Tomato (bush and trailing) Patio Planters

  • Grow at Home: Tomatoes

    Beef_Tomato_on_plantTomatoes are an easy and rewarding crop to grow.  Quite often they are the first plant a child will toddle home from school with and are a perfect introduction to growing your own food.
    The main reason to grow them though, is flavour.  Supermarket tomatoes are grown to travel well and stay looking good for as long as possible on the shelves. They are often picked before they are ripe too which is not ideal.  Flavour is on the list of criteria but much lower down than it should be.

    Technical Tomato Terms

    First let's start with some technical tomato terms that you may come across.  These will help you choose the right variety for the space you plan to grow them in.

    Indeterminate or Cordon varieties

    This is your typical, tall tomato plant.  They have a single long stem and usually grow up canes or twine up to 6' (1.8m) in height.  Cordon varieties produce side shoots which need to be removed, as they appear, or they will grow into large lateral branches leaving a tangled plant with a lower yield of ripe fruit.

    Determinate or bush varieties

    These are smaller tomato plants that are great for growing in containers, hanging baskets or anywhere where space is limited.  Bush varieties are sprawling rather than having a single central stem.  Because they are low and sprawling they are suitable for growing under cloches or mini polytunnels.  They spread about 2 or 3 foot and removing side shoots is not necessary as the bush is ‘self stopping’.

    Dwarf varieties

    These are very small and compact plants growing no more than 8 inches high. Ideal for container growing.

    Truss

    A truss is a group or cluster of smaller stems where flowers and the subsequent tiny green tomatoes develop.  Much of the support and pruning of the plant is done in relation to where the bunches of tomatoes, or 'trusses', are growing so it is useful to know this term.

    Where to Grow

    Tomatoes require full sun. This is especially important in most areas of the UK where summers are unpredictable and sunlight can be scarce.  Position them against a wall or fence if possible to get the best results.  Tomatoes need good fertile soil. Prepare your beds by adding plenty of well rotted manure at planting time, as much as a full wheelbarrow every 3 square meters.

    Container Growing3_cane_tomato_planter

    If you don't have a large garden or allotment and want to grow in a container or planter then Haxnicks have a big variety to choose from.  Which container you choose depends on the variety you have selected above.

    There is a useful table at the bottom of this blog which shows the whole range of planters with a  short description and link to find out more.

     

    When & How to Grow

    Sow seed indoors in late February to June.  If sowing early then use a heated propagator or a warm, south facing windowsill.

    Tomatoes can be sown 3/4" (2cm) deep in compost filled seed trays.  Try and keep your seedlings warm and give them as much light as you can.  Too little light will result in tall and weak seedlings.  The best tomato seedlings are short and stubby rather than tall and thin. Compost should also be kept moist and should never be allowed to dry out.

    When your seedlings have 5 or 6 leaves you will need to prick them out and pot them on into 10" (22cm) pots filled with a rich potting compost.  When they are 12" (30cm) tall move them to their final position in your plot or container. To grow really strong plants you can transfer the seedlings from the seed tray into Rootrainers and plant them out after around 6 weeks when they should have developed a super-strong root system.

     

    Support

    Supported_red_tomatoes

    Depending on the variety they will need support as they grow.  Canes have long been the traditional way to do this.  If using canes then ensure that the plants are tied gently to allow the stem to grow in both width and height.  Tying too tightly will restrict growth and damage the plant.  A frame such as the new Haxnicks Tomato Crop Booster is an ideal way to gently support the plants without damaging them.  A properly supported plant can put all of its energy into producing fruit leading to higher yields.  So if you want to triumph at the village show or simply want to be self sufficient in tomatoes then this could be your secret weapon.

    Pinching Out

    If you have chosen a cordon variety you will need to pinch out side shoots as the plants grow.  You will find these shoots between the main stem and the branches.  To the novice gardener it seems like this will mean you get less tomatoes but the opposite is actually true.  Pinch them out when they are 1" (2.5cm) long and this will add light and air to your plant, keeping it healthy and allowing it to concentrate its energy on fruit production.

    Pruning

    When the plants reach the top of the greenhouse or have set seven trusses indoors or four trusses outdoors, remove the growing point of the main stem at two leaves above the top truss.

    Watering and Feeding

    Tomatoes love a regular, consistent water supply so water regularly to keep the soil/compost evenly moist.  Fluctuating moisture levels can cause the fruit to split.
    Feed every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash one once the first fruits start to set.

    If you are growing in containers or growbags there will be restricted root space so you will need to feed them more.  You will also need to pay close attention to watering.  Some self watering planters such as Vigoroot Easy Table Garden and Vigoroot Self Watering Tower Garden will make this easier but containers generally do require frequent watering.

    Pests & Diseases

    Blossom End Rot: the bottom of the fruit turns black and becomes sunken.
    It is caused by irregular watering, together with a lack of calcium in the soil.  Consistent regular watering and feeding will help avoid this disease.

    Tomato blight: this causes the fruit and foliage rot and is most common in wet weather.  Avoid planting in areas that have had plants with the disease in.  Instead grow your tomatoes elsewhere in containers and leave these areas to rest for a year or two.  Choosing a blight resistant variety of tomato in the first place is also a good way to avoid blight.

    Tomato leaf mould: mainly a problem for greenhouse grown tomatoes and rarely seen in outdoor grown ones.  Yellow blotches develop on the upper leaf surface and a pale, greyish-brown mould growth is found under the leaf. It causes significant yield loss.  To avoid this, keep the greenhouse well ventilated or choose a resistant variety of plant.

    Tomato splitting and cracking: This is to be avoided as it leaves the plant vulnerable to being infected by a fungus, such as grey mould.  To avoid splitting keep the plants comfortable by controlling temperature and sunlight levels carefully. Feed and water regularly to maintain a constant soil moisture level.

    Companion planting Growing garlic and nasturtiums near your plants will help deter bugs.

    Harvesting

    Pick the fruit when it is ripe.  At the end of season you may have green tomatoes and not enough sunlight to ripen them.  If this happens then you can either make delicious Apple & Green Tomato Chutney or you can try and ripen them.  There are several ways to do this:

    • lift the plants with unripe fruit and lay them on straw under cloches
    • place fruits in a warm, dark place and wait
    • put the green fruit in a drawer next to a banana, which will release a gas that aids ripening.
    Try something new? Mycorrhizal Fungi

    If you have grown tomatoes before and want to try something extra to boost your crop then tomatoes respond well to inoculation by mycorrhizal fungi.  The fungi and the tomato plants have a symbiotic relationship. The fungi form a network of hyphae which transport water and minerals to the plant and in return the roots produce sugars to nourish the fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi are available as a powder to coat seedlings when planting out.

    Which Haxnicks Container is right for me?

    Planter
    (click on title to see details)
    Suitable for Indeterminate or Cordon varieties Determinate or bush varieties Dwarf About this product
    Tomato Crop Booster X A frame that properly supports tomato plants giving a higher yield.  Poly cover sold separately to turn it into a mini greenhouse.
    Tomato (climbing) Patio Planter X Planter with 3 sided plant support included.
    Tomato Patio Planter (2 pack) X X X 2 pack of large planters with pockets for holding canes to support the plants. For growing all varieties of tomatoes.
    Vigoroot Tomato/ Potato Planter X X X Large planter for growing all varieties of tomato.  Vigoroot fabric gives stronger root systems for healthier plants
    Grower System X X A steel-tube growing frame with poly or Micromesh cover. Ideal for your smaller tomatoes and other veg.
    Vigoroot Self Watering tower garden X X A compact circular plant tower perfect for balconies and patios with Vigoroot for strong roots.
    Vigoroot Easy Table Garden X X Vigoroot fabric planter with integral self-watering system & poly protection cover - a raised bed, greenhouse and irrigation system all rolled into one!
    Other Tomato Accessories
    Tomato Tubes X X X Crop protection for those without a greenhouse.
    Twist Up tomato Cloche X
  • More Tips on Tomato - growing in Patio Planters.

    Haxnicks' Tomato Patio PlanterTomatoes are one of the most rewarding things to grow, because they taste SO delicious when freshly picked - Some say you'll never eat a supermarket tomato again.

    Using patio planters makes growing your own tomatoes easier than ever - You can choose between the Climbing Tomato Patio Planter, which has a three sided metal climbing frame, or the Bush and Trailing Tomato Patio Planter, designed for tomatoes that are happy growing without a climbing frame.

    Also, you can use one of the three general use Vegetable Patio Planters (we recommend the deepest one for climbers, or the medium one for bush tomatoes.)

    If you're using a planter without a frame to grow climbing tomatoes, you'll need to provide some kind of support - 2 or three ordinary garden canes should be adequate, then use some of our Soft-tie to gently tie the plants to the canes as they grow (it's a good idea to leave space for the stems to grow when you tie around them).

    If you plan to grow from seed we recommend rootrainers for the best start, or you can buy some small plants from your local garden centre who will be able to help you choose the right sort of tomato.

    Haxnicks Patio PlantersTwo tomato plants should be enough to fill a Tomato Planter. The planters have drainage holes in the bottom, but for tomatoes we recommend adding a thin layer of gravel/stones at the bottom of the planter to assist with drainage. Then fill with a good-quality multi-purpose compost to about 4cm from the top of the planter.  Water the plants and allow to drain before planting them - also water after planting, but be careful not to soak the compost.

    Do not place tomatoes outside until after the last frosts - Keep them in a light sunny position. As the plant grows, side-shoots must be removed (just pinch them off with your fingers) - Otherwise you'll end up with lots of foliage, and not much fruit - side-shoots grow from the joint between the main stem and the leaf branches.
    Lower leaves should be removed if they start yellowing, to reduce the chance of infection. Frequent watering is vital but we have to add dry periods lead to splitting tomatoes.  You can also just rub off Aphids with your fingers, or spray them off with water. Finally you will have a better crop if you feed your planter regularly from mid-summer onwards, with a good liquid feed (many are available in your garden centre).As soon as the fruit is ripe, pick and eat! - This is a) delicious, and b) encourages more fruit to grow. Best of luck with it.
  • Growing Tomatoes - Make it a New Year Resolution

    Growing Tomatoes with Haxnicks Tomato Patio PlanterThe snow is fresh and the climate unseasonally cold. We should be promoting Frost protection and ideas to keep your plants and seedlings warm... But let's look at a more cheery topic.

    The tomato is a delicate or tender perennial which is grown as an annual and when raised in your greenhouse is very successful.

    One of the best reasons for growing your own tomatoes is that you can be sure that they are chemical spray free as well as the fact that a greenhouse tomato tastes far better than any supermarket product, firstly because it is picked and eaten immediately while it is warm (refrigerated tomatoes become bland in taste and secondly the flavour is better because it does not have to travel – something a tomato does not like.

    There are over 3 000 tomato varieties to choose from and you should ensure that you grow several different varieties which will not only add interest but also ensure against an inferior crop from one variety. I have listed a few that you might like to try - “Gardener’s Delight” is probably the best variety for flavour, yield, early results and easy growing. One of the best cherry varieties is “Sweet 100” and if you want a small yellow tomato then go for “Sunbelle”. “Shirley” is a good red normal size tomato variety which is disease resistant and “Big Boy” is a large red, beefsteak tomato with very few seeds which is ideal for cooking. “Brandy Wine”, another beefsteak variety has an amazing flavour.

    Tomato plants can be bought at garden centres but many people prefer the satisfaction and taste that you get with growing your own. Plants that have been on display for any length of time become affected by too much heat and little or no light. It is much more rewarding to raise your own from seed. Remember that if you are going to raise 3 or 4 different varieties deep modular, hinged opening cell trays like Rootrainers are extremely useful as they are both space and time saving.

    Tomato seed is sown in a propagator and a temperature of 60°- 65°F is needed for successful germination. If you have a heated greenhouse seed can be sown in late December for planting out in late February or early March for a May/June crop. Most gardeners only have cold houses and then seed should be sown in a propagator in early March and planted out late April for a July crop.

    1. Fill the Rootrainers with the peat free compost
    2. Sow the seeds in late February for an early crop and 4 weeks later for the main crop
    3. Cover the Rootrainer tray with the clear propagating lid and leave in a warm area till seeds have germinated
    4. Remove lid and use under tray as water catcher once plants get tall

    There is no need to prick out plants until you are ready to plant them in their fruiting positions. We offer two types of Patio Planters especially designed for Tomatoes and also offer a Cane Support Planter - New in 2010.

    Soft-tie is the ultimate garden tie for delicate plants like Tomatoes and can be reused again and again.

    Feed once a week with a weak solution of liquid feed. You stand a better chance keeping Tomatoes in a Greenhouse or why not make use of the New Haxnicks Grower System a Garden Tunnel designed for taller plants.

    Pick your Tomatoes when they are just turning red and as a tip if it appears that your tomatoes are never going to ripen, pick them and place them in a dark place with a single red tomato. The other will soon get the message.

  • Patio Planters for Britain's Favourite Home Grown Veg

    Some of Britain’s most popular home-grown vegetables – peas, beans, tomatoes – need more upward growing space, which is not always easy to accommodate on patios and balconies.

    Patio Planters from HaxnicksHelp is at hand, Haxnicks is extending its best-selling Patio Planter™ range with the addition of a green Pea & Bean Patio Planter (RRP £19.99) that comes with a six- foot tall adjustable tubular-steel growing frame; and a red Climbing Tomato Patio Planter (RRP £19.99) complete with a three-sided, metal climbing support frame.

    Haxnicks have also launched an alternative tomato planter, the Tomato (Bush & Trailing) Patio Planters (RRP £14.99). A pack of three 45cm-high red planters which provide the extra height needed to accommodate bush and trailing varieties.

    The robust planters are made from woven polyethylene and come with sturdy handles on each side. To ensure the best possible drainage, they have reinforced drainage holes in and around the sides of the base. They are ideal for small gardens, patios and balconies and, unlike most large planters, fold away flat for easy storage.

    Haxnicks' Vegetable Patio Planters on SaleThe reusable planters make a great value alternative to regular containers and provide the space-efficient option when space is at a premium. New Haxnicks Patio Planters™ are available now from all good garden centres. For more information, call Haxnicks on 0845 241 1555.

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