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     How to grow tomatoes                                                                <<Back to Vegetable Ward

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Tomatoes are tender perennials, grown as annuals.  Easily grown from seed following the directions on the packets, but if only a few plants are required, it is simpler to buy the plants from a garden centre.
Except for one or two varieties, like Tumbler, and Totem – see below – most are cordon varieties, which grow excellently in greenhouses, and in very warm and sheltered sites outside.
Plant your seedling as soon as possible in good multi-purpose compost and insert a 6-7’ stake next to it.  If planting in grow bags, 3 to a bag is sufficient, and make sure the stakes are fastened to something like a fence, so if the wind catches them, they won’t blow over.  If planting in pots, one to a pot only, and stake.  Make sure they never dry out.   
With cordon tomatoes, remove the side shoots as they appear, and when the plant gets to the required height, pinch out the tip at 2 leaves above the top truss.  Usually when they reach the greenhouse roof, or when 7 trusses are set.  If you wish to raise new plants from the parent, wait until the side shoots are longer than about 3”, remove them with sharp Secateurs and root them in gritty compost.  If the parent plant has a virus, however, the new plants will have it too. When the plants are about 4’ tall, remove the leaves under the first truss.    
Tie the main stem loosely to a cane, or wind up a well-anchored vertical string.  Keep regularly watered, and use tomato feed every time you water.  Mist plants, and tap supports occasionally to aid pollination and fruit setting. 

Tumbler: Plant 2 or 3 to a hanging basket.  No need to pinch out side shoots, and water and feed regularly.  Cherry sized fruits.

Totem: Bush variety.  Again, no need to pinch out side shoots, but some support may be necessary.

Common Problems: Splitting – caused by too much water.  Fruit still edible.

Blossom end rot – black blotches on the end of the fruit.  Common in grow-bag grown plants.  Make sure they never dry out.  Remove affected fruits.

Greenhouse whitefly – spray with permethrin (or Bug Clear) at 3 day intervals until infestation has been cleared.  Flycatcher cards are a good preventative.

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