Time to kit out your tomatoes with some cool shades

Ben Waters
Ben Waters
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Now the sun has appeared – I thought it must be up there somewhere – we must consider whether or not to shade the tomato plants in the greenhouse.

Think about temporary shading first because if you spray on shading, the sun will never return and in the autumn you’ll have the job of cleaning it all off.

The easiest form of shading is large sheets of newspaper clipped onto the canes or strings with a pincher peg.

This can be done in the mornings when it’s going to be hot and they can be taken off again when the weather is dull, so, hopefully, the papers will be on more times than not.

If we can manage to keep the temperature moderate all summer the fruits on the tomatoes will set properly.

Shading, particularly when the flowers are appearing, does help prevent the pollen from overheating.

If it becomes too hot, the pollen grains, which are live cells, die and the flowers fall off leaving fruits no larger than a pea.

Perhaps you have noticed this in previous years, so now you know how to prevent it happening again.

Whichever method of planting you have decided to use, try to water the plants during the late evening from now on. Plants absorb water far better during the night.

Once the first truss of fruits are the size of a pea, add a quarter-strength liquid plant food to the water every time the plants are watered.

This ensures even growth and good-quality fruit which will be tastier if you use a food especially formulated for tomatoes.

Regular feeding as suggested will also ensure the fruits aren’t too acid-tasting and they will have more flesh rather than a lot of seeds and hardly any flesh.

Keep the windows and door open when it is going to be hot.

Cats and birds can be kept out by using wire mesh in the doorway and don’t be too worried about a light breeze, it will help pollination.

But at the same time, the plants don’t like a cold draught as rapidly changing temperatures cause poor pollination.

If you get the chance at lunchtimes, give the strings or canes supporting the plants a sharp tap a couple of times and you will see the pollen fall onto the blooms a little lower down the stems.

If the fruits become brown around the scar where the flower was, this is because of poor watering and will be overcome by watering in the evenings rather than when you feel like it!

Add a very small amount of calcium nitrate which you can buy in good garden centres.

TIP OF THE WEEK

For best results with hanging baskets and containers get into the habit of giving them a weak feed of Maxicrop fertiliser for tomatoes every time you water. You’ll be amazed at the difference.