Vine-Toms - Or How To Do Indeterminates On A Budget
0 comment Friday, August 1, 2014 |
Toms are the sort of crop in the UK which is sort of a gardening-pinnacle; they're difficult to grow here as the climate is quite often too cool, and the growing season too short. Many a time I have had some awesome starter tomatoes which started setting fruit and either were hit by blight, or the growing season ended abruptly mid-August, leaving loads of green fruit on the vine. Many a allotmenteer spends a fair portion of funds on setting up tomato growing areas, and I think it separates the "men from the boys" if you're able to grow them, at least as far as the rather hotly contested allotment competition goes.
Me, I just like having proper tomatoes. I don't can much, but what I DO can is tomatoes; salsa, sauce, and eating them like candy with a bit of salt. This year, I opted for Hungarian Heart and Pear tomato variety. Both apparently can handle cooler temperatures, but I did decide to invest in some growhouses.
My garden is in a state of flux at the moment, still being worked on, so I knew I was going to have to plant in pots. And the problem with planting in pots is staking indeterminate vine tomatoes is never very effective; they're always going to get topheavy and tip over, and unless you weight down your pots with rocks, there's no chance you're going to prevent it. So, I opt for a different system.
This is one of my growhouses, in which I've got twine for the plants to grow round. What I've done is tied the three strings around a stick from my garden, and I placed the stick at the bottom of my pot, weighted this down with a few drainage rocks, and then placed my tomato plants on top. I filled in with soil and blood, fish and bone meal - as well as some extra egg shells and will be fertilising with nettle tea - then gently encourage the vines to twine up the string. The string at the top is tied round another stick which spans across the growhouse frame for stability.
The perk to this is a) it's pretty cheap; as nice as those huge vining grow-frames are, they're just too expensive for me, and they aren't easy to move, either. Then there's b) the plants aren't likely to rip themselves out the ground. Their own weight keeps the stick beneath them from coming out and the weight of their vines on the strong above is evenly distributed, which keeps the upper stick (albeit a rather thick one) from snapping. You could certainly use bamboo, but I can't afford the stuff (it's pricey here). Even if it does snap, I've got a lot of sticks outside...they're everywhere, and the greener the better.
I've crammed my plants into these growhouses; I've got more toms in the second growhouse, as well as a fair few peppers. No, there's not a lot of space between these plants, which might be seen as a huge mistake and blight-just-waiting-to-happen. But again, this is the perk of having a growhouse where you don't open the thing unless you have to, and thus cut the chance of getting blight considerably. Right now, I open the growhouses for a few hours during midday as the day's heat gets pretty intense. This cuts the condensation down as well, keeping mildew in check. I water the soil, NOT the plant, which also helps to keep mildew at bay, and the sun-scorch issue is thus kept down as well. Finally, the name of the game is lots of food, and lots of water. The blood, fish and bone meal feed was substantial, worked in at the bottom of the soil and then the plants on top - in addition, these get a weekly feed of nettle tea. When the comfrey is established, they'll get a bit of that mixed in as well. So far, they're shooting up VERY quickly and I'm actually thinking for once I might get something other than green tomato chutney out of my garden.
There is a drawback - the growhouses are about five feet high - vine toms can grow considerably taller than that, so basically I have to cut them, sharp and short, when they reach the top of the growhouse. This is more than enough fruit for me and sprog, so I don't have an issue with it. I know some commercial growers allow their plants to grow up to 20 feet but I have nowhere near that kind of space or those requirements.
However, so far so good, they need a bit of tending this morning so off to do that, then get on with the rest of my day.
Tea ahoy!