Top tips for grooming your tip top tomatoes

Three stages of growing trusses of perfect tomatoes, inside and out.

Three stages of growing trusses of perfect tomatoes, inside and out.

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Tomatoes are one of the best-selling fruits and gardeners love to grow them, but last year the terrible weather brought disaster because of the dreaded tomato blight.

Tomatoes can be grown in the greenhouse and most people buy growing bags which are placed flat on the greenhouse floor. A frame to hold the canes is placed underneath the bag and each bag supports three plants.

Try this little tip. Cut out the circle on the top of the plastic bag and instead of planting the tomato plant directly into the bag, find an old five or six-inch diameter plastic pot, cut out the bottom, plant the tomato into this pot and fill it with compost.

Water into the top of the pot and the water will go through the pot into the growing bag. This makes watering and feeding so much easier and also supports the canes used to keep the plants upright.

Outdoors, the plants need a sunny place out of the wind. Six feet-high bamboo canes are inserted to a depth of six inches. This ensures the roots are not damaged. Lots of people thrust the cane into the soil once the tomato is planted, but why damage the roots? Late May is the best time to plant outdoors.

Add about half a cup of fish blood and bone for each plant and work this into the soil. Break up the soil to a depth of about six inches and thoroughly work the fertiliser into the ground. Plant the original pot to its full depth alongside the plant so that water and feed can be poured into the pot.

As the plants grow, side shoots will appear. These are removed. Simply nip them off with finger and thumb.

In the greenhouse the plants will grow rapidly and pollination is vital. Make sure you shake the plants every day so the pollen falls from the male parts of the flowers on to the female parts. Outdoors the bees do this job.

So, what could possibly go wrong?

Whitefly in the greenhouse? Put a few mothballs in a net of old tights.

Plants wilt and the soil is not dry? This is a fungal disease. Keep the roots on the dry side, but get a toilet roll holder, cut it lengthways and place this around the base of the stem. Fill the tube with new compost and the main stem will send out roots into the compost in the tube.

Blight can be prevented by spraying the foliage with Bordeaux Mixture or Dithane 945.

Do this when the plants are in the shade and outdoors the spray must be repeated after rain.

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