Tomatoes are fairly accommodating and will grow in any receptacle provided it is filled with a good compost and has proper drainage. Here both pots and boxes are used; large pots are needed to take the plants, a 9 in. or 10 in. being the best size. Margarine boxes will make very good containers and should have holes bored in the bottom to allow surplus water to drain away.
The floors of span-roofed houses can also be used, provided they are well drained. The plants should be started on a small mound of soil, as near to the light as possible, and the earth added as the roots develop. The soil is an all-important factor in successful tomato ‘ growing. The best results are obtained with a mixture of fibrous loam, to which is added a little sharp sand, some leaf-mould and some well-decayed manure in adequate proportions. Good results are also obtained by adding some fine bone meal, a s-in, potful to a barrowload of loath with well-crushed mortar rubble and a shovelful of wood ash. It is always advisable to follow the principle of building up the soil with additional compost as the plants develop.
Over manuring is liable to cause unfruitfulness, and only well-rotted manure should be used at any time, or some specially prepared tomato manure. As soon as the fruits are setting well, a top dressing with some such manure will assist cropping, but if this is not available, a pinch or two of kainit, superphosphate, or nitrate of potash at intervals during the growing period will suffice.
Seeds should be sown in early spring in pans filled with light rich soil. Sow thinly and not more than 1 in. deep, cover with glass and paper and place on a shelf near the glass. When the first central leaf is visible the seedlings should be potted off, still placed new the glass, to keep them short jointed.
When ready for planting into the final quarters they should be placed x ft. to 2 ft. apart, with occasional wider spaces for reaching the fruit and easier working.
The training of tomatoes is as important as the preparation of the soil in which they grow. By nature the plants produce many shoots, but when cultivated they must be restricted to one main stem. As the side shoots appear in the axils of the leaves they should be pinched out. Each plant should be tied to a bamboo cane, and where they are grown in boxes on the staging these canes must be held in position 6 in. from the glass. Plants growing in the border can be tied to canes pushed in alongside the plant.
After planting tomatoes need thorough watering in and can then be left until they show a very slight bluish tinge. Thereafter, water by giving a thorough soaking, and then leaving unwatered for several days. Overhead damping will help to keep the plants in sturdy growth as well as giving a humid atmosphere, which is necessary for a good set. This should only be done during the morning. To shut the house at night in a damp condition makes for disease attacks, especially leaf-mould. Moisture in the soil may be readily conserved by mulching. Although not frequently done, it is useful to remember when going away for a holiday that by placing straw on the soil after thoroughly soaking them the tomatoes will remain moist for at least a week if in pots or boxes and much longer when grown in borders.
Ventilation also plays an important part in atmospheric conditions. Every day the ventilators should be opened and the amount of air admitted can be regulated according to the wind and temperature. On very warm days the door may be left open, but it and the ventilators should be closed before the temperature drops. There should not be more than io to 15 degrees Fahrenheit difference between the day and night temperature in the house.
To encourage early ripening of the lower trusses of fruit the plant is generally stopped, and the top side shoot can be grown on for later fruits if desired. Earliest crops may be stopped after the third truss, while later crops can be left to develop five trusses.
When the fruit begins to ripen additional light should be admitted by removing some of the foliage. Leaves which shade the fruit should be shortened and when the lower leaves begin to change colour they may be pulled off. Do not remove all the leaves, as foliage is required to keep the plant growing.