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.
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
Ease of cultivation: Not easy – growing
tomatoes under glass is time-consuming
· 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
· 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.
· 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
· 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
· 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.
· Follow the rules set out for outdoor
This group of red salad tomatoes contains several
old favourites which are grown for reliability
(Moneymaker), flavour (Ailsa Craig) or earliness
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Dombito: A true beefsteak, bred in Holland. The
fruits weigh about ¾ lb (750g) with thick,
fleshy walls and few seeds. Disease resistance
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
Supersonic: The tomatoes are large and flattened,
most impressive as ordinary tomatoes but rather
small for beefsteaks. The flavour is good.
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
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
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
Tigerella: An oddity – an early-maturing
tomato which bears red and yellow stripes when
mature. The flavour is good and so is the yield.
See Tomato, outdoor.