Avoiding Botrytis on the Tomatoes and an up-date on the Cauliflowers
18th May 2000
My tomatoes were planted out into their beds during early May and are now starting to settle in to their growing environment. They were initially given just a pint of water per plant after which they were left for around two weeks with no water at all or to the point where they were nearly wilting. Mine were given a good soaking last weekend and will now be watered on a regular basis as and when required.
In order to try and alleviate the problem of Botrytis I have taken heed of Frank Mercers' advice this year and allowed more space between the plants to make sure that more air gets in and between the tomato foliage. I therefore only have ten plants along one side of my twelve foot long greenhouse, I know this is not a lot, but one good plant producing one decent tomato is better than a greenhouse full of plants producing tomatoes that are unusable for showing.
I have two varieties planted, five Solution and five Goldstar, I also have some newer vine ripe varieties that have been planted in a cold house at Bangor University and these will be closely monitored to see if they make the grade as future exhibition varieties.
Goldstar is well known as being probably the best show tomato ever, sadly it"s no longer available being considered not worth growing by the commercial fraternity. Solution however is a new shelf life variety which stays firm on the plant for days even when bright red, however some growers tell me it's shy of growing to a large size. This year I intend to treat it in a similar way to the commercial growers, in particular their way of getting ripe even sized fruit with vine ripe tomatoes.
When the first truss is setting and the flower nearest to the main stem has a tomato on it the size of a pea, count forward along the truss five flowers and then remove the rest of the truss. Repeat this process with every truss until you get to top of the plant, this way the energies will all be diverted to fruit production at the same stage of growth and will hopefully give a larger and more uniform yield. I must stress that this works with vine ripe tomatoes so it might need some modification. Leaving five fruit on the truss might make them too large whilst leaving seven or eight might be the ideal option. Try it on a few plants and let me know how you get on.
They are grown the same way as last year which worked really well until I had the dreaded Botrytis disease which put paid to my chances of having any reasonable tomatoes for showing. I constructed a box to fit the length of the greenhouse and the width of one side and twelve inches deep. I figured out that twelve inches depth of growing material is adequate when you consider that a flat Gro bag is barely 4 inches deep. The edges were made from some old scaffold boards and are strong enough to prevent too much bowing out at the centre.
The box throughout the Winter months has been raised up from the floor on to some bricks and used as the frame work for supporting my temporary staging which holds all the multitude of plants that I have at that time of year. The mixture that the plants are growing in needs to be the best so the bottom layer had about six inches of well rotted horse manure and then added on top was spare sterilised soil and Gro bag mixture that I had left over after completing my onion beds. The soil was thoroughly mixed in my concrete mixer to a fifty ratio with Levington Gro bags. Drainage will be no problem as the concrete floor was formed with a slight fall towards a drainage hole at the far end. About two weeks prior to planting I shall add 4 ounces of Vitax Q4 to the yard run of bed working it in to the soil and Gro bag mixture only.
Prior to placing any of the growing material in the box it's advisable to cover the concrete floor with some moisture retaining material such as a capillary matting. It will keep the concrete warm whilst at the same time retaining plenty of moisture in the mixture which certainly helps towards alleviating the potential problem of Blossom End Rot. At the end of the season, the whole growing medium can easily be shovelled out onto the garden and the whole area cleaned up with a strong dilution of Armillatox.
I shall be sowing my second batch of Cauliflower's this coming week, five different varieties that should make sure that I have some ready for the Welsh Championships at Pembroke as well as the National Championships at Dundee. The varieties that I shall broadcast sow on some Levington Multi purpose compost will be Lindon, Plana, and Memphis F1. The latter is an August September variety which has been bred in France and should have very high quality curds with strong heavy upright foliage giving excellent curd protection. I shall also sow Mineapolis F1 and liberty F1, an extra white variety that has been bred from a male sterile range of cauliflower"s.