moneymaker, your choice will be limited. For the aficionado grow from seed and your choice is near limitless.
If growing indoors you can sow seeds from the the end of February to the start of March. If you intend to plant outdoors then you are better buying seedling plants now or start your seeds off on a window cill at the begining of April for planting out now. If growing outdoors stick to varieties that are recommended for that purpose Moneymaker or Gardeners Delight fit this bill but cherry tomatoes are better still as they ripen quicker and tend to give heavy crops outdoors. Tomato ‘ Tasty Tumbler’ is excellent for pots and can even be grown in hanging baskets with regular liquid feeding. All tomatoes should have consistent moisture as drying out then watering can cause fruit to split open.
Tomatoes love sun are heavy feeders an for that reason many growers like to planted them in well prepared soil rather than growbags. This is fine but every three years a vacant year or a different crop should be grown in that location. This is known as crop rotation and it helps ward off pests and diseases and also give the soil a rest from the same crop.
Also remember that potatoes are from the same genera [Solanum] as tomatoes so are not a rotation crop. In fact, and it’s not April the first, they are now breeding plants that produce both tomatoes and potatoes on the same plant believe it or not. They do this by grafting a potatoe root stem to a tomato cutting. Growing in bags or containers is just fine too but remember to liquid feed with a special tomato food once a week. Sun, nutrients and moisture equals tasty sweet juicy fruit.
When growing outdoors plant in the sunniest sheltered spot you can. A sunny balcony in an apartment with a glass screen can give a semi greenhouse effect or a clear plastic sheet on a wooden frame used as a lean to against a sunny wall can also help with fruit ripening. Trusses is the term used to describe the flowering stems and these should really be restricted to three maximum on varieties like Moneymaker and Gardeners Delight. With cherry tomatoes stop them flowering afterAugust.