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Growing tomatoes: dos and don’ts
My experience of growing tomatoes has been relatively trouble-free. My outdoor plants often get blight towards the end of the season, but even then it doesn’t seem to affect the crop too much. Once my plants refused to grow after I transplanted them. Not for a couple of weeks, as you would expect when plants exhibit a ‘check’ in growth, but for about two months. I eventually threw them out and replaced them.
I’m something of a tomato counsellor for my friends, whose attempts at growing tomatoes are commendable, if nothing else. There are friends who grow the plants indoors and wonder why they don’t fruit (the flowers need pollinating); friends whose plants flower and fruit but the tomatoes rot at the ends (blossom end rot caused by irregular watering); friends whose indoor plants ‘got bugs so I threw them in the bin’ (I give up) and my poor friend Eli, whose plants flowered and fruited but the tomatoes kept splitting as they ripened (no amount of arguing convinced me she’d been watering them enough).
It’s not just my friends, I once viewed a flat and the prospective landlady pulled out a dead tomato plant that had been growing on her window sill, asking me why it hadn’t fruited. From what I could tell it was a cordon type and was planted in a 10cm diameter pot. The poor thing didn’t have a hope.
So to recap: if you grow tomatoes indoors you will need to pollinate them. This is easy as the male and female parts are contained within each flower. Just give the plant a good shake to dislodge the pollen. Water your plant regularly and feed once a week with diluted tomato fertiliser when flowers appear. This encourages the plants to keep flowering and produce more fruit.
Find out whether your plant is a cordon or bush type. Cordons usually produce regular-sized tomatoes and need staking and growing in large pots or growing bags (three plants per bag). Bush types may be grown in smaller containers and usually produce cherry tomatoes and don’t need staking. Popular cordon types are ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ (which confusingly produces cherry tomatoes), and bush types to try include ‘Tumbling Tom’, ‘Gartenperle’ and ‘Red Alert’.
Please don’t worry about ‘bugs’. Indoor plants can be misted with water to increase humidity and halt red spider mite infestations. Anyway not all bugs are bad, last year some shieldbugs raised a family on my outdoor tomato plants. This was very cute.