Planting out our early tomatoes

Now the greenhouse is up and running, we have somewhere to house the early tomato plants that Dad has been growing for us. These are a variety called Mimi, a lovely sweet yellow cherry tomato variety that we’ve grown for the past couple of years.

We find that to grow the best tomato plants, i.e. the ones that give you the biggest crop, you want to force them to produce flowers as soon as possible. This way, they will set more trusses up the plant in a shorter distance, as the trusses start to form lower down the plant.

Without this slight intervention, the plant can happily grow lots of leaves and stem, but not set its first truss for 3 foot or more. This is fine if you have the space (and height of support required!) to grow very tall plants which have the number of trusses you want. However, most of the time that isn’t the case, so getting a truss set as low down as possible is the key to success! This way, you can normally set 5 or 6 trusses by the time the plant is 5 or 6 foot tall.

To achieve this, you have to make the plants suffer slightly (unfortunately). To do this, make sure you don’t feed the plants. Otherwise, they will grow a lovely vigorous plant, but not produce any flowers (and ultimately tomatoes!) There’s plenty of time to feed tomatoes once they’ve set fruit, so don’t worry about it before that!

The same applies to water. Don’t give them too much, in fact, keep them relatively dry most of the time, even to the point that their leaves are drooping.

Lastly, don’t keep potting the tomatoes up into larger and larger pots. Again, this gives the plant extra nutrients etc. that usually result in a bigger, leafier plant, but less tomato production! We find that a 3″ pot is more than sufficient to keep a tomato plant in until it’s ready to pot up into its final pot.

In the simplest terms, these things make the plant think it is dying, and encourages it to accelerate fruit production, it’s way of reproducing.

You can see from the photos below that these plants feel like they’ve seen better days. Don’t worry, they won’t always look like this! But we needed to get that first flower formed.

It’s quite hard to do, but don’t worry if some of the lower leaves turn yellow/brown and start to die off. These ones aren’t needed anyway, and we will always pinch them off before planting the tomato out (see before and after photos below).

We planted the tomatoes out into a c.10 litre pot filled with multipurpose compost. The next step is to pot the tomato plants up. Gently remove the tomato plant from its pot and make a hole in the new pot deep enough to bury the tomato plant up to its first remaining leaf, i.e. bury most of the stem and the part of the stem where you just removed the leaves.

We find that this helps to grow a stronger, sturdier plant. Otherwise, they can get very spindly. Tomatoes also have this amazing ability to grow roots out of their stem. If you’ve ever seen little white nodules on the stems of your tomato plants – this is what they are – roots trying to form. If they come into contact with growing medium, they would through roots out.

Therefore, burying the stem creates a better root system for the plant.

And here they are all potted up and in the greenhouse ready to grow on.

They still look a bit sorry for themselves at the moment as they haven’t had a chance to take up the water we’ve just given them. However, it won’t be long before they’ve perked right up!

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