Keeping Tomatoes Performing to Perfection
By now you’ll no doubt have enjoyed some gorgeous home-grown tomatoes, it has been a good year for those in greenhouses but slightly less so for outdoor plants in my garden – the very slow arrival of summer followed by a heatwave has kept my outdoor tomato plants unusually small – almost as if they’re frightened to grow too much in case the winter is about to come!
At this stage it really is worth paying a little extra attention to these pretty straightforward plants. Left to their own devices they’ll no doubt produce a few more fruits, but not of the quality or quantity they could do. So how best to keep them performing to perfection for as long as possible?
- Keep the soil or compost just moist at all times. Erratic water availability will not only restrict growth but will increase the likelihood of ‘blossom end rot’ showing as a sunken black, leathery patch at the base of the fruit. It will also increase the chances of the fruits splitting (and so, soon succumbing to grey mould etc etc). If the tomatoes have a fairly dry compost they develop a tougher skin and then suddenly you water them and the pressure as the fruit can now expand causes the skin to split. Infuriating but easily avoidable by regular watering.
- Producing fruits takes up a lot of energy so make sure you continue to feed the tomatoes regularly, using a high-potash specially formulated tomato fertiliser. They may be growing and fruiting more slowly but they still need food, particularly if they are growing in compost rather than in open ground.
- Continue to remove any side shoots which are developing on cordon tomatoes, there are not many at this stage but a job still worth doing as it helps to encourage growth where you need it.
- Greenhouse tomatoes may benefit from the removal of a few leaves, but only if they have grown very strongly and the developing fruits are being heavily shaded by excess foliage. Some people suggest a massive reduction in the number of leaves, but I don’t – after all the leaves have a very fundamental purpose as they produce such a lot of energy by photosynthesis! Just remove those which are making it very difficult for nearby fruits to get sun.
- In sunny positions and if your garden is getting plenty of hot, sunny weather, remember to open vents and windows on greenhouses and frames as excess sun and/or heat can cause problems with fruit development, making them ripen unevenly.