AUGUST signals a time of plenty for the tomato grower.
It also means you have to get tough with your plants, which looks like brutality to a non-gardener.
Before I go on, remember this.
There are many ways to grow tomatoes and none of them are wrong.
Every allotment has someone with a “magic recipe” feed or method that only he or she knows.
Just because one person does it one way doesn’t mean yours is wrong. If you get fruit, you’ve done it right.
Monty Don’s investigating this on Gardeners’ World, with a trial of three different methods.
I had to enlist the other half to help me hack back excessive foliage and “stop” most of my plants last weekend.
Stopping is when you nip out the main shoot when the plants have literally hit the ceiling, like mine, or after three-six trusses, depending on variety.
If you let them keep on forming fruits, the later ones just won’t ripen.
I had been dreading this job, as the conservatory is so jam-packed, especially at the greenhouse staging end, I can’t get the step-ladders in any more. Bad idea.
I had to stand on a tall stool with Gary holding my legs so I didn’t fall off.
Of course, I couldn’t get back down, resorting to several Mrs Doyle-style falls and kneeing Gary in the stomach twice.
Take this a warning – don’t overstuff your greenhouse!
The five varieties I have this year are all cordons (Suncherry F1, Sungold, Gardener’s Delight, Cherrola and a trial variety from Thompson & Morgan).
With a cordon ( also known as intermediates) you have to nip out all sideshoots to concentrate their energy into the fruit.
Defoliating has the same aim.
It’s pointless having huge green plants with no tomatoes.
As soon as the first truss has set, cut off the lower leaves. Then I usually hack off anything that’s shading fruit. Don’t go overboard, the plants still need some leaves!
Making sure the plants are light and airy will help curb pests and diseases.
As for feeding, I use a standard tomato feed with seaweed extract (high in potash) once a week.
They’re also watered every morning... as long as I’m not late for work.
* TWO problems I’ve encountered this summer are some of the first trusses failing to set – I blame exceeding high temperatures in the conservatory.
Despite leaving the windows open, the wind can blow them shut.
It’s ironic really – last year, some fruit didn’t set because of low light intensity and cold nights.
I also discovered a couple of fruits with blossom end rot, a sign of irregular watering. It’s not serious, but inevitable if you forget to water, even for a day. The bottom of the unripe fruits sink in and turn black.
Just take them off and try to be more vigilant with your watering regime.