Posts Tagged ‘tomato’

Tomato Cages: How to Make Supports for Healthier Tomato Plants [video]

May 23rd, 2017 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Healthier Tomato PlantsTomatoes are a big favourite in the vegetable garden. They’re fun to grow and delicious to eat. This post advises on how to get healthier tomato plants in your vegetable garden. 

  • Supporting tomatoes is dependent on the tomato variety. 
  • Cordon/Vining/Indeterminate tomatoes grow to head height and beyond. They require tall, sturdy supports.

Cordon tomatoes can be grown against tall canes or stakes, or in a green house twisted around string.  Firmly secure canes into the ground, ensure they will stand up against rough weather and fruit plant weight. Push the support into the ground before planting to avoid damaging the roots. Tie the plants to the cane with string, at regular intervals to keep up with their growth.

  • Bush/Determinate tomatoes grow up to around three feet and therefore require less support.
  • Semi-determinate/intermediate tomatoes are in between.

Tomato cages can be used for both bush and semi-determinate tomato plants . By purpose made ages or making your own with concrete reinforcement mesh. Flex the mesh into a tube to create a tube and place over your tomato plant. The video below goes into further detail on how to create your own tomato cage.

  • Regular pruning of tomatoes can ensure further productivity of tomatoes.
  • Remove all leaves from tomato plants, this will allow extra space for tomatoes to grow. It will also take away significant weight from the plant.
  • Remove side shoots from tomato plants as they can interfere with tomato productivity.

These are just a few pruning and training jobs for your vegetable garden. More detailed advice is available in the video below, so be sure to give it a watch. Let us know any tips you have for healthier tomato plants.

GrowVeg – Tomato Cages: How to Make Supports for Healthier Tomato Plants

Red Bodyguard – Taste the Tomato, Read the Book

February 11th, 2016 | News, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Ron Levin, author of The Red Bodyguard

A book written about the beneficial properties of the tomato has given its name to a new British-bred variety launched exclusively for the 2016 season by Suffolk seedsman Mr Fothergill’s. “The Red Bodyguard: The Amazing Health-promoting Properties of the Tomato” by Ron Levin is published in its third edition by IRIS (International)  Ltd.

Ron’s daughter-in-law Sarah Levin contacted Mr Fothergill’s to see if a new tomato might be named in honour of her father-on-law’s 90th birthday. Staff at the company read Ron’s book and liked the idea. Tomato Red Bodyguard F1 is the result of various crosses made by renowned breeder Simon Crawford using seed harvested from Mr Fothergill’s trial ground. The result is an indeterminate, early cropping, high yielding, new strain, with some resistance to late blight, which produces medium-sized, juicy, delicious and aromatic fruits.

“We have developed strong links with Simon through the years, and are delighted to have launched his excellent Red Bodyguard F1 for 2016, especially as this has been nominated internationally as the Year of the Tomato, which we shall be emphasising through our retail stockists”, says Mr Fothergill’s technical manager Alison Mulvaney.

Ron Levin, a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, was intrigued by the World Health Organisation’s promotion of eating portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and wondered whether some were better than others for human health. He read hundreds of studies on tomatoes, and the more he read the more he was convinced of the remarkable properties of the tomato. “The ripe red tomato is surely a health gift from Nature”, says Ron. It was this huge amount of research which spurred him to write “The Red Bodyguard” in the hope of making as many people as possible aware of it.

A packet of 10 seeds of tomato Red Bodyguard F1 costs £1.95. It is available from garden centres and other retail outlets throughout the UK, and from Mr Fothergill’s mail order catalogue.

Growing Tomatoes: Choosing Varieties and Giving Your Plants the Best Possible Start

March 26th, 2015 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Tomato blight

Whether it’s a taste, color or recipe that makes a particular tomato stand out for you, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you decide how to choose the right tomatoes for you this growing season.

There are thousands of tomatoes to choose from, so considering the following issues will help you to decide:

  • Local climate – if you  have a short cold growing season, then choose a suitable variety that will produce a crop in short growing seasons
  • Heat factors – if you have a very hot summers, you should choose from ‘hot-set’ tomato varieities
  • Diseases – select varieties that are resistant to the diseases prevalent in your area.

Your culinary choices will also have a factor on which variety is best for you, so think about whether you would like to grow tomatoes for salads or for sauces, cooking and soups.

Nation of Gardeners March planting update: time to compare spring planting with autumn planted varieties

April 22nd, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

March parcel for Nation of GardenersThe March parcel marked the half-year of this project.  We have passed from autumn, through the hard winter months and back out into spring where the lighter days are making everything feel more hopeful.  It is safe to say that at the 6 month mark we have a network of full gardens and full windowsills stuffed to brimming with Mr Fothergill’s produce around the UK.

The weather in March turned mild, and then even turned sunny, before the sting in the tail of the last week of the month.  However, this  break in the weather enabled our gardeners to get going with no impediments for this month’s parcel which contained three varieties of tomato to trial.  Also in their sixth parcel, they found Garlic, Broad Beans and two varieties of Strawberries – Buddy and Sweetheart – all of which they had grown before.

You can follow the gardener’s progress as they post regular updates to the Facebook wall, and if you feel the need… then join in the conversation!  We’ve been finding that other people are joining in and posting pictures of their own developing crops and seedlings which is great to see how they compare with what our own group of gardeners are seeing.   This makes it a true Nation of Gardeners!  So if you are growing and have plants emerging for the first time, please feel free to also post your updates to the wall.


A round up of March’s planting tasks
Potted garlicA third shipment of Garlic Solent Wight was sent out in March.   After the autumn and spring planted Garlic Solent Wight from bulbs in October and February, Mr Fothergill’s decided to test out supplying the gardeners with some pot grown garlic – pictured here to the left.

The gardeners were supplied with three plants that were already growing in pots of compost, and were asked to keep an eye on these for whether they bolt having been grown on by the Mr Fothergill’s nursery team in this way.

Together with a final shipment of pot-grown garlic that will be sent out in April, it is hoped we get some firm conclusions on garlic growing across the UK using direct comparisons on techniques for growing to give us the optimum method and time of year to plant out.  See this article on early results published earlier in April for more on garlic growing across our UK sample of gardeners.

Strawberries in water prior to planting out

The gardeners received Strawberry Buddy and Strawberry Sweetheart again during March in order to test these spring planted strawberries against the ones planted out in the autumn.  The autumn-planted fruits have shown varying degrees of success around the country.  Largely they have overwintered well, but other gardeners in the group have found them to have drowned in the heavy rains we had over winter, or found them nibbled by hungry creatures.

Of the healthy plants – which form the majority – these will be tested against the spring planted versions for yield, time to crop from planting and duration of cropping season to see if they perform as well when planted 6 months later.  Many gardeners are already reporting that their autumn planted strawberries are in flower now, and that the spring plants are establishing well and growing on quickly.

Another packet of Broad Bean Aquadulce was also sent out for sowing to compare the crops with the autumn sown seed.  

Spring sown broad beans

By the end of March, many of the gardeners have raised some fine and healthy looking autumn-sown plants that are already in bloom before Spring had arrived.  The pictures below show some of the fabulously healthy looking plants in the care of our gardeners.  The mild winter has enabled this early blooming to some extent, but if there are enough pollinators around whilst these plants have been flowering away, there will be very early crops of broad beans for our gardeners to enjoy.  The mild weather in March has also enabled quite a few gardeners to germinate their spring sown broad beans pretty swiftly too.

By early April, some gardeners are starting to wonder if their autumn-sown plants have ‘run out of steam’.  And so the real test for the spring sown broad beans will be if they produce as heavy crops and with more certainty than the autumn grown seeds.  It seems clear that they certainly won’t be able to catch up and compete with the autumn grown plants in terms of ‘first to crop’, but maybe their growth will prove to be more assured.  Watch this space!

Broad beans sown in the autumn

New to the gardeners this month were three varieties of Tomato for growing outdoors.  Tomato Ferline, Tomato Sungold and Tomato Sakura were supplied as seed for sowing in March with the intention of growing these outside eventually.

March tomatoes for growing outdoors

The gardeners set to this task quickly, with some good germination rates being seen across the board. Whether the change in light and heat conditions in March versus February had an effect or not is not clear.  However, these March sown seeds went ‘leggy’ for some gardeners very quickly meaning they got potted on before the first true leaves had truly established themselves on the plants.   This has not had a detrimental effect on the plants though, with gardeners across the UK reporting some fine looking plants in their care.

The tomatoes supplied in February – Tomato Black Opal, Tomato Pink Charmer and Tomato Orange Slice – have got underway well  for most gardeners, though some reported difficulty in germinating them.  The best results seen were those that had an element of heat available for successful germination.  Intended for indoors growing only, these tomatoes will need more care than the March issued varieties.  This seems to be reflected in the relative ease of germination for the March varieties also, where a greater germination success rate was seen.


October through to February updates

The gardeners have been very busy in the last six months and so there is always something to report on.  Of note in March though, our gardeners have observed a number of things.  Here’s a whistle-stop tour of what’s been going on.

  • Potatoes breaking through the soilGeorgina in Cheshire, Gwynne in Morayshire and Max in Hertfordshire all got busy planting their potatoes out in early March.  Many gardeners have followed suit later in March and early April, with the first shoots pushing their way through the soil in patio planters and in the ground around the UK, such as this potato pictured in Ceredigion.
  • Our gardener in Bristol has potted on her salad leaves as individual plants with the intention of growing on outdoors.
  • Hannah in Guildford, Joanne in Suffolk, Lindsay in Devon and Mags in Renfrewshire have all planted out their autumn sown sweet peas in early April. However, it seems that this may have been too early as frosts came in Devon and Guildford shortly afterwards, so we shall have to see if they recover.
  • For many, the antirrhinums have been an unusual growing challenge.  Some of the seedlings collapsed totally for some gardeners whereas others, such as the ones being grown in Renfrewshire, are very well established if a little ‘leggy’ and seemingly on the point of collapse.  Our gardeners in Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Pontpridd, Worcestershire and Suffolk have all managed to grow some specimens and so summer will be the real test for these new and exclusive variety of snapdragons by Mr Fothergill’s.Strawberries in bloom
  • The first broad beans sown in the autumn have set tiny beans in early April in Devon and there are flowers coming on the autumn planted strawberries for many gardeners such as these ones pictured in Pontypridd.
  • The bare root perennials planted in the autumn have started to come back to life in the last month. There are some casualties and there are some ‘missing in action’ plants.  Time will tell if these are truly lost or whether they are just being shy at presenting themselves.  The plants that are definitely starting to put in some spring growth are looking handsome and healthy – Astrantia, Papaver and Eryngiums are all performing well.  Perhaps most excitingly, the Cimicifugas have started to unfurl a leaf from the growing tips in the last few weeks for many of the gardeners who had previously doubted there was ever going to be a plant to see come Spring.  This plant has been very reticent to show any promise all winter and so it is with some excitement that the gardeners are greeting these small leaves.
  • February issued tomatoes grown from seedThe tomatoes issued in February, March and April all appear to be healthy so far and are at varying stages of development.  Mags in Renfrewshire appears to have grown some strong plants from seed leaving many other gardeners playing catch up.  In Derbyshire, the March sown seeds have overtaken the February sown seeds.  In Cheshire the gardener there has already planted to the outdoors.  With high levels of germination success, there are going to be bumper crops of 6 varieties of tomato in the gardens of our Nation of Gardeners this summer.

Keep an eye on the hashtag #nationofgardeners on Twitter for more updates as the gardeners post them, or follow the postings to the Facebook wall where you can also find a gallery of plant pictures that chronicle the Nation of Gardeners activities to date.

March 2014′s planting

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting


Nation of Gardeners February planting update: plenty of eating to be done with this month’s parcel

March 21st, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

With the January parcel having been sent out fairly late in January, it seemed that the February parcel arrived in next to no time.  In mid-February, the gardeners each received their fifth consignment from Mr Fothergill’s which once again had them utilising different gardening techniques to enable them to carry out their tasks.

Even though the weather across the UK was grim for much of February, there was still plenty for our gardeners to do to get growing under shelter.  February is a good time for sowing indoor tomatoes to get a head start on greenhouse-grown plants.  February (and March!) also gives gardeners a good chance to get last-minute soft fruit bushes into the ground.   And so, in this parcel were three varieties of tomato and two varieties of blackcurrants to trial.

Additionally, the first of the comparative trials came in the form of a second shipment of Garlic Solent Wight.  Last October the gardeners received Garlic Solent Wight for autumn planting and in this parcel they received the same variety for sowing in the Spring.

Throughout the wintry weeks that February served upon us, our gardeners made sure to keep on posting updates to the Facebook wall and to keep Twittering away on the hashtag #nationofgardeners giving great blow-by-blow accounts of what is happening, and where, around the country.


A round up of February’s planting tasks

Our Scottish gardener potted up her blackcurrant into a large pot.The parcel that arrived in mid-February was a fragrant one indeed!  Within the brown bag the smell that greeted our gardeners as they opened up their mystery parcels was divine.  Supplied in this shipment were two varieties of Blackcurrant for testing out comparatively for yield later in the year.

Modern blackcurrant breeding has produced two varieties which produce fruit more than double the size of standard types and are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush.  These varieties are called Big Ben and Ebony and so Mr Fothergill’s wanted to find out how the gardeners felt these varieties performed.  They wanted to know how they grow, but also whether they demonstrated good disease resistance.  Most importantly they would like to know how sweet the fruits are with an all-important taste test at fruiting time later in the year.

Our gardeners chose a variety of places to put their plants.  Though the supplied plants look small and relatively tame right now, they will grow up one day to be enormous beasts! Our Scottish gardener potted up her blackcurrant into a large pot – pictured here to the right. But many other gardeners chose to plant in open ground where the root balls will be able to develop to their full potential.  And so for this, they had to take care to choose a site that can eventually accommodate the full 3 or 4 foot canopy of the mature bushes.

By mid-March, many of these plants have started to wake up to Spring.  Small leaves are starting to emerge from the buds of many of the plants across the country as the pictures below show from our Scottish, Buckinghamshire and Cheshire gardeners.

Blackcurrants leaves emerging in March

February is good for sowing indoor tomatoes although in cooler parts of the country where winter is reluctant to leave, holding back on sowing tomatoes is wise.  For gardeners with a greenhouse, getting going early with tomato plants during February enables them to benefit from the lengthening days.  Given a warm summer like the one we experienced last year, gardeners with early sowings are rewarded with early crops – as long as they can maintain a good warm environment in which to grow their tomato plants.

For this task it seemed only natural to ask the Nation of Gardeners to grow  tomatoes.  But these aren’t common-or-garden tomatoes – the varieties they were asked to sow in February come in every colour except for red!

In February they sowed:

Tomatoes sown in February germinated quickly

Black Opal was selected for trial, and it is a tomato that is bred from the old variety ‘Black Cherry’ crossed with a modern variety with high sugar content in order to give it more flavour.  The flavour is supposed to improve during cooking and so Mr Fothergill’s wanted to find out what our group of gardeners thought of them.

Pink Charmer has been bred for the colour, which as the name implies, is pink!  But where a particular quality like colour has been bred into a variety, flavour is often lacking and so Mr Fothergill’s want our gardeners opinions yet again on a taste-test.

The third variety, Orange Slice, is a greenhouse-only variety that is still on trial by Mr Fothergill’s.   Just like the January issue of Pepper King of the North this is an unreleased variety, and so our gardeners are growing in tandem with the formal triallists at Mr Fothergill’s in the spacious trial grounds in Kentford.

Germination was good across the three types of tomato with it coming quickly for most using heat to bring on the seedlings.   The Orange Slice fell behind the other two varieties in terms of germination rates, with the seeds hitting the 66-80% mark.  Many of the gardeners also commented that the Orange Slice were ‘more puny’ than the other two varieties with our Ceredigion gardener commented that the root system looked much weaker too when she repotted them in March.  The pictures above show windowsill propagators being used by our Devon and Ceredigion gardeners to bring their tomatoes to life.  Heated propagators, heated greenhouses and pots on windowsills indoors were all used.

Along with the tomato seeds, the gardeners also received some more Garlic Solent Wight as part of a comparative trial against the same variety of garlic the gardeners put in during autumn 2013.  These spring bulbs will be observed for speed of ‘catch up’ with their autumn sown counterparts. Conventional wisdom says that autumn planting is better but our gardeners have found within days of planting out the bulbs were ready to go and off they shot!

This picture below shows a direct comparison of top growth on the autumn-sown versus the spring-sown garlic.  Whereas the autumn sown cloves took 8-12 weeks to show any signs of growth at all for many of our gardeners, the spring sown cloves were shooting with green top growth within days for some, and within 2 weeks for most.

The theory is that although spring-sown garlic catches up with it’s autumn-sown counterpart, the bulb development is held back due to the lack of dormant time in the ground over the main part of winter, and so the autumn-sown cloves will produce better bulbs when cropping in July comes along.  So we are able to test this theory thoroughly in this trial.

Direct comparison of autumn sown and spring sown garlic


October, November, December and January updates

Potatoes chittingThere is so much going on now that the weather is starting to warm up, that the following are just a few of the highlights from previous plantings.

The gardeners were each sent a pack of Potato Charlotte in order to test open ground planting versus patio planter growing of the tubers.   A patio planter was provided along with the potatoes in the January parcel and so all the gardeners got busy chitting during the colder weeks of the winter, with a few of the gardeners – Georgina in Cheshire, Gwynne in Morayshire and Max in Hertfordshire  – planting their potatoes out in early March.

The Snackbite and King of the North sown in January have shown some rapid progress with many gardeners having pricked out and potted on within a couple of weeks of sowing.  For our Suffolk gardener though, she has observed that her peppers and tomatoes have stopped growing all of a sudden.  Through discussion between the gardeners, there’s a consensus that watering style may be the problem.  Tomatoes and peppers like to be moist but not wet and so bottom watering or misting is the recommended method to keep them in shape.  Time will tell if our Suffolk gardener’s plants will come to life again, or if they are no longer viable.

Antirrhinums ready for pricking onThe Antirrhinum Purple Twist F1 has shown promising growth for many of the gardeners who successfully germinated them and brought them on. These seeds were supplied in a small phial and the seeds were microscopic.  They came along with the warning that germination can be erratic – and so our gardeners rolled up their sleeves to take on this challenge!  These seeds again are warmth loving and require a gentle heat of 15-20° Centigrade to germinate and survive. Our gardeners deftly managed to germinate these seeds pretty successfully, and as February came to a close, many were thinking of pricking out and growing the plants on individually.  Pictured here are the handsome plants brought on by our Renfrewshire gardener.

For many, the Blackberry Reuben has taken a real hit over the winter from the wind and the rain, with many specimens looking very bedraggled.  The question of whether to cut back or not to cut back is now a hot topic of discussion amongst the gardeners to see how they can renovate their plants back to the healthy looking specimens that were delivered in the autumn.

For those with great sweet pea plants sown in the autumn, the future of these plants is looking very bright indeed.  There’s lots of healthy top growth, and those that developed well enough to get pinched out are looking simply fantastic.  And so, with a promising set of blooms on the way, a number of our Nation of Gardeners members have gamely agreed to enter them for the upcoming Mr Fothergill’s 2014 Sweet Pea Competition at Capel Manor in July.  Will they grow some prize winning blooms? Who knows?  Watch this space!

To follow the results of our gardeners in more detail, take a look at our table of stats for each of the varieties:

February 2014′s planting

January 2014′s planting

December 2013′s planting

November 2013′s planting

October 2013′s planting

Looking forward into March

The gardeners have just received their latest package in mid-March including three types of tomato – Ferline F1, Sungold F1 and Sakura F1.  Also supplied were 3 pot-grown Garlic Solent Wight supplied as live plants, and a second sowing of Broad Bean Aguadulce that is to be grown in comparison with the autumn-sown seeds.  Also to be grown in comparison with their autumn-planted cousins are another issue of Strawberry Buddy and Strawberry Sweetheart.  Let’s hope the gardeners are fond of tomatoes, garlic, broad beans and strawberries!