The most shapely Tomatoes are always to be found after the third truss
2nd Jul 2003
The leading shoots of my tomatoes are now on their way up the second lot of canes that I had secured from the upright ones along to the ridge. This is the first time that I have done this and stems from the fact that your very best trusses, of the most shapely tomatoes, are always to be found after the third truss. My problem was that the greenhouse where I grow my tomatoes is quite low which means that I can only get a maximum of six trusses on the front row and five at the back.
Having extended the length of the plant, I should now be able to get between nine and ten trusses, provided nothing goes alarmingly wrong. In the commercial world of course they are quite capable of getting at least three times that amount from the very same variety that I am growing, Classy.
The plants are looking really well at the moment with no sign at all of any Botrytis which can be so devastating if it's not controlled. I'm sure that adding the Westland's top soil from 25Kg bags mixed with their instant planter tomato growing medium has been the main reason for the lovely deep green colour on the foliage. The addition of the soil is also there to act to act as a buffer should the plant be in need of any particular nutrients that may not become readily available to it. On top of this of course I am also convinced that the soil within the mixture will improve immensely the taste of the fruit.
They are now fed on a regular basis with Phostrogen tomato feed and plenty of air is also allowed to circulate amongst the plants. The roof lights are left permanently open as are the doors and I never seem to be bothered with birds entering inside causing havoc.
Side Shoots and tip of some Trusses
There are still a couple of things to look out for, which seem to be affecting the more modern varieties such as Classy and Cedrico. They are prone to throw out side shoots from the actual leaf itself, generally from the lower ones but it can occur further up the plant as well. These must be rubbed off or removed otherwise they will continue to grow on to produce flowers and use up vital nutrients from the soil.
The same phenomenon can also happen at the tip of some trusses, they seem to continue growing forwards even after the flowers have set, just cut the leading shoot off with a pruner. Whilst on this business of removing side shoots in general, a good tip I was given a few weeks ago by a top commercial tomato grower was, never side shoot after lunch time. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning so that the resulting cut or wound has to time to dry over prior to the condensation in the evening as the temperatures drop. This of course equally applies when we start to remove the foliage from the bottom to expose the trusses as well again allowing more air to circulate around them.
Having now decided to extend the plant growth right up to the ridge I can see one problem looming with the growth that is coming through from the back row. The tomatoes were planted in two rows and in a domino fashion in order to allow more light to get at each plant. Because of this, the leading shoots from the back have to pass between those plants growing on the front. This means that the plant growth on the last third, i.e. the bit from the top of the normal cane to the ridge, is going to get quite dense. This may well mean that I will have to prune out some foliage to allow for the extra growth.
If this works out at all, and I do manage to get more as well as better quality fruit, then next year I will have to revert to a single row along the middle of the bed. This is what Frank Mercer advocated a few years ago in order to diminish the incidence of Botrytis. Charles Maisey also took this on board after he had a bad season a few years ago having been devastated with the same disease. Charlie has now reduced drastically the number of plants that he grows in order to get a single row in place and thereby reduce the risk of Botrytis. The thinking is that you are far better off getting fewer showable fruit to pick from than no fruit at all.
Nettles, Sheep Droppings and Soot Water
Charles is also a keen advocate of not only feeding with a suitable tomato liquid feed, he has also evolved his own concoctions, one of which is to collect some young nettles and place them in a plastic drum full of water. They are given the odd turn with a piece of batten and within a week or two they"ll have broken down and are ready to be used, a mug full to a watering can. This is used alternatively with sheep droppings that he has in another drum which are suspended in a sack and again he uses a mug full of this brown liquid in watering can. Thirdly he also uses soot water which he alternates with the other three feeds. It's no wonder that with such dedication that Charles Maisey is still the master of Tomato growing and always the one to beat at any show that he enters in.