Saturday, 13 May 2017

Potting-up Tomatoes

I think (I hope) the risk of frost has passed now, so I have potted up my tomato plants. Tomato plants are very "tender" and are easily damaged by frost. I expect a few people lost theirs when we had that severe frost 10 days ago. I always grow my tomatoes in pots, so theoretically it is possible to bring them under cover if frost is expected - I did once put all mine in the garage for a couple of nights, but it was a big pfaff! It wasn't easy either, because each pot has a tall bamboo cane in it. It's definitely better to wait until night-time temperatures are in double figures, if you have the patience.

I don't have that amount of patience, but the weather forecast for the next 10 days shows nothing below 8C, so I'm taking a chance on it. In an emergency, I could always drape them in fleece...

The 2 with short green-topped canes are Bush varieties "Grushkova" and "Losetto"

I have potted-up 12 plants of 11 different varieties, in my big Stewart self-watering pots (officially called "balconnieres"). The variety of which I have 2 is "Ferline", one of my favourites, a reliable cropper with an above-average blight resistance.

This year I am using (with some trepidation, given my experiences with contaminated compost in the past) Levington's Original Multi-Purpose compost, with some added Growmore and pelleted chicken manure. My reasoning is that it is probably as good as any - it's really a matter of luck. Even the well-known brands are not immune from weedkiller contamination, although they are most reluctant to admit it. The texture of the Levington's stuff seems pretty good, and it doesn't have any big lumps of wood, plastic or whatever in it.

One of my plants is a lot smaller than the others. This is "Vintage Wine", a potato-leaved variety. It has big pink fruits with golden-yellow stripes. I imagine it to be rather like a bigger version of the well-known "Tigerella". I'm hoping that nothing is amiss, and that it will eventually catch up with the others.

As well as the plants in the big containers, which are mostly indeterminate (cordon -grown) ones, I have put four "Maskotka" plants into the tall wooden planter in which I normally grow baby carrots. This planter normally lives under the kitchen window, at the front of our house, but I have moved it onto the patio, round at the back.

The idea is that the plants will trail downwards, but still remain mostly off the ground so less easily accessed by slugs. "Maskotka" is one of my all-time favourite tomato varieties, which I grow every year. It produces masses of small red fruits, larger than the traditional cherry types, but smaller than the so-called Salad tomatoes. It's the one most favoured by our grandchildren too.

Following my usual practice, I have a complete set of spare plants, just in case of casualties or "frost-induced disasters".

I will keep these in their current 5-inch pots for another couple of weeks, and if I don't need them I will give them away. Kept in the small pots they will be easier to protect if necessary.


  1. Mark, this is just what I needed!!! My tomato plants had a late start but are looking healthy in their modules. I went with money makers. Your post has inspired me to pot them on and start thinking about getting them out there as I too am hoping to grow them outside. I love that you are also in England so your advice about weather is also perfect for me living in somerset! A question, do I need to pot them from modules into intermediate pots, or straight into their bigger pots? Thanks Kate

    1. Kate, I always use intermediate pots (5 or 6-inch), and keep the plants in them for about 2 or 3 weeks before putting them in their final pots. That way it is easier to harden them off, in that it's possible to bring them in and out as necessary.

  2. We are not out of the woods frost wise yet as our potatoes will testify

  3. Almost mid-May and you're still getting frosts. Hopefully it'll start warming up soon. You're tomato plants look nice and lush. I worry about using the compost our town makes because so many people spray with weedkiller.


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