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Spring weather boost for John’s tomatoes

Summer harvest
Summer harvest

Home grown tomatoes will always be so much better than those purchased from the supermarket.

They are not exposed to chemicals to keep them pest and disease free, and we let them fully ripen before picking.

Picking a fully ripe cherry tomato fresh from the plant for immediate consumption is a wee taste of heaven, and in mid-summer when we are picking bumper yields there are always a few cherry tomatoes that split, so we may not want to spoil the look of our harvest, and not wishing to waste a good tomato so we just eat as we pick and enjoy the moment.

Having grown tomatoes annually for nearly sixty years I have tried out borders, pots, growbags, ring culture and straw bales, which were popular for about ten years in the mid-sixties.

Healthy young tomatoes

Flavour has been best for me when grown direct into a prepared soil border which I put down to the tomato plant having a great growing medium and access to plenty of every type of nutrient it needs.

In past times this was normal commercial practise, but each winter the soil was sterilised with steam to kill all disease spores.

Sometimes chemical sterilisation with chloropicrin was used so that the main problem disease verticillium wilt spores were killed.

I have no access to either so I have to remove six inches of border soil and replace it with good garden soil to which I add well-rotted compost then mix a few bags of compost from growbags into the surface plus some additional fertiliser as tomatoes are gross feeders.

Feeding the tomatoes

This may be a wee bit of strenuous exercise but for people of a certain age we are told it is good for us, and in any case it is on a small scale, taking about two days.

Seed sowing for this part of Scotland may depend on whether you have greenhouse heating or not and if you have access to a decent windowsill.

I normally sow my seed first week in March but this year with a warm winter they were sown in the middle of February, hoping the good weather continues.

This year I am trying out a range of cherry tomatoes so I do not need a lot of plants in total. Just as well as the packets had only ten seeds each.

Been your normal tight Scotsman the plan is to sow half the packet and keep the rest for next year so I am counting on getting 100% germination.

Tomatoes outdoors

A couple of weeks later they all germinated apart from one seed. This gets the highest rating in Scotland of No Bad!!!

It is important to grow on plants with good light and a decent temperature to keep them sturdy.

Plants are ready to plant out in early April, but plus or minus a couple of weeks depending on the weather.

I space plants out about 18 inches apart along the border which is two feet wide.

If you use growbags these are usually placed end to end with three plants per bag.

Summer harvest

Always shake up the compost in the bag before planting.

If you have any spare plants it is always worth trying a few outdoors against a south facing wall or fence in a sheltered place.

Tomatoes are grown as a single stemmed cordon and sideshoots are removed as soon as they are big enough to break off.

I suspend strong polypropylene binder twine from strong wires along the roof and twist the plant around the twine as they grow taller.

Broad beans ready for planting


This year I will again grow my favourite Alicante as my main crop but am trying a few cherry types such as Sungold, Cherry Baby, Rapunzel, Sugar Gloss and Supersweet 100.

I have dropped Marmande a beefsteak type, which was a very poor cropper, though I have heard others getting good crops.

I also dropped Yellow Delight which gave a massive crop, but with poor flavour and the plants were so vigorous they took over space from others nearby.

Wee jobs to do this week

Up on City Road allotments some plot holders have been taking advantage of the mild winter and run ahead with broad bean sowing and planting out.

I started sowing a fortnight ahead of last year and now germination has taken place I have potted up my seedlings into larger pots to give them more feeding and space to grow.

They are quite hardy so they have been moved from the warmth of a south facing windowsill in a warm room into my unheated greenhouse.

However if winter decided to make a last stand I have a greenhouse heater at the ready.