Tomatoes for Showing
11th Apr 2003
Now that the days are really lengthening there is more work than ever to be done, both inside the greenhouses and outside on the plot. The first task this coming week will be to prepare my beds for the Tomatoes which were all sown on the 3rd March, the variety this time was Classy. I find it very hard to differentiate between either Classy and Cedrico, they are both from different breeders yet the growing style and ultimate tomato shape is very similar in both.
Whichever tomato variety you go for it's important that it has established a pedigree on the show bench as otherwise you will find it very hard to make a silk purse from a sows ear. Both Cedrico and Classy have won at the National in the last two years as well as winning many other top flight competitions. Solution is also an excellent variety with good taste, sadly however it will no longer be available after this season as they have ceased to continue with that particular breeding line.
An early to mid March sowing, then planting the tomato plants in their beds between now and the end of this month, will ensure that you have fruits available from the middle of August onwards. Having won the National Championships with Cedrico in 2001 (picture attached) the comparison last year with my greenhouse crop was like chalk and cheese. The problem once again was Botrytis which very quickly put paid to any chances that I might have had of a repeat win. The problem really was in June, the weather was cold damp with out much sunshine which was probably different to many other areas of the country.
For a few years now I have created a raised bed from old scaffold planks which take over the space on one side of my 12ft by 8 ft greenhouse. This is effectively a box which is divided in the middle to strengthen it as well as to prevent the wood from bowing out. During the Winter months this box is lifted from the ground and supported on short brick work pillars and becomes a full size bench on that side of the greenhouse. (picture attached) The bottom of the box, i.e., on the concrete floor will be covered with a piece of thick capillary matting which will help to maintain moisture right through the compost.
As the tomato growing box is in my heated greenhouse the plants will not require any hardening off but the compost bags and the soil bags will have already brought inside to makes sure that they warm up to the greenhouse temperatures. If you have no heat in at all in your greenhouse then you must make sure that the plants are well and truly hardened off first. Make sure that before actually planting them that they are first acclimatised to the cooler environment, don"t forget that tomatoes are tender plants and, if not killed by any frost, they will certainly be given a severe check.
Tomato plants react badly to being given a check, they will generally take on a bluey hue on the foliage which means that they can take anything up to a month to get themselves growing away once more.
Purchasing from a Nursery
If you are going to a nursery to purchase your plants from their stock, then the probability is that you won't find Cedrico or Classy amongst any on sale. However the variety Shirley may well be on offer and this is certainly a variety that is more than capable of holding it"s own at the highest level.
When purchasing plants do make sure that they are a lovely deep green, short and sturdy and not showing any signs of pest or disease damage. After bringing them home, leave them for a few days to acclimatise in your own greenhouse prior to planting them. Don't try to pack too many plants in each growing area, they love having plenty of air movement around them as well as preventing the onset of the disease Botrytis which seems to be worse when plants are growing in more confined area.
Plant them about 15 inches apart and as deep as possible, I like to plant them so that the first proper leaf is nearly sitting at soil level. Planting this way makes the stem of the plant throw out adventitious roots which further nourish and sustains the plant through to maturity. Don't worry at this stage about removing side shoots, they are beneficial initially in getting the plants established and really growing away. After planting give each plant a pint of water each and then refrain from further watering until they are seen to be visibly growing away, then water normally.