How to care for your tomatoes

When it comes to proof positive that home grown produce is so much more tasty than store bought, you only have to look at the ever popular tomato.

Cool pickings: Although last year's crop was very late, the results were fantastic. Here is just a small part of last year's crop.

Cool pickings: Although last year's crop was very late, the results were fantastic. Here is just a small part of last year's crop.

From pots on balconies through to unencumbered vines running out of control along the back corner of the yard, the tomato is ever-present.

Just a pinch: To keep your tomatoes under control, pinch out the leaders that form at the node.

Just a pinch: To keep your tomatoes under control, pinch out the leaders that form at the node.

Popular they are, but they also come with a few problems for the novice gardener that may be faced with a plant that is running totally out of control, threatening to smother every other plant that they are trying to grow.

Tomatoes are incredibly resilient plants and once established can cope with all sorts of hardships, one of which is pruning.

Spread it out: Rather than gathering the vines into a clump, spread them out on a trellis.

Spread it out: Rather than gathering the vines into a clump, spread them out on a trellis.

Although there are hundreds of varieties of plants out there, there are really only two types, determinant and indeterminate.

The determinant types are the ones like Roma’s and all the other ones that are describes as bush or non-staking types. These ones don’t send out vines and will simply grow to a certain size, produce fruit and then collapse in exhaustion. 

They’re used in canning and sauces because of their bush shape and that the fruit all ripens at pretty much the same time, making the industrial process all that much easier. The huge majority though are indeterminate, meaning that the size of the vine knows no end, and the fruit will continue for as long as the conditions allow it.

The temptation when you plant tomatoes is to let them roam free, expanding and invading across the patch in the hope that you’ll get even more of the delicious fruit on offer.

By pruning out the leaders and trellising the vines to wire, you open the plant right up to the drying and ripening effects of the sun, gives you a better view of any pest problems, whilst also helping control the moisture that causes fungal diseases on leaves and fruit.

By pruning out the leaders I mean pinching or cutting off, with clean secateurs, what are effectively whole new plants that grow from the nodes just below the fruiting spurs. The image shows which one I mean. Left alone, this leader will suck all the energy out of your fruit, and it’s the fruit you want.

Regardless of where you live, the best thing to do with your tomatoes is trellis them out along some wire support rather than gathering them up and tying them to a stake. The traditional method was that you bung in a stake and then continuously tie all the vines to the stake so that they don’t gather on the ground. Once you’ve done that though, you’re creating, in that mass of leaves and stems, the perfect micro-climate for pests and diseases to take hold.

So open up those vines and get ready for a foliar feed.

Summer Foods: Give a splash of colour to your dishes and try out some different tomatoes in your garden.

Summer Foods: Give a splash of colour to your dishes and try out some different tomatoes in your garden.

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