Chris has grown his own tomatoes this year (perhaps he’ll write an update on those at some point), but I didn’t start any off from seed as I already had too many other things on the go. Dad has grown lots of different varieties though, so I’ve been helping him look after his, and last weekend, it was time for them to be relocated outside.
We grow our tomatoes in containers, with a bamboo cane in each one for support.
Tomatoes are either determinate (bush type) or indeterminate (vine type). Although bush types do not grow as tall, we still find it useful to support them with a cane to prevent them being knocked around too much in the wind. Indeterminate varieties definitely need some sort of support though, as they can grow pretty tall if you let them!
We grow our tomatoes up against the fence that surrounds the vegetable garden to try and prevent some of the wind that otheriwise often blows up the hill we live on! This acts as a great place to tie the canes to, like so.
We thread a piece of string through the fence bracket and then tie this round the cane to keep it secure. The other end of the cane is pushed into the tomato container an inch or two from the plant’s stem.
We then tie the tomatoes up every 4-6 inches. At each stage, we first tie the string round the cane as the photo shows.
Next, we tie the string loosely round the tomato’s stem. It’s important that it’s only tied loosely so that as the tomato grows and its stem gets bigger, you don’t inadvertently “strangle” it and prevent it sending water and nutrients to the rest of the plant.
For the vine-type tomatoes, i.e. those that grow up a cane, it’s also advisable to take the side shoots out. Otherwise, the plant expends lots and lots of energy growing extra leaves and stems but not the lovely tomatoes that you’re after!
Side shoots grow out between the main upright stem and the leaf axles like you can see in the photo. It’s usually quite easy to just pinch these out, or you can use a pair of scissors if you prefer.
You just need to be careful that you only pinch out the side shoots, i.e. those that are going to create extra leaves, and not those that are going to be a truss of tomatoes (as they come out of the same place)!
If you’re unsure, it’s always best to leave it to get a bit bigger, and then it becomes more clear which it is destined to be!
This photo shows what it looks like once the side shoot has been removed. Be careful to check back though, as sometimes the plant will grow another side shoot back in exactly the same place!
Once the plants get a bit bigger, I’ll take some photos of what a side shoot and a truss look like when they first start to grow, to help you determine which it is you have and whether to remove or not!
We are growing one bush variety, so for that one, we have tied it loosely to the cane for support like the others, but we won’t remove the side shoots.