Blow me down
Until last week you would have been forgiven for thinking we were living in a dry inland country with no wind. Our small frogs as they developed from tadpoles had never seen rain water. The pond was completely dried up and the temporary dwelling of the washing up bowl was kept topped up from the tap. There was not much fun for kite flyers but it was fantastic for the micro light plane that adored the skyline on the Swilley every evening for an hour.
I was driving around town early last week and it looked like autumn, in a leaf drop sort of way. There were loads of detached leaves blowing around the pavements and piling up at the side of the road. The difference was that the leaves were green and they were mainly still attached to young fresh pieces of the branch they had happily clung onto during the long, warm, sunny spell. The perfect growing conditions produced plenty of new soft growth on trees, shrubs and plants that didn’t really seem to have any need to protect themselves and toughen up to the rigours of what life will eventually be throwing at them. Just like us humans, plants need a bit of turbulence every now and then to cope more effectively with life.
As the weather changed, I put out a tweet for people to put their summer bedding pots and hanging baskets in a sheltered spot. Hanging baskets don’t cope very well with the wind and the weight of the container, could fetch the plaster and bracket off of the wall, and the banging could keep you up all night.
I was so involved spreading the word that I forgot to check my own plants. I don’t have bedding but do tend to my tomato plants. The indoor ones were obviously fine, if the temperature gets a bit chilly for them we light a fire and the only wind they are subjected to is when we walk past them on the way to the kitchen.
It was the ones on the outside wall that didn’t fare well. I had supported them with natural twine, perfect for the planet because of its biodegradability, but not so good for coping with tension as the plants bowed. It didn’t take much to snap the string. The weight of the plants combined with the force of the wind soon had the string ends flapping aimlessly in the air. Thankfully all was not lost. I had left all of the bottom leaves on and this supported the plants, stopping the stems from being damaged.
The indoor plants were stripped of their lower leaves, partly due to the fact that they were going yellow and brown and it is easier to get the watering can nozzle to the soil, but mainly because we needed to see out of the windows occasionally and let a bit of light in. I didn’t see the point of removing the ones outside and I’m glad I left them on.
Because the plants outside are growing in bags, fixing sticks was a bit awkward, hence the string being used. I think I have solved the issue by simply doubling up the twine and tying it around the drainpipe, I’ll keep you posted.
Here are a few tips for getting the most from your tomato plants:
Location: Give the plants as much light as you can. Ideally no less than 6 hours of sunshine per day, 10 hours if you can. (We can dream).
Soil: Use a rich mixture of high nitrogen compost, this applies to pot grown or ground planted tomatoes.
Variety: There are 2 general groups of tomatoes:
Indeterminate tomatoes: these are upright vine or cordon plants
Determinate tomatoes: These grow bushy and the miniature ones are ideal for baskets and don’t need pruning.
Care: Regular watering keeps the plants healthy and also stops the fruit splitting. Regular watering times reduces this problem significantly. Ideally the water will be slightly tepid. This will prevent any shocking of the plants or cooling of the soil.
Pinch out: As the upright plants grow it is a good idea to pinch out the side shoots that you find growing from the main stem at the base of the leaf. Once the plant has the required number of trusses, (four in my case, but 5 would be ideal too) the main stem can be pinched out to top the plant and prevent further tomato production. That way the energy will be channelled to fruit growth. Keep an eye out for the side shoots though, as the plant will throw more of those out to compensate for loosing the growing tip.
Feeding: Once fruit starts to appear, the plants can be given a bi-weekly supplement of a suitable tomato feed.
Pests and disease: check for pests and disease, removing any dead or discoloured leaves. Removing the old leaves at the base could also prevent soil borne infections getting into the plant. Insects can usually be picked off if you catch them early, if not you could use a natural organic pesticide, washing up liquid usually does the trick. There are a lot of things that could go wrong with the plants, like blight (as in potatoes) mould, fusarium wilt, leaf miners, aphids, whitefly and cutworm attack.
Let’s stay positive though. If the soil is good, the water is regular and there is plenty of fresh air circulating, you probably won’t have to bother looking for ways of coping with pests and diseases. What you will have to look forward too is a healthy crop of delicious tomatoes, ready to compliment the salad bowl