- Variety choice
- Greenhouse or outdoors?
- Soil or grow bags?
- To graft or not graft?
- Growing to planting stage
- Soil preparation
- Grow bags and containers
- Spacing and planting
- Watering and feeding
- Supporting and training
- Ventilation and shading
- Pollination and setting
- Pests, diseases and disorders
For cherry varieties (apart from Tumbler and other bush varieties) stop the plants (pinch out the growing points) in the first week of September; for all other types stop them in early August. It may help to ripen the remaining fruit if you remove some of the older leaves which are shading them. Don’t do this in very hot conditions as the excessive heat may make the fruit soft.
With cherry varieties you should pick your first ripe tomatoes when they are flowering on the 6th truss; for larger-fruited types you’ll have to wait until the 9th truss flowers. You might get a new truss approximately every ten days, so if you plant in mid May with the first truss in flower, you might expect your first pick sometime in the first half of July for cherry tomatoes and about a month later for larger varieties. In the meantime, buy British-grown tomatoes for the best flavour.
If you are growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel make sure there is a good air flow to avoid temperatures above 26°C, if possible. You want to avoid condensation forming on the plants as this encourages disease.
Commercial growers support their plants by twisting the stems around very long strings – outdoors it is easier to use canes or poles. Remove the sideshoots whilst they are small -see our video on how to do this – Twisting Tomatoes – (training and side-shooting tomatoes).
Sow about 25% more seeds than you want plants, to allow for some losses and so you can select the strongest seedlings. You will need some clean seed trays. Those with individual cells work well, but you can also use suitable food packaging if you make sure there are holes for drainage. The trays need to be at least 3cm deep. Fill them with good quality seed compost – look out for Gardening Which Best Buys (and Don’t Buys!) Make sure the surface is level and firm. Sow the seeds about 3cm apart and cover with about 4mm of compost. Water them using a watering can with a fine rose. Cover with clear plastic or a sheet of glass. Put them somewhere warm to germinate: 20 – 25°C is ideal. After about 5 – 7 days the seeds will have started to germinate. They must be uncovered immediately and put somewhere with plenty of light, but still ideally 20°C (minimum 16°C). It may be necessary to spray the seedlings with a fine mist to help the emerging seedlings shed their seed coats.
Getting the watering right in a grow bag or pot is always more difficult than if you grow tomatoes in soil. If you have a small greenhouse and always grow your tomatoes in the same place, then there can be a build up of soil-borne diseases such as Fusarium (wilt; crown and root rot), Verticillium wilt and Corky root rot. You can get round this either by not growing in the soil or by using grafted plants: see To graft or not graft for tomato growing?
This was written in response to an email from a new gardener with limited room, but I’ve posted it here as other new gardeners might find it useful.
I’m seeking some advice about what to purchase from your website. I am just beginning to turn my garden into a space where I can grow a few crops. After reading some of the advice from the ‘no dig organic home and garden’ book (which recommends your website) I have decided to source some local cow manure as a mulch, cover it in polythene, cut a few holes and grow some vegetables. Hopefully this will remove most of the weeds that are currently present. At the moment the planting bed will only be a area of approx 4m by 1.5m in a spot that gets plenty of sun. I think I’d like to grow at least two species of plants, that will provide a good yield plus be comparably resistant to slugs (though I will use methods to remove any I see on a daily basis).
I’m also thinking of planting a few woody shrubs that could provide berries (though it’s a mid light level area). And any edible plants that you would recommend that would be able to tolerate an area behind the house that is east facing and can get very wet.
Advice appreciated, thanks,
The first rule of edible gardening is only grow things you really enjoy eating.
Be careful about the cow manure – there are some herbicides which can pass through a cow’s digestive system and still damage plants. If the cows are not organic, I would test the manure by mixing it with some soil or growing media and then growing a few beans or tomato seedlings – more info here.
Here are some suggestions for your three growing areas:
No-dig planting bed area of approx 4m by 1.5m in a spot that gets plenty of sun
If you want to harvest brassicas in Winter/Spring, you need to plant them in July. I would go with ‘cut & come again’ types – either Black Kale or Westland Winter. They need to be planted 60cm X 60cm, so one pack (5 plants) occupies 1.8 m2 out of your total of 6 m2.
If you like salads, I would also plant cut & come again lettuces – a Mini Pack (2 each of 5 different lettuce varieties plus wild rocket) would take up about 2.6 m2.
You also have a room for a row of 20 leeks (0.9 m2).
The lettuce should last for about 3 months if you use the cut & come again method: 2 -4 weeks after planting, start to harvest by removing the lowest leaves, but always leave at least four leaves in the centre.
You can grow quick crops of radish and true spinach from seed in between rows as they can be harvested before the kales and leeks take up too much space.
You could also squeeze in a pack of chard (if you like it).
We only sell strawberry plants – they need full sun. For bush fruits see Welsh Fruit Stocks – ask them if they can recommend anything for partial shade.
East facing and wet
You need to do everything you can do improve the drainage – is it wet because it is receiving run off from roofs or hard landscaping? If so, you might be able to intercept, harvest or divert the rainwater.
If it’s wet because of clay soil and/or poor soil structure then it’s more difficult – maybe try no-dig here too.
Vegetables that will tolerate damp (but not waterlogged) conditions include: celeriac, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, fennel, land cress, leeks and mizuna.
I hope this is helpful – please come back to me with any further questions. You can sign up to my monthly newsletter on the website. I’m also on:
Here at Delfland we have been using biological control for 37 years. We are now offering natural pest control from our own supplier, with new stock being delivered every week. We have products for controlling whitefly, aphids, spider mites, thrips and slugs as well as glue traps for pest monitoring.
We have filmed some videos on how to recognize different kinds of pest damage in greenhouse crops and how to use the products. More are currently being edited and will be posted shortly.
Controlling Whitefly using the parasitic wasp Encarsia
Controlling Aphids and Greenfly using VerdaProtect
I have moved house again and finally gotten my garden back together.
I suppose I should begin this blog with an apology, I have been away a long time and my garden has taken a bit of a back seat with one thing and another.
However, to focus on the positive, I finally have a piece of garden that is only mine. I have a hedge! I was less excited when I had to trim the hedge with the shears I borrowed but it is definitely satisfying to hack at disobedient foliage for a couple of hours.
So the garden definitely isn’t what I would have made it. It was clearly designed for low maintenance and is basically comprised of many different types of mulch (slate, bark and gravel, all of which seems determined to amalgamate into some sort of agricultural Bombay mix). It also has a pit. The pit is so the basement can have a window and therefore conform to fire regulations. It is absolutely not permitted to turn the pit into a water feature/hot tub. Believe me, I asked.
The encouraging thing is, even with all my other commitments, my garden has hung in there. I still have tomatoes (they seem to be what I am best at for some reason) and lots of herbs.
Today I planted my winter salad (purslane, land cress, rocket, corn salad and lettuces) along with some Chard and some extra herbs.
I am hopeful. Since I have much more space now I won’t have to squash my plants in so much and perhaps they will grow better.
Mum and Dad bought me a bucket (not an exaggeration) of plumbs so I am busy destoning, freezing, stewing and giving them away as fast as I can. You’ll hear from me again soon.