First Decent Harvest 2017

The tomatoes have been very slow this year. I can only blame it on the weather. We had a very hot and sunny June which meant that the plants got away to a lot of growth, but July and August have been relatively cold and dreary.

That’s only with us in the East Midlands. The weather has been very variable across the UK as exampled by the weather this week. We were away in sunny Surrey, whilst here in the East Midlands, it was cloudy and they had a heavy thunderstorm (overflowing gutters type heavy), but it rained for such a short time that it didn’t help filling up the watering systems.

However, when we came back, it was to find that the crop is at last beginning to ripen sensibly. Whilst we have had a few kilos of tomatoes over the last few weeks, this week produced 6.3kg, much of which was Summer Cider, my favourite orange beefsteak. The plant (just one) had seven ripe fruit, a total weight of 2.2kg (more to come) with one (shown below) coming in a 540g (not a record breaker but as large as I can usually manage).

I also picked the first of the Reisetomate Pocket Book. This is a new variety for me (I don’t know if I’ll grow it again). The fruit is a cluster of small individual berries which are easily separated. However, its taste (this year anyway) is nothing special and the individual berries within the cluster ripen separately meaning that you end up with a cluster of berries at different stages of ripeness which isn’t the best of ideas.

Anyway, we’ve also been collecting the seed, ready for next year and made tomato sauce to go into the freezer.

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Tomatoes and Allotment September 2016

I realise that its been a while since I reported on my tomatoes and also what has been going on at the allotment. I’ve decided that its not sensible to run two different blogs, particularly since I’m growing tomatoes (successfully) at the allotment, so I’m going to join both blogs into a single one and put it all together in one place.

I will start off by putting up an entry on this blog that links to my other blog and then gradually stop.

 

Here’s the link to the main site: http://pelicanplants.co.uk

 

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Simple Cordon or Multiple Leaders for Indeterminate Tomatoes

In the UK, it is normal to grow Indeterminate Tomatoes as a Cordon with a single stem trained up a wire, string or cane, removing all the sideshoots and stopping the plant when it gets to the top of the greenhouse or polytunnel when about five trusses have set.

The reason for doing this is to make sure that the plant puts as much energy as possible in to ripening the fruit because of the limited amount of sunshine that we experience in the UK.

I have always questioned this approach, noting that in North America, tomatoes are frequently grown in “cages” and left largely to their own devices.

In 2016, more by accident than design, I was able to compare the results of having one, two and three leaders. We were away in the early summer and so the plants didn’t get their usual care and attention and when we came back, I’d got three plants of the same variety which had grown one, two and three leaders all on their own with no help from me. (We actually been to Vancouver and I saw some outdoor tomatoes growing and had what could be called “Outdoor Tomato Envy”. The plants were growing as vigorously as plants we grow in the polytunnel, were much greener and heavily laden with fruit which was ripening quickly. The only reason that I could give was that the sun is much more intense in Vancouver than it is here).

However, I digress. I pruned back the plants, putting up additional supports for the extra leaders and removing additional sideshoots so that I’d got three reasonably tidy plants. As expected, the plants had five, eight and ten trusses, all about the same size which essentially meant that the plant with three leaders was producing roughly twice the weight of fruit as the single leader plant. What was slightly unexpected was the way in which the ripened. I had assumed that the trusses on the plants with multiple leaders would ripen later than the plant with just one leader. However, this was not the case. The first truss on all the plants ripened at about the same time, as did the second and third. Then it got a bit more confusing as the additional trusses ripened in between the third and fourth trusses on the first plant and again with the fourth and fifth trusses.

What I conclude from this observation is that when a plant is vigorous enough to create additional leaders early on, overall the plant will produce a greater weight of fruit starting at the same time and going on longer.

Whether the additional leaves shade other plants in the greenhouse and delay the fruit ripening, I can’t say. But what it does suggest is that the rigorous removal of sideshoots at the early stage of a plants growth is not necessary and possibly reduces the overall crop from an individual plant.

 

I’m going to try again next year to see if I can get more information. Read here to see more information

 

PelicanPlants

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July – Mid Season

As I suggested in my last post back in April, I had good intentions to post regularly. However, there hasn’t been much to say. The weather through May, June and early July has not been encouraging the tomatoes to grow and ripen with a dry May, wet and cool June and the weather continuing in that way so far in July.

So whilst there are tomatoes setting and growing on the plants, we’ve yet to see any signs of fruit thinking about changing colour. The plants are growing and the quantity of rain has meant that my dripper system running off a waterbutt which fills from my flat roof has not run out of water since the beginning of June.

My Raspberry Pi temperature sensor (see here for more details) (which has been running since mid June) has also shown that the temperature has drifted up and down through the day and night with the minimum temperatures falling to 8.5C for a couple or three nights in late June. However this shouldn’t be enough to cause any problems.

And, to be honest, that’s about your lot. Based upon previous years, I don’t really expect tomatoes until late July or early August, I will continue monitoring the temperatures and am planning to buy a Pi Zero to run a second set of temperature sensors (and possibly a camera to take a picture of the inside of the polytunnel every day).

 

Hope you are enjoying your tomatoes

 

PelicanPlants

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2016 – Tomatoes Started

Following on from my post last month, I have sown most of the tomatoes I plant to grow this year. The ones that are still waiting are the two F1 Hybrids (Mountain Magic & Crimson Crush) that are going to be grown only outdoors at the allotment. So that gives me 28 varieties for the polytunnel and (perhaps) greenhouses at home. Substantially fewer than previous years.

If you go to my list (here) you’ll see that I’ve also reduced the number of beefsteak varieties that I am growing. The reason for this is that many of my plants will go to my daughter to be grown outside (in a relatively blight-free area of the country) and the outdoor season in the UK is not long enough to ripen beefsteak.

Anyway, the seeds were sown at the end of March and went up on top of the cupboard in the kitchen next to the boiler where they germinated (quickly) and are now doing the in-out daily movement to keep them warm at night (in) and in the light in the day (out into the greenhouse). Mountain Magic & Crimson Crush will be sown next week or the week after to delay them as much as possible so that the weather and soil has chance to warm up before I take them to the allotment. Last year I got Crimson Crush as plants from Suttons and, despite hardening them off at home and waiting until early June to plant them out at the allotment, they really suffered with the cold at first. So my plan this year will be to wait until the 2nd or 3rd week of June before planting the outdoor tomatoes at the allotment. That means I need to try and delay them as much as reasonable.

The choice of tomatoes (as always) is affected by seeds that I get from various seed swaps. This year I’ve had six or seven varieties I haven’t grown before, I’m still growing out my two varieties of “Oleron Yellow” (follow the link for a explanation as to why its in quotes), I’m growing multiple colours of cherry tomatoes to swap and I need to grow some varieties to keep the seeds relatively fresh so that they will germinate properly in later years. Finally (of course) I have to grow some of my favourites (this year I’ve chosen Summer Cider, Red Zebra and Bloody Butcher). Its amazing how hard it is to limit oneself to “only” 30 different varieties.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, I will try this year and keep a more regular update of how they’re getting on. (The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions).

 

PelicanPlants

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OK – I Succumbed: bought some F1 Hybrid Seeds

I always plan just to grow Heritage and/or Open Pollinated seed and to keep them for myself so that I can increase the number of varieties I have.

However, if I grow them outdoors at the allotment, they always fail to Blight, almost regardless of what I grow. Last year, I grew a combination of Crimson Crush plants from Suttons Plants, Moneymaker and Alicante from my own supply. Whilst none of the plants had blight and none of the fruit that ripened had any either, nearly all of the green tomatoes that I picked at the end of the season got blight before they ripened up. I say “nearly all” and that’s my problem. Crimson Crush is supposed to be blight resistant to all of the varieties of blight in the UK so I don’t know if my “nearly” is that none of the Crimson Crush got blight or whether it was that Crimson Crush failed as well so I have to try again this year.

As a comparison, my plan is to grow Mountain Magic from Thompson & Morgan so I get a large tomato and a small tomato both of which should be able to avoid blight. I’m also going to be more careful to separate the different varieties when I pick them.

A reason why I’m going to grow more at the allotment is that I really don’t want to keep growing the large numbers of seedlings to grow 70+ different varieties in the polytunnel and greenhouses and want to give myself the opportunity to grow something different. However, I do want to make sure that I grow enough tomatoes to give me the volume that we seem to consume so, its more “standard red” tomatoes at the allotment with only around 24 plants in the polytunnel. Of course one thing I will have to do is to delay my sowing until April so that the plants at the allotment stand a chance. Last year, despite arriving as reasonable sized plants, the plants at the allotment went out too soon and were hit by the cold – so my plan is not to put them out until about mid June and to find some form of protection so that they stand a chance of growing. We shall see.

PelicanPlants

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November – thinking about next year

I’m gradually updating the website to include more varieties that you can buy as plugplants in the UK. My reason is that I’ve decided that I will grow some tomatoes from seed myself but that the unusual varieties that I haven’t grown before, I will buy in as pre-grown plants. This means I’ve got to get organised and decide what I want. The issue seems to be to find plants that are not F1 hybrids, nor are they ones that we have grown before. 

I’m also planning to grow fewer plants altogether than previous years because I want to grow some different things in the polytunnel which will mean that only one side (at most) will be available for tomatoes. 

Anyway, decision to be made.

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