tomato

  • Grow at Home: Companion Planting

    Companion_planting_marigold_red

    Companion Planting

    Companion planting is where two or more crops are grown together for the benefit of one, or all. The most successful combinations mirror nature.  They can be an important part of planning a successful and productive garden.

     

    Deterrent Smell

    Plants have natural affinities with others of their kind.  The smell of volatile oils from many plants can above all discourage pests, making them excellent companion plants. Perhaps the most well known is the relationship between the tomato plant and the strong smelling French Marigold.  This is said to deter whitefly, for instance.

    While there is little scientific proof of these associations working, if you talk to any experienced gardener they will certainly provide plenty of anecdotal evidence.  Tomatoes like to be grown with Basil and Parsley.  Useful for cooks as well as gardeners.  And separating rows of brassicas with onions has always been popular.  This is possibly due to the strong scent of onions confusing the cabbage pests.

    Companion_planting_marigold_carrotsAttracting Pollinators

    English Marigold (Calendula) can provide welcome splashes of colour in the kitchen garden.  The added benefit is that they attract pollinators.  Along with Yarrow (Achillea) and Hyssop they also attract hover flies.  The hover flies will lay their eggs around these plants and when they hatch the larvae feast on aphids.

    Lavender_in_pot_in_flowerEnhancing fragrance

    Some gardeners know Chamomile as the 'plant doctor'.  This is because of its alleged ability to encourage the production of essential oils making their scent and taste stronger. It is attractive and easy to grow so a worthwhile addition to any planting scheme.

    Another garden 'must have' is the super fragrant Lavender. This acts as a general insect repellent whilst still attracting bees to your plot.

    Crops and their Companions

    Different combinations work in different conditions, so experimentation and experience is the best guide. Below are some combinations of crops and their companions that work well in most situations:

    • Asparagus: Tomatoes, Parsley, Basil
    • Beans: Carrots, lettuce,parsley, spinach
    • Beetroot: Onions, cabbages
    • Cabbages: Celery, mint, thyme, onions, nasturtiums
    • Carrots: Peas, radish, chives, onion, leek
    • Courgette: Nasturtiums
    • Lettuce: Strawberry, beetroot, radish
    • Onions: Carrots, beetroot, chamomile, courgette
    • Parship: Garlic
    • Peas: Potatoes, radish, carrot
    • Spinach: Strawberry
    • Tomato: Celery, basil, marigolds, foxglove
  • 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
  • Salad anyone?

    We have returned back to a very grey and rainy England with not much hope for our little shoots after slight neglect for a week. However, we were greeted with huge shoots bursting to get out of their Rootrainers!  Seems like time to get the husband out building the Haxnicks Raised Bed with it’s very handy Raised Bed Polythene Cover to keep those courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes growing upwards and outwards into something edible for my plate.

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover on and plants inside I have plants now in my Raised Bed

    Most of all, the joy of this Raised Bed is that you construct and locate it wherever you wish, so for convenience it is sitting right outside our kitchen garden door.  As much as I love my garden who wants to traipse to the end of it to pick their veggies!  We have added a variety of herbs too - why not!

     Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and salad plants showing  

    Pull back the polythene cover for easiy watering and as you can see we have a little bed of very healthy young plants which we hope to harvest sometime in July.  We will be back in July with an update!

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and slightly larger salad plants inside Really growing now - here comes summer!
  • Self Watering Tower garden

    The Self Watering Tower Garden is self watering. That's right!  Self watering!

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden water reservoir

    It does what it says on the tin, or would do if it came in a tin.  But why is this important when actually, plants love water and I quite like watering them too?  Don’t know about you, but for me it’s a calming activity during which I contemplate life, the universe and beyond.   This watering zen is the ‘ideal’ though and some weeks the ‘ideal’ is as rare as a blue rose.  The plants will survive my inattention.  The rub is that not only do plants love water but more than this they like regular water.  Otherwise it can have a drastic effect on their output.  Who hasn’t taken their eye off the ball and ended up with split tomatoes?

    Cue the Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden . So on those weeks when the cat needs the vet, the kids need new shoes and the fridge definitely needs a clean out the ingenious wick is doing what you can’t and keeping your plants happy and healthy.  No more coming back to dejected looking plants and a guilty conscience. Problem solved.

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots

    My Tower Garden is in its second year and the Vigoroot pots can be washed at the end of the season and stored flat by the organised gardener.  I am not an organised gardener though (must have been one of those weeks) so I had just emptied them and stored in the shed.  A quick brush off left them looking as good as new though and I was able to start planting.

    Not only does it solve your watering issues but it also allows you to grow a staggering amount of plants in a very small area.  My garden is large but with building work about to start most of it is off limits for this season.  The 3 layers allow me to have 12 x 5L pots  in a tiny space.  Each layer has 4 Vigoroot pots which air-prune the roots to give healthier plants with better roots that lead to higher yields.

     

     

    Three Layers:

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with strawberries, herbs and tomatoes Fully planted!

    I won't even have to worry about watering when I go away for a week's holiday in summer which is a bonus. All that is left to do now  is to make sure that the water reservoirs are full once a week and then and wait to pick my very first crop.   Might just have to plan a nice bruschetta recipe for all those glorious tomatoes...

  • Grandpa Haxnicks’ Brexit Busting Striped Tomato

    Striped tomatoes??

    If you have the time, energy and the space, breeding your own tomato variety - with the traits and taste that appeal most to you - can be quite easy and fulfilling.  Striped tomatoes are  certainly no exception.  It takes little equipment and is immensely satisfying.  

    The difficulty in slicing a tomato evenly to make the perfect cheese and tomato sandwich is clear. Its something that I have been pondering in my greenhouse for quite a while.  A problem indeed. The tricky hybrid has finally come to fruition with the perfection of my Brexit Busting Haxnicks’ Striped Tomato which is set to revolutionise sandwich production from this day forward.    

    “Brexit and American trade tariffs are looming.  People will be ditching the fancy brie and cranberry in favour of the traditional British cheese and tomato sandwich. And I am pleased to say they will no longer have to struggle”

    Haxnicks Garden Products can be brought online

    Locally sourced

    In line with their belief in working with local suppliers the new tomatoes launched in the Co-op Store in  Mere, Wiltshire today.  April 1st. Andrew Tuck, Store Manager said “customers absolutely love them, its solved a problem they never really knew they had and we sold out within hours of them arriving in store”

    4 striped tomatos on a plate

    There are three common ways to There are three common ways to create your own tomato variety,, and each can be done by the home gardener with time and patience.  The one I chose was cross-pollination to create Grandpa Haxnicks’ Brexit Busting Striped tomato. Normally I would select my tomatoes grown from F2 seed in terms of attributes such as taste and colour.  But this time it was all about the stripes for me and solving the major problem facing the British public.

    I am currently working on a chequered tomato for easy Bruschetta production.  This will hopefully be ready by 1st April 2020.

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