Saturday 16 May 2015

Planting tomatoes

Last weekend I planted-up six of my tomatoes into their final homes, big 40cm self-watering containers:

I was a bit dubious about the weather, which is why I only planted six, even though I plan to have at least sixteen. By the middle of May the chances of getting frost in my part of the world should be very small, but you never know. As it happens, I'm glad I only did six, because on Tuesday night the temperature fell to only just above freezing (1.3C to be precise). Fortunately I had taken heed of the weather forecast and carried the tomato-containers into the garage - which was not easy, since they are quite heavy and have a 5-foot cane sticking up!

Since I had to go out to work early as usual, the tomatoes remained in the garage until Wednesday evening when I dutifully took them back outside. Actually, I bet they wished I hadn't because Thursday was a rotten day - wet and windy, with the maximum daytime temperature reaching only 9C.

It wasn't practical to move 26 containers of potatoes into the garage, so I covered them with a length of fleece - that 10-metre piece that I had bought as my "insurance policy". This was exactly the occasion for which I had bought it, and it served the purpose nicely.

This year I am trying to be disciplined with the tomatoes - by which I mean not attempting to grow too many. This is hard for me, since there are so many varieties that I really do want to grow. As I mentioned, the plan is to have 16 tomato plants (well, maybe 20 at a push...). If the Summer is anything like decent, watering loads of tomato-containers could be a chore. This is why my preference is for the so-called "self-watering" type of pot.

This is my preferred set-up for growing tomatoes

It has a reservoir in the base, which you can top-up via a vertical plastic tube. This will keep a tomato plant supplied with moisture for 2 or 3 days, but not much more if the weather is hot and sunny. I usually water them every day, aiming to keep them evenly hydrated in order to reduce the chances of them getting Blossom End Rot.

Blossom End Rot

Yesterday I planted another six tomatoes:

This is not the final configuration of the pots. When the tomato plants get a bit bigger, the pots will need to be spread further apart, in a single row, otherwise they will not get enough light or air.

This weekend I will be trying to get all the other tomatoes planted, because they are getting too big for the 5" pots in which they are currently living. I say "all the others", but inevitably there will be a few that I don't have room for, which will be given away to friends. This is always a sad moment, because I hate disposing of perfectly good plants, but at least it is better than just sticking them in the compost bin.


  1. I wonder which of our greenhouses will produce the best tomatoes this year. Last year it was the garden greenhouse that came through but the year before the garden greenhouse was a total failure and all our good tomatoes came from the plot. I wonder which greenhouse will produce our best tomatoes this year and will we get blossom and dropped again. Who knows?

  2. I hate having to toss plants too. I usually do it when they start getting too ratty as I keep the extras too long as replacement plants.

  3. Your plants look nice and healthy, I hope they stay that way. I'm like you, I've got far more tomato plants than there is room for in the garden, some will probably end up in the compost...

  4. I planted mine among my asparagus last year, Mark - having read in Bob Flowerdew's book that they make good companion plants. The tomatoes did well (although could have done with a bit more airflow) but I'm still waiting to see the effect on my asparagus! Only 7 stems so far!

  5. It's hard to maintain discipline when it comes to growing certain veg, with tomatoes & peppers being at the top of that list. My tomatoes are 2 weeks behind this year, but I could swear they are much further behind than that - or maybe it's just that they are naturally slow in the first few weeks before they have a growth spurt.

  6. I love that your idea of being disciplined with tomatoes is 16 plants! Haha! That's a ton of tomatoes! I love it! I planned on only having 4 big varieties but somehow ended up with 6 this year. They really are the best veg to grow!

  7. I am growing my tomatoes this year in large 12 inch plastic pots. Mine are filled much higher than yours - but then I use soil which comes at no cost!
    My reasons are that my glasshouse soil would otherwise need changing because of replant diseases and I am also sick of my outdoor ones getting potato blight in wet spells. If we go into a really wet spell in early summer I will temporarily lift the outdoor ones - a third of my crop - inside my glasshouse and later on when they are much bigger if it turns wet then they can come into my greenhouse permanently as I will have more room in August/September
    The effort some of us go to --- but home grown ones are so wonderful


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