Grow­ing toma­toes in­doors is best

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE - AN­DREW COLLY ER’ S

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.

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