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Greenhouse Tomatoes

UK Garden Centre - How to grow Tomatoes in a greenhouse

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You will find tomato plants in the majority of greenhouses during the summer months, producing a succession of succulent fruit from the end of June until October. We seem to have an irrepressible urge to grow them, and this is a little surprising when you remember the problems involved. They need constant care, and in summer it is necessary to water growing bags or pots at daily intervals. A wide range of pests and diseases find the tomato an ideal host, and the flavour is not all that much better than the supermarket ones, now that you can buy tasty varieties such as Gardener’s Delight in the shops. Perhaps the key is the fascination of watching tiny green pinheads swell into bright red fruits, plus the constant need we have in most households for both raw and cooked tomatoes. The greenhouse varieties are cordon (single-stemmed) plants which reach 6ft (180cm) or more if not stopped, and it is unfortunate that many gardeners refuse to be adventurous. Each spring they sow Alicante, Ailsa Craig or Moneymaker, but there are so many exciting new ones to try.

Seed facts
Expected germination time: 8-11 days
Expected yield per plant: 8lb (4kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 3 years
Approximate time between sowing and picking: 16 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Not easy – growing tomatoes under glass is time-consuming

Soil facts
· Tomatoes can be grown in border soil – raised beds give better results than beds at ground level. Prepare the soil in winter – dig in peat and a small amount of compost or manure. Rake in Growmore fertilizer shortly before planting. Unfortunately border soil soon becomes infested with soil pests and root diseases, so the soil must either be sterilised or changed after a couple of seasons.
· Because of the difficulties with border soil, other growing systems have been evolved. Ring culture and growing on straw bales have lost their popularity as they can be tricky, but growing in 9in (23cm) pots filled with soil-less potting compost is simple.
· Growing bags have taken over as the most popular growing system with both the professional nurseryman and amateur gardener. Good and reliable…if you master the watering technique.

Sowing and Planting
· If you need a large number of plants, then follow the conventional techniques of sowing thinly in trays or pans filled with Baby Bio Seed and Cutting Compost. Cover lightly with compost – keep moist but not wet at about 65°F (18°C). When the seedlings have formed a pair of true leaves prick them out into 3in (7cm) peat pots filled with potting compost.
· If only a few plants are required, it is easier to sow a couple of seeds in each 3in (7cm) peat pot of compost, removing the weaker seedling after germination. Alternatively, buy plants from a reputable supplier.
· Plant out into growing bags, pots or border soil when the seedlings are 6-8in (15-20cm) tall and the flowers of the first truss are beginning to open. Water the pot thoroughly before planting. In border soil plant 18in (45cm) apart.

Calendar
· In a heated greenhouse kept at a minimum night temperature of 50-55°F (10-12°C), tomato seed is sown in late December and planted out in late February or early March for a May-June crop.
· Most gardeners, however, grow tomatoes in an unheated (‘cold’) house. Sow seed in early March and plant out in late April or early May. The first fruit will be ready for picking in July until mid October.

Looking after the crop
· Tie the main stem loosely to a cane or wind it up a well-anchored but slack vertical string. Side shoots will appear where the leaf stalk joins the stem. Cut or pinch them out when they are about 1in (2.5cm) long.
· When the plants are about 4ft (120cm) tall, remove the leaves below the first truss. Remove yellowing leaves below fruit trusses as the season progresses, but never overdo this de-leafing process. Use a sharp knife to remove this unwanted foliage.
· Water regularly to keep the soil moist – irregular watering will cause blossom end rot of fruit splitting. Feed with Bio Tomato Food every time you water. If using growing bags you must water frequently.
· Mist plants and tap the supports occasionally to aid pollen dispersion and fruit set. Ventilation is essential in summer – shade the glass with Coolglass when temperature reaches 80°F (26°C). When plants have reached the top of the greenhouse or when 7 trusses have set, remove the tip at 2 leaves above the top truss.

Harvesting
· Follow the rules set out for outdoor tomatoes.

Varieties
Ordinary varieties
This group of red salad tomatoes contains several old favourites which are grown for reliability (Moneymaker), flavour (Ailsa Craig) or earliness (Harbinger).
Moneymaker: One of the most popular varieties for the amateur. Large trusses of medium-sized fruits are produced and crops are heavy, but the flavour is bland.
Ailsa Craig: Another popular variety, producing brightly coloured, medium-sized tomatoes. It matures early, but its main claim to fame is the excellent flavour.
Alicante: Moneymaker type – heavy cropping and reliable, but Alicante has distinct advantages. It is resistant to greenback and the fleshy fruits have a fine flavour.
Harbinger: An early-cropping variety which is now a little more difficult to find than the trio of favourites – Moneymaker, Ailsa Craig and Alicante. Apart from earliness it has no outstanding advantages.
Best of All: The fruit is larger than usual for an ordinary variety, and the deep scarlet fruits bear few seeds.
Moneycross: If you are a Moneymaker fan, choose this selected strain for a change. It is resistant to leaf mould and rather earlier than the basic variety.
Craigella: An improved version of Ailsa Craig – the flavour has been maintained but the danger of greenback has been removed.

F1 Hybrid varieties
This group bears fruit which is smaller in appearance to the ordinary varieties, but these modern crosses have two important advantages – they are generally heavier yielding and also have a high degree of disease resistance.
Eurocross: A good choice for the heated house – large fruits borne on leaf-mould resistant plants. It is immune to greenback.
Supercross: The fruit are the same shape and size as Moneymaker, but it is even more disease resistant than its close relative Eurocross. Tolerance to mosaic virus has been added.
Amberley Cross: An early and heavy cropper which is a replacement for the old favourite Ware Cross.
Shirley: Not in many catalogues, but few varieties have more plus points – resistant to leaf mould, virus and greenback plus heavy yields and early cropping. It is not troubled by a cold spell and the space between leaves is short.
Grenadier: A heavy-cropper which produces fairly large fruits. They have good keeping qualities and are free from greenback. Resistant to leaf mould.
Herald: The F1 hybrid to choose for top flavour, according to some experts. Early and resistant to leaf mould.
Curabel: The variety from which Shirley was selected – an alternative choice if your stockist doesn’t sell Shirley.
Grower’s Pride: An excellent all-rounder – early, reliable, disease resistant and vigorous. No faults, no special virtues.
Red Ensign: One property makes it stand out from the crowd – the first truss sets much more freely than on the average F1 hybrid.
MM: Moneymaker brought up to date – early ripening, good resistance to leaf mould and greenback, improved flavour and greater vigour.

Beefsteak varieties
This group produces the large and meaty tomatoes which are so popular in the U.S. and on the Continent. They are excellent for sandwiches but only you can decide whether their flavour is superior to our familiar salad varieties. There are three types of giants – the true beefsteaks such as Dombito, the large F1 hybrids such as Big Boy and Supersonic, and the Marmandes, which are suitable only for outdoor growing. Stop the plants when the fourth truss has set and provide support for the fruit if necessary.
Big Boy: The most popular giant, producing fruit which weighs 1 lb (500g) or more. If you want to impress your friends, disbud to three fruits per truss.
Dombito: A true beefsteak, bred in Holland. The fruits weigh about ¾ lb (750g) with thick, fleshy walls and few seeds. Disease resistance is good.
Ultra Boy: Another large F1 hybrid related to Big Boy – claimed to mature earlier than its more famous brother. The large fruits are globular and it is usually more productive than Big Boy.
Supersonic: The tomatoes are large and flattened, most impressive as ordinary tomatoes but rather small for beefsteaks. The flavour is good.

Novelty Varieties
Catalogues sing the praises of the yellow, orange and striped varieties but they remain distinctly unpopular. The first tomatoes sent to Europe were gold-coloured and not red, but that was a long time ago.
Golden Sunrise: The usual choice for the gardener who wants a yellow tomato. The fruit is medium-sized with a distinctive taste.
Golden Boy: The variety to grow if you want very large yellow fruits which are meaty rather than juicy.
Yellow Perfection: This yellow tomato is reputed to be earlier and sweeter than the others listed.
Tangella: Unique – the fruits are orange. The medium-sized fruits ripen early and are resistant to greenback.
Tigerella: An oddity – an early-maturing tomato which bears red and yellow stripes when mature. The flavour is good and so is the yield.

Troubles
See Tomato, outdoor.


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