Newest Review: ... a strong flavour. **In conclusion** I love my tomatoes, I find them pretty easy to grow and they bring me pleasure as well as a healthy ... more
My love affair with the Tomato plant
Member Name: Dragonfairy
Advantages: Good for you, easy to grow, pleasure
Disadvantages: None for me
The Tomato small, round and red, a fruit most people take for granted, and yet it's one of my favourite plants to grow.
Part of me doesn't really know why as they are cheap enough to buy in the shops, and yet they are something I never really do buy, but every year for about the last 3 I've spent some of my hard earned pennies on tomato seeds. Why? Because I love nothing more than watching them grow from small seedlings into big plants which produce delicious fruit, and knowing I've helped produce them from seed with my own hard work. While I try to treat all my plants the same, my tomatoes are my babies :)
**The Humble Tomato**
First grown in Britain in the 16th century Tomatoes were originally considered poisonous and grown only for ornamental use, and it wasn't until the nineteenth century that commercial growth for edible tomatoes started, they are now the most widely grown "vegetable" in the world.*
Today there are many varieties that the gardener can grow and they come in all different shapes, sizes and even colours. Part of the tomatoes popularity is due to how good they are for you they contain vitamins A, C and E and they have antioxidant properties. They really are a super fruit :)
To get tomatoes as I have had to explain to several people at work, after your plant grows it will flower and the tomato will then grow from this flower. I was surprised as I thought everyone knew they flowered first, but then that's people's connection with food for you.
**My love affair with the tomato plant**
I first got back into gardening about 3 years ago, I had been keen in the past but had mostly planted flowers. Thinking back now I think it was seeing one of those window sill starter kits whilst browsing in Wilkinsons that first started my love for growing tomatoes. I think my original plan was to grow them in pots on the kitchen windowsill, but when all 10 seeds grew I decided to invest in one of those blow away green houses (something I'll not be reviewing as it's long since blown away) you can get. Tomatoes can be grown inside or outside, but the further north you get if you want success you really need to grow them inside. My first year wasn't entirely a success, while I did get some red tomatoes most of them were harvested green, a situation that wasn't helped by my greenhouse constantly blowing over, at one stage it was that windy I couldn't put it back up for a week and my poor plants were exposed to the elements all that time. However the good thing about tomatoes is that even when you reach October and realise you are never going to get a glut of red tomatoes all is not lost as you can make green tomato chutney :)
The next year I had a wooden framed greenhouse using the plastic cover from the blow away one. This I think would have been slightly more successful if it hadn't been for the awful cold weather, so once again last October I found myself making green tomato chutney :)
This year I was determined to have more red tomatoes, so when the weather was cold at the start of the year I invested in some seeds for an early variety of tomatoes called Tamina, I also sowed some seeds in a cardboard tomato trough that I bought reduced last year and some minibell cherry tomatoes. With the cold weather these were all sown later then I have in previous years in March and April. My tomato seeds typically take about 2 weeks to start showing as seedlings, although my minibell actually took nearly a month! With the slow start to the year the Tamina and trough tomato** seedlings went quite leggy so when I repotted these into bigger pots I planted them up to the leaves so that they would grow stronger roots, this largely worked and I was left with 3 Tamina plants and 7 of the trough plants, I did lose some plants but I like to think the ones that survived were the strongest. In the first year I planted them in growbags, but this year and last year I have used 10 litre ice cream tubs (see your friendly scoop ice cream man), with holes cut in the bottom for drainage. Tomato plants will grow in small tubs but you will get bigger plants and a better yield the more space they have to grow roots. I used ordinary compost, and fed them with tomato food from the first flowers.
This year I have two small glass greenhouse made for me by my husband, the larger one is rectangular with a plastic sheet roof, the smaller is glass on all sides but only holds 3 plants. I now have 21 plants; 3 tamina, 7 from the trough, 5 mini bell and 6 unknown which were given to me by a friend who sowed too many seeds.
**Looking after my plants**
This year I will admit to being helped by the lovely summer we have had, nothing seems to make the tomato happy like the sun :) Adding to this I water them most days, I would say every day but there are days I've come in from work after 10 and really can't be bothered to trail into my pitch black garden to water them. Tomato plants are thankfully quite forgiven of not being watered every day, but like all fruit and vegetables if you want them juicy they need water :) As well as watering them, even when it rains as they are inside, I feed them with tomato feed every 2 weeks, at first this was a little bit more frequent maybe every 10 days. I also followed some advice from Dooyoo and sprayed them with aspirin, I don't know if this has helped but they all look happy :) When the plants became too tall I staked them up, and tied them to the stake :), so that they would be supported. I also occasionally talk to them, but don't worry they don't talk back :) I'm not sure this last helps but it doesn't hurt, I also talk to my chilli plants, and sometimes my husband, he mostly does talk back :)
**Pests and diseases; the stuff of nightmares**
Touch wood I have been lucky and the most I have suffered with is the odd slug or snail eating my leaves, but there are diseases that growers should be aware of. These include blight, this is largely spread by wet weather and is black or grey spots on leaves followed by the loss of your beloved fruit, if you have late blight. There is also grey leaf spot, which is caused by warm moist conditions. You also need to watch out for mites and small flies.
**To pluck or not to pluck**
Many people seem to advocate that you should cut off the leaves, and side stems of your plants once they have began to fruit. My research into this seems to show that some people do, and some don't. The idea is that the plant with less leaves will put more energy into the fruit. I'm more of a half plucker, I cut anything that is yellow and dying, anything in my way, and anything that is coming between my tomatoes and the sun. I'm not really a fan of bald plants though, so mine are still quite bushy. If you are planning to pluck or half pluck you should use secautaurs, I mostly use my nails as they are long, and did I say I love the smell of tomato plants?
**So do I have red tomatoes?**
I'm pleased to say yes, I got my first green tomato from the early variety back at the begining of July and then spent a long 6 weeks watching it grow bigger, in the mean time the other plants were all happily flowering and also getting small green tomatoes. I had my first red tomato on the 15 August and I'm now getting about 4 to 5 a day, not a lot but enough for a salad for 2. If I do get that glut of red tomatoes this year I plan to make tomato and chilli chutney. My favourite tomato this year naturally comes from the unknown trough, they are small but have a strong flavour.
I love my tomatoes, I find them pretty easy to grow and they bring me pleasure as well as a healthy cheap food. Tomatoes can be used for so many different things, like pasta sauce, pesto, pizzas, sauce basis, as well as fresh in salad, the list of their uses is endless. I can't recommend growing them enough, for me all that time spent sowing, potting and watering really pays of in pleasure and delicious fruit, and to the idiot neighbour*** who keeps telling me mine are small all I can say is good things come in small packages and mine are the best :)
** unfortunately I binned the box without making a note of the variety.
***He lost any credibility he had when he said I should weed around my pumpkins as the leaves were blocking the fruit, and I looked and realised he was talking about the pumpkin leaves.
Summary: A great fruit, but not in a fruit salad :)