Welcome to my blog

I was born in Guernsey (but now live in Brittany) and our main industry was growing tomatoes although that industry has now virtually disappeared. Growing tomatoes to a Guernseyman is like wine to a Frenchman, it's in our blood! I do not profess to be an expert, but I have picked up a few tips and techniques which work for me.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Lets bust a few myths about tomato leaf curl

I had written a post a few years ago about tomato leaves curling up and it is the subject most searched for on my blog. A quick Internet search brings up hundreds of posts and photos of tomato leaf curl or leaf roll as some gardeners call it. I wanted to bust a few myths by my own experiments just to prove to myself that basic leaf curl is nothing to worry about, or something that you can not do much about. We are not talking about wilting leaves, but fairly healthy tomato leaves curling upwards.
This is only about indoor grown tomatoes and might be different for outdoor grown crops.


CLASSIC LEAF CURL ON TOMATO PLANTS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT
 
TOMATO LEAF CURL CAUSED BY TOO MUCH HEAT

This to me is the most logical reason for the curling of tomato leaves and what I presumed was the main cause. The plant gets too hot so compensates by curling it's leaves so they get less sun exposure and keeps the plant cooler. This does make so much sense, however I have been in the greenhouse on cooler days after hot sunny days with plenty of leaf curl and the leaves are still curled and continue to do so. It could be that once a leaf has curled it never goes back straight which seems to be the case sometimes.

TOMATO LEAF ROLL CAUSED BY OVER WATERING

This is a popular comment on many posts and I even watched a video about it from the USA, so I let my plants dry out slightly so they were definitely not over watered, this didn't make an ounce of difference, the leaf curl seemed to be exactly the same.



TOMATO LEAF CURL CAUSED BY LACK OF CERTAIN NUTRIENTS AND A STRAIN ON THE PLANTS


I have noticed that early in the season there are no signs of leaf curl, however, as the season progresses and the tomato plants are starting to produce fruit, then the leaf curl seems to get worse as the weight of the crop increases. On the oldest leaves, curling or non curling you always get signs of deficiencies in the lower leaves. This I feel is more due to the age of the leaf than a sign of deficiencies as the head of the plant will always tell you the health of the tomato plant.

Leaves like this just really need removing, which you should be doing from the bottom up as you are getting closer to picking your first tomatoes.








TOMATO LEAF CURL ON DIFFERENT TOMATO PLANT VARIETIES 

I have also noticed that leaf curl varies on different varieties, for example the Red Pear Cherry tomatoes although having less mature fruit on them seem to be worse, so that blows the theory of strain on a plant causes leaf curling.


red pear cherry tomatoesleaf curl


In conclusion, I have been involved in growing indoor tomatoes commercially and for pleasure for more years than I care to remember. Basic tomato leaf curl like in these photos has never ever been a problem, or affected the cropping. It could be a combination of some or all of the points mentioned, but please do not try to try and fix it by changing the basic rules of tomato growing, feed your plants at least once a week, water little but often so the roots do not drown, keep your greenhouse well ventilated in the summer and keep the frost off in early spring.  Tomatoes are one of the easiest crops to grow by sticking to the basic rules.






Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Leaf Scorch on Tomato Plants

I received an email this week from a follower of my blog with the photos below attached, which is far easier for me to recognise problems with tomato plants.

This one was fairly easy as it looks very much like leaf scorch and is caused by the plant drying out too much in hot weather, or sometimes by too strong a fertiliser. Just keep the soil moist and try to spray the plants with water a few times a day if is really hot or even put a bit of shade over them. They should recover OK.

I have a full page about it here;






 

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Keeping Frost Off Young Tomato Plants

Last week I purchased a few tomato, pepper and chilli plants, but was a little worried about any frost that we might have in late March. A light frost was forecast this week, so I decided to hang some fleece in the poly tunnel, which is already lined with bubble wrap, but no heating.

I used a minimum/ maximum thermometer in the poly tunnel to check on the temperatures and it did drop to zero inside. Luckily, no frost damage occurred, but just as well I took the precaution.




























There is a big difference in the tomato plants in just over a week from when I purchased them. They were starting to get 'leggy' so spacing them out helped a lot and I planted them in the raised beds today.


Last week                                                                                     This week




Sunday, 17 March 2019

Starting the tomato season 2019

Due to the mild winter, I have decided to purchase my tomato, pepper and chilli plants a little earlier, as I hope there is no more chance of frost. The reason I purchase my plants is that I have not got a heated greenhouse, so I get an earlier start to the season than raising my own from seed.


These plants look quite healthy, although a bit "leggy" for my liking. Leggy plants are due to them not having enough light and being too close together. Light is one of the most limiting factors when growing tomato plants. Obviously temperature is important, but as long as you keep the frost away they will survive.
A minimum temperature of  about 15 degrees is used in the commercial raising of tomato plants. Lower temperatures can affect setting of the flowers on the early trusses, but for the amateur grower, it will not be a problem as we tend to start our season later.










Here is an example of some really LEGGY plants that were left too long before transplanting.




The first thing I have done is to transplant my tomato plants into larger pots and space them out. The leaves should not be touching, so they get the best possible light. I have set them on trays so they will not root into the soil. I will add a small stake to each plant to support it while they thicken up. Normally, it is best to plant them into the soil when the first truss is in flower.









It is better to remove the seedling leaves as they have done their job, also any other damaged leaves, as this saves any diseases occurring. You can now really see how "leggy" the plants were that I purchased, especially the ones that were raised in blocks of six.









I also re-potted the chillies and peppers and you can see how much healthy root growth there is, but they were filling the small pots, so a good time to transplant them.





















I have topped up my raised beds with some well rotted horse manure and some leaf mould that has been rotting down over the winter, this should give a good reserve of nutrients, although I will have to feed my plants weekly as the season progresses and the plants are full of fruit.

Lest year, I had great crop of strawberries that I grew in-between the tomato plants. I saved a lot of suckers from the plants and raised them in the polytunnel over winter. They are now ready to be planted back in the troughs or outside.



Friday, 11 January 2019

Still Picking Tomatoes in January

It is the 10th January 2019 and we have had a bit of frost, although it does not get too cold here in central Brittany it is enough to damage or kill some crops in the polytunnel.

This winter, as I was over wintering a few outdoor plants in pots  I decided to line the lower part of the polytunnel to hopefully protect them from frost. I am sure most of them will survive but my indoor crops of tomatoes, peppers and chillies are a lot more sensative, so the early frost did get them and I have been meaning to go in and clear the dead plants out.

Well to my surprise, I had a final small harvest of  tomatoes and chillies. The plants are dead, but the fruit was clinging on. Some had dropped off and rotted, but amazingly some had survived the frost.


Lining the walls with bubble wrap just might help keep off a bit of frost when over wintering plants in the polytunnel.










Saturday, 29 December 2018

First you need a greenhouse

Here is a Video post to give you an idea to build your own



Or if you just fancy ordering one in the UK First Tunnels have a great range.

There are hundreds of different garden greenhouses and polytunnels on the market, and which ever one you choose it will never be big enough, so make sure you build or buy the biggest one that you can afford, in the space available from the start. 
Mine is roughly 5m x 5m.  2.3m high in the middle, and 1.7m high on the sides. These dimensions were slightly governed by the wood that I could purchase from a large DIY store.The wood that the roof sits on were poles puchased cut in half, so there are no sharp edges.I secured the roof support poles to the centre uprights with noggins, so there again would be a smooth run over the ridge for the plastic. For the sides you can use 50 x 50cm treated wooden lengths.

The reason I chose to build my own was that it is far stronger than most polytunnels, and to have one the same size would have cost nearly double. Mine cost me approximatly £500 in total.
The other reason to have a wooden greenhouse, is that it is far eaiser to run wires down it for crop supports.  








The special plastic I used should last three to five years and is availible on line, just make sure you order enough to cover the whole structure side to side in one length. The ends you can fill in after.


As you can see the structure is fairly stong. I added so extra support trusses inside, to the roofing struts. I will have to change the plastic in a few years, so there should be no problem getting on the roof to do this.




It has now been up for 7 years, and we have had a bad winter with three lots of heavy snow, and very strong winds, so I feel it is a pretty strong structure.












Keeping frost off seedlings

Well, I cannot take credit for this idea, that goes to Bilbowaggins on her 'View Fom Bag End' blog. 

Her propagator is situated inside a mini greenhouse, within her own large greenhouse. On the coldest of nights she lights night lights to keep the frost at bay. What a brilliant idea for those of us with no room to keep all our seedling and young plants on a warm window cill. The plants are also getting plenty of light, so should not get so leggy.
It is also more convenient to open up the mini greenhouse for air circulation and extra light during the day.










Thanks again to Bilbo for letting me share this great idea. Which I am sure quite a few other people probably do. However, seeing most of my growing experience has come via commercial systems, where we always had the equipment to raise plants in near perfect conditions, I am constantly learning ideas that everyday growers have adapted to suit their own pocket and conditions.
The wonderful thing about growing, is that daily you tend to learn something new.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Fantastic French website - Tomates De France

I have come across a fantastic very informative website called Tomates de France  for the producers of tomato's, cucumbers and other salad crops covering the whole of France.


 
The website has many videos showing very modern growing techniques in vast acres of greenhouses. There is also a section on the types of tomatoes they grow, recipes and modern pest control using insects. There is also a comprehensive list of growers and they have open days in May each year.


Acres of greenhouses are used in the production of tomatoes an cucumbers in France, using high wire techniques


Although high wire growing is a modern system of growing in greenhouses, here is a photo of me trialing the system in the 1970's in Guernsey. The trolley had a car starter motor and battery to move it along the rails. Things have not changed that much, apart from the flares! 




Friday, 29 June 2018

2018 season

                                    2018 season under way so here are  a few photos.






Monday, 29 May 2017

Creating a cheap raised bed in the Poly-Tunnel

A few weeks ago I decided to create a cheap raised bed in the poly-tunnel, the benefits being that you need to water less often than for peat bags or pots, ideal if you are going away for a few days in the middle of summer. The other benefit is that you can give the growing medium new life every year with new compost, which you can not do so easily in the soil, plus you can totally change it every 3 or 4 years if it get infected with with diseases, or to totally regenerate the growing medium.


I used the same breathable membrane as for lining the floor. Then knocked in wooden posts on either side for support. I ran a wire across the top of the post to lay the membrane over, having it wide enough to fold over and lay on the base.



 I then secured the membrane to the wire using a staple  gun and bits of thin plastic folder over, I did this before filling the beds. So the water would not drain fully or to quickly I added a plastic strip down the bed, making sure it went a few inches up the sides, but added some small slits for drainage. 
A base of small stones were added, then some well rotted compost and leaf compost and horse manure, as we have lots!. I then added cheap bag fulls of supermarket compost, but to this mixed in some slow release fertiliser. The total cost was about 20€ max.

 




I planted a few chili plants to start with, which are doing very well. I will feed once a week at least with a high nitrogen fertiliser, as this washes out of the soil easier than other chemicals. Later I will use a standard  tomato feed. I have used growing bags for the rest of the poly-tunnel, but will eventually have raised beds for all my plants.