It’s the end of the road for Martin Fish’s tomatoes
I’ve picked the last ripe ones and now it’s time to clear out the plants
I’ve been keeping the tomatoes ticking over for as long possible in the polytunnel to allow the last of the fruits to ripen, but finally the plants have come to the end of the road. I know lots of people clear their plants out at the end of September so they can empty and clean the greenhouse or polytunnel, but I always make it my aim to ripen as many fruits as possible, simply because I don’t like green tomato chutney that much!
If the autumn weather’s mild, as it has been this season, you can usually keep the plants going through October and into early November. In my polytunnel there’s no artificial heat, although it’s surprising how warm it gets on a bright day, and those few extra degrees really help to ripen the fruit. Cutting back on watering helps, in fact I’ve not watered the plants for the past few weeks, and good ventilation is essential to prevent grey mould developing. Over the past month there has been a steady supply of tasty, ripe tomatoes that we’ve eaten fresh, bottled or made into sauces.
However, I now need to clear the polytunnel before winter so that I can bring some plants undercover for protection, so the tomatoes have to finally go. All the last of the ripe ones have been picked and the majority are destined to become home-made tomato soup. Fortunately, there aren’t many green tomatoes, but they won’t be wasted, and my wife Jill will make just a few jars of chutney.
Once all the fruit is picked, the canes are removed and the plants dug out of the soil. The stems will be chopped up and added to my compost heap along with other garden waste and autumn leaves, and when I’ve cleared and forked over the soil border, my reward will be one final cheese and home-grown tomato sandwich of the year!
My last ripe tomatoes of the season
Fork out the plants to remove as many of the old roots as possible