When they were first introduced tomatoes were considered an aphrodisiac and so were called Love Apples. Over the centuries they have lost one reputation and gained another, far greater one. Thousands of tons are sold yearly, but those who grow their own swear that none you buy taste as good.
Outdoor tomatoes are usually a rather chancy crop in northern states as a long spell of good weather is needed to get the bulk of the fruit ripened before frosts cut the plants down. Cloches have an invaluable part to play in the successful culture of this plant. They can either give the plants vital early protection so that they become established quickly or they can provide continuous protection which will produce crops nearly as early as glasshouse ones. Northern gardeners will welcome this type of protection in districts which are much colder.
The site for the crop should be prepared thoroughly by deep cultivation. Separate positions can be prepared for each plant as for cucumbers and marrows. A general fertiliser is applied a few days before planting at 3 oz per square yard. The plants are best purchased from a reliable source. Good plants are short jointed and deep green in colour. The plants should be set out 2 feet apart in the row, with 3 feet between each row.
Two shapes of tomato plant can be grown, the cordon and the bush. Where it is intended to grow entirely under cloches, the bush type is ideal. As soon as the plants have been set out they should be staked and tied securely. All side-shoots must be removed from cordon plants as soon as they are noticed. In early June, it will be safe enough in all districts to remove the cloches entirely except where it is intended to grow to maturity under them. Plenty of water must be given, especially when the first flower trusses have set. Dry or weak liquid feeds will be required to encourage heavy trusses of fruit.
When cordon plants have produced four trusses, they should be stopped. This is done by removing the centre or growing point of the plants. Bush tomatoes require no stopping or side-shooting Several varieties can be grown out of doors.
Cultivation under glass
Seed is sown in January or February at a day temperature of between 65-70°F (18-21°C) falling to around 60°F (16°C) at night. At these temperatures germination occurs in six to eight days. To prevent a great deal of heat having to be used to keep the entire greenhouse at these relatively high temperatures in winter, a seed propagator is sometimes employed. A suitable seed compost is essential and many gardeners prepare their own. A typical home-made mixture consists of four buckets of garden topsoil, one bucket of finely ground sedge peat, half a bucket of coarse sand, a 5-inch pot of lime rubble and one dessert spoon of super-phosphate of lime. Such a mixture is left to stand for ten days. It is then mixed once more and passed through a I-inch sieve. Any large lumps are removed for use as drainage material at the base of the containers in which the seeds are to be sown.
You may sterilise the soil to destroy any weed seeds and harmful bacteria or fungi. The best garden soil for use in home-mixed propagating composts is a medium loam but this is not always available and you may use special manufactured propagating composts. The best-known are those based on the John Innes formulae and should be used within a month of purchase. The new soil-less composts such as the Levington seed and potting composts may also be used. Where soil-less composts are used, the manufacturers’ instructions regarding the filling of containers, sowings and watering should be followed.
Containers which have been in use should be washed well with water containing a mild disinfectant and left to drain for some hours beforehand. New clay pots and pans should be soaked in water for several hours. After the containers have been filled to within an inch of the top with the compost this is levelled and firmed and the seeds are then sown on the surface. Seeds may be broadcast as evenly as possible so that a standard seed tray is sown with around 300 seeds or the seeds may be spaced individually at about 1 inch apart. A piece of perforated metal sheet is of help where many trays are being sown. The sheet has holes, spaced at 1 inch apart. Through each hole one seed is inserted. The seeds are then covered by sieving a inch layer of the compost over them, and then watered thoroughly with water of a similar temperature to that of the compost. A sheet of glass is then placed over each container to prevent too much evaporation, and brown paper laid on the glass to provide dark conditions. The glass sheet is turned each day to rid the underside of excess moisture. As soon as signs of germination are observed, the glass and brown paper are removed. To prevent any drying out of the containers during this critical period the greenhouse staging and paths should be damped down twice daily.
Seedlings raised by broadcast sowings must be pricked off into other seed trays or small pots when the first true leaf shows. It is usual to prick off so that a standard tray holds 50 seedlings and these are potted on later into 3-inch or 31-inch pots filled with John Innes or Levington potting or similar soil-less composts. Seedlings from an evenly-made sowing may grow on in the original containers, until several true leaves and a good root system have been made, before being potted up.
During pricking out each seedling is carefully removed from the container with a table fork, plant label, etc. The stems of the seedlings must never be handled. Where any handling is necessary take hold of the seedling gently by one of the two seed leaves. In potting, the pot is filled with the compost (using one hand) and the young plant is held by the other. The compost is sprinkled round the roots until they are covered. The compost is then firmed slightly with the fingers and a little more compost then added. The plant should be in the centre of the pot with the seed leaves resting on the compost.
After the pots are stood close together on the greenhouse staging, they are watered well. To prevent any check to continued good growth due to potting, a night temperature of around 65°F (18°C) and a day temperature of at least 70°F (21°C) are maintained until the seedlings are making new growth. During favour-able weather some ventilation is given for a half hour or so at midday. Keep the containers moist but not over-wet. Gradually more and more ventilation is given during the day as and when possible, and night temperatures may drop to 55°F (13°C). Paths and staging should be damped down daily and, as the plants grow, the pots should be spaced further apart. Ring culture In this method of cultivation the top 6 inches of soil in the green-house borders are replaced with an aggregate which may be washed clinker, weathered ash or clean shingle. Each plant is grown in a bottomless container or ring. The rings, often of bitumenised paper, are filled with a suitable compost. After the plants have become established in the rings the main watering of ring culture tomatoes is to the aggregate and liquid feeds to the compost.
Good crops of tomatoes may be obtained from plants grown in 10-inch pots. John Innes potting No. 3 is a suitable compost. In high summer it may be necessary to water pot-grown tomato plants several times each day. Standing the pots on a solid bench covered with a -inch layer of pea gravel prevents the pots from drying out.
Unheated greenhouse cultivation
Tomato plants for growing in an unheated greenhouse may be bought in late April or early May.
- AMATEUR IMPROVED (bush) A new, improved selection of ‘The Amateur’.
- AM BERLEY CROSS (F 1) Greenbackfree, resistant to cladosporium disease (leaf mould). Heavy cropper and early.
- ANTIMOULD A Introduced by the John Innes Institute. Resistant to mildew. First-class quality medium fruits.
- ATOM (bush) Suitable for outdoors. Very dwarf, self-stopping bush needing no more than 18 inches of soil surface. The small tomatoes are of good flavour.
- BEST OF ALL Suitable for outdoors. Large, deep scarlet fruits with solid flesh. Heavy cropper.
- BIG BOY Very large tomatoes, scarlet-red, handsome and has very good flavour.
- CARTERS FRUIT Peels easily and slices readily. Flesh is solid and flavour is good. Very few seeds. Recommended for eating as an apple.
- DWARF CLOCHE (bush) Suitable for outdoors. Medium-sized, good quality fruits on plants about 6 inches high and 15 inches across.
- EASICROP (bush) Suitable for outdoors. Similar to ‘The Amateur’ but a more compact plant. Heavy cropper, good flavour, introduced 1968.
- ES1 Suitable for outdoors. Good cropper in the open or in the green-house.
- EUROCROSS A (F1 Similar to ‘Moneymaker’ but earlier ripening. Greenbackfree, resistant to cladosporium disease.
- EUROCROSS B (F1) Larger fruits than ‘Euro-cross A’. Recommended for early greenhouse crop. Does well in soils below optimum fertility.
- EUROCROSS BB (F1 Recommended for early crops in heated houses. Large fruited and high-yielding.
- EXHIBITION (Stonor) Shapely fruits of uniform size. Good cropper.
- FIRST IN THE FIELD Suitable for outdoors. Dwarf habit and distinct foliage. Best grown as a single stem standard or with two or three stems trained to a trellis. Foliage is dark green and curled. Superseded by newer, earlier varieties.
- FLORISSANT (F1 Similar to ‘Ailsa Craig’ but stronger growing.
- GARDENERS’ DELIGHT Suitable for outdoors. Long trusses of small tomatoes of sweet fine flavour.
- GOLDEN AMATEUR (bush) Suitable for outdoors. Similar to ‘The Amateur’ but fruits are gold/yellow.
- GOLDEN BOY Large, orange-yellow tomatoes. Not a heavy cropper but noted for the meatiness and fine flavour of the fruits.
- GOLDEN SUNRISE Medium size, gold-yellow, round tomatoes of good flavour.
- HARBINGER Early ripening, heavy cropper. Tomatoes of medium size.
- HUNDREDFOLD Suitable for outdoors. Short-jointed, early ripening, heavy cropper. Fruits are deep red, medium-sized and of good flavour.
- ITALIAN PLUM Plum-shaped, deep red fruits without much juice. Flavour is distinctive. Excellent for canning.
- KELVEDON CROSS (F1 Trusses are closely spaced. Early ripening and fruits are exceptionally uniform. Noted for its fine flavour. Recommended for both heated and unheated greenhouse.
- MARKET KING Suitable for outdoors. A popular variety producing medium-sized very uniform fruits. For the greenhouse or out of doors.
- MM (F1) Similar to but earlier-ripening than ‘Moneymaker’. Resistant to cladosporium disease.
- MONEYCROSS Matures 10-14 days earlier than ‘Moneymaker’. Fruits have the good shape and colour of ‘Moneymaker’. Resistant to cladosporium disease.
- MONEYMAKER Medium-sized, well-shaped scarlet fruits of non-greenback type. The most popular commercial variety. Exceptionally heavy cropper.
- MONEYRES (F1) Evenly-shaped tomatoes of good flavour. A good cropper.
- ORNAMENTALS Suitable for outdoors. Small red or yellow tomatoes resembling cherries, currants, plums and pears. The ‘currant’ type is a bush.
- POTENTATE Fruits are medium to large, of good colour and borne on large trusses. A popular commercial tomato.
- PUCK (bush) Suitable for outdoors. Dwarf variety liked for cloche and frame growing.
- SIOUX (F1) Suitable for outdoors. Good cropper. Very evenly-shaped tomatoes of good flavour. Suitable for outdoor and greenhouse cultivation.
- SLEAFORD Abundance (F 1) (bush) V The first English bred F, hybrid dwarf bush. Heavy cropper.
- SUNRISE Suitable for outdoors. Medium-sized fruits. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor cultivation.
- SUPERC ROSS (F1) Shows tolerance to mosaic virus and is immune to cladosporium disease. Non-greenback fruits of ‘Moneymaker’ size and colour. Excellent flavour.
- SUTTON’S ALICANTE Greenbackfree resistant to low temperatures. Tomatoes are handsome and crops good.
- SUTTON’S LEADER Suitable for outdoors. Hardy, early ripening. For greenhouse or outdoors. Large crops of even, good coloured fruits.
- THE AMATEUR (bush) Suitable for outdoors. Considered by many as the earliest and best self-stopping bush tomato. Fruits are deep red, even and handsome. A good cropper.
- TINY TIM (bush) Suitable for outdoors. A very compact bush. Suitable for window-box growing. The scarlet tomatoes are seldom more than 1 inch across and are almost seedless.
- TIGER TOM A new red tomato with yellow stripes when ripe.
- TRIP-1 -CROP Pale red tomatoes of excellent flavour and weighing up to 1 lb each. Uneven shape.
- WARECROSS (F1) Early ripener. Good quality fruit.
- WHITE Yellowish-white, very ridged tomatoes. Flesh is rather dry but very sweet.
- YELLOW PERFECTION Suitable for outdoors. Early-ripening, good cropping yellow fruited. Tomatoes are small to medium in size.
Key F1=F hybrid. Noted for their uniform appearance. Seeds should not be saved from F1 hybrids for propagation purposes.