This year I undertook the very ambitious task of growing 100 ‘Sweet Aperitif‘ tomato plants from Thompson and Morgan seeds in my tiny London garden, with the aim of giving them to non-gardeners and helping them nurture their first homegrown produce.
After hiccups with weather, transporting and space, I’m delighted that lots of my new tomato owners are enjoying their flourishing plants! Here are the basic steps to take to make sure they continue to grow happily and produce fruit…
- Get a bigger pot
If you haven’t repotted your tomato plant already, now is the time. It will be towering above its small plastic pot, with the roots struggling for space and stunting its growth. Buy a larger pot (20cm ideally) and some multipurpose compost, or improvise with any large container – buckets, crates etc – to save money. Just make sure it has a hole in for drainage. Fill the new pot halfway with compost, then carefully remove the old pot and place the plant in its new home. You’ll then need to fill the pot with compost around its base to firm it in.
2. Pinching out
This fairly strange phrase means removing the lower shoots of the plant to ensure the energy is concentrated on producing flowers and fruit on the established branches. It seems brutal, but all you need to do is pinch off the new, smaller shoots coming from the main stem with your nails. Think of it as redirecting the water and nutrients to the right place.
3. Drinks on you
Seeing as we’re having very unpredictable weather, you’ll need to play it by ear when it comes to watering. During hot weather, tomato plants will need watering every day to ensure the compost remains moist and the leaves do not curl up. If this happens, give the plant a good soak and it should be revitalised. During wet weather, don’t over water, but keep an eye and only give it a drink if the compost starts to dry out.
4. Hungry plants
As soon as flowers appear on the plant, I suggest giving the plant some food – such as Tomorite. This can just be added to the watering can (read the back of the tub) once a week to provide extra nutrients. Supporting the plant this way will mean more flowers appear and turn into healthy tomatoes.
5. Keep it upright
With rapid growth and July’s unexpected winds, you might find your plant struggling to stay vertical. All you need is a long stick – a cane, pole or straight branch will do – and gently push it in to the compost next to the stem. Then tie the plant loosely but firmly with string or wire to the support.