Thursday, 05 September 2013 20:00

Show and tell - a tomato disaster

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I am highly embarrassed to reveal this - but here goes.

For the first time ever, my greenhouse tomatoes are a complete disaster.  I blame it all on the new growbags I chose. Of course you’ll say “well a bad workman blames his tools” and I would understand that. But hear me out.

I always grow the same cherry tomatoes – Sun Cherry, Sun Gold and Black Cherry and I always buy my seed from Thompson & Morgan. And this year was no different.

My usual practise is to germinate them from seed in trays on a heated shelf, in seed compost. I then move them into 3in pots in a mix of general purpose and the material from the same bag as I plan to plant them in. They get moved into the grow bags, three to a bag, when they are about 6 – 8 inches high. And usually they shoot up, thicken up, need their 'overarm' shoots pinching out to control them, and they flower and fruit profusely.
 
I use the green plastic rings to help with the watering and the plants are supported on canes held up by an invention my father made when I was a child, two of which I still have and which work beautifully, even if they are a little rusty now. It was called the Arley Grow and the metal supports are held in place by the weight of the growbag and three metal rings support the canes. All very simple and effective.

In some years, to be fair, when we have had poor summers, the tomatoes have taken longer to ripen but the plants are always huge, trying to burst out of the top of the greenhouse and covered in flowers and then fruit. Every year to date I have enjoyed lots of ripened fruit by August at the latest.

And this year was no different early on, except that I used new growbags. For years I have used New Horizon, peat-free growbags as recommended by Which?Gardening, with great success.  But this year I tried a new growbag, as uber-recommended by the same authoritative organ – Verve growbags from B&Q.
 
I also planned to use them for the other seeds I was planting, as Which?Gardening recommended them as a good seed propagation medium too. So I bought five. I should have known better. As soon as I opened the first one I was shocked. It smelled strongly of manure and was black and very fibrous. So, for the seeds, I put some of this in the base of the tray and covered it with proper, fine grained, seed compost. All my seeds did well, not just the tomatoes so, early in the season, I was very happy with my growbag choice.

However, you have never seen such a sad and pathetic sight as my tomatoes now. A couple of the six are still no taller than 1 metre.  As I write, there are precisely three small green tomatoes across the six plants and three small flowers on one plant. There are toadstools growing up in the base of one and they all look sickly, despite having been fed with tomato feed and watered properly. And the bags are very poorly made. They have holes everywhere, not just on the top where they should be if you over-water, but all over. When I water, the floor of the greenhouse gets a good wash.

I am devastated. Each year I rely on a fabulous crop of tomatoes from August onwards to keep me going in salads, in fish dishes and cooking generally. This year I'm going to have to resort to the supermarket again - and tasteless, watery tomatoes.

I love Which?Gardening normally but, to be honest, I am now going to be more wary of their recommendations. I 100% blame them and B&Q for my tomato disaster this year. New Horizon will have my allegiance again next year. It's too late now.

 

 

Read 29092 times Last modified on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 09:19