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.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tying up tomato plants

My tomato plants have taken well now in the soil, so it is time to string them up as they are growing quite rapidly.  They are a cordon type of plant so they will also need to have all the side shoots taken off weekly. Here is a link to a post which will help you prune your tomato plants

I also have a little video here to help you tie up your tomato plants, but remember to twist them clockwise around the string as they follow the sun around and will un-twist themselves if you do it the other way. 

The reason I use this way of tying them up is that the loop at the bottom is a fixed size, so with not strangle the plant later. I also add a quick release knot at the top, because you have to tighten the strings as the season progresses. 

This might seen over complicated, but it harps back to when I had 5000 plants to look after over the season.
So when you have this many plants to tighten up a few times throughout the season, you really do need a quick release knot. 



I am now also feeding them at least once a week and they are nice and dark, which is a good sign that they are getting plenty of nutrients. I have a section here in my blog about feeding tomato plants.



There are plenty of little marigolds sprouting up in the poly-tunnel and also in the garden, so I am re-planting them between the tomato plants, as I have found this the best natural way to keep white fly off the plants.  


Ventilation is also important at this time of the year, as even though  it is still quite rainy and windy when the sun comes out a poly-tunnel will warm up a lot faster than a glass house.   If you are out for the day it is better to play safe and leave some ventilation. If you put a second door with netting on it, that should prevent wind damage. Or do like I have done here with the door at the other end of the poly-tunnel that is not used as an entrance.

The best sort of ventilation is in the roof structure, because all the hot air will rise and go out of the top ventilation. One day I will build some ventilation into the roof of my poly-tunnel as it does get extremely hot in there in the summer, even with both doors open. 







If you have a hoop structure it is slightly more difficult, but you could add a frame with netting like this picture shows. Good ventilation will keep mildew type diseases away as there will be less humidity, it will also help control red spider mite later in the summer, as they love hot conditions. Tomato plants do need some humidity to help with fruit setting, so I usually do this by fine spraying the crop with a hose on very hot days, just make sure the plants are dry by the evening.


As I have said in previous post watering is so important, especially if you are growing in containers or peat bags. As you will soon be getting small tomatoes on your plants any shortage of water will stunt the growth and cause black-spot/ blossom end rot  later on as the fruit matures. The damage would have been done well before it shows on the fruit. 

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to growing, I have seen so many people trying to find an instant cure for a problem when it it far too late. They seem to search the internet trying to analyse what it wrong and then attempt to put it right. This then in turn can cause other imbalances within the plants and the problem has probably past but the signs of damage are still showing.

If you do have a problem please feel free to email me a few pictures, with a little history of what you have done. It is not always easy to analyse a problem from just a photo, but it is a good start and like I have said it is usually cased by something in the past. 

I certainly am no expert when it comes to tomato growing, but after having grown tomatoes in the past for over 20 year in various countries and conditions, I have learnt a few little tricks and tips, that might just get you out of trouble. 

Just to give you a laugh, here is a picture of me from the 70's growing a commercial high wire tomato crop.
We later motorised the trolley with a car starter motor and battery, with a push of a button with my foot I was soon speeding up and down the rows. The trolley ran on the heating pipes like a little train and the plants were lowered and layered as they grew as the string securing them was wound around a special hook. Picking of the tomato's was really quick, because most of the ripe fruit was at waist height.

As can be seen, in the 70's we  mostly grew in peat bags, which eventually turned to growing hydroponically, which is in flowing water. It was very high tec and the nutrients and Ph levels were monitored constantly. 

Guernsey was at the forefront of tomato growing at that time and even the Dutch would travel over to our little island to gain advice. Eventually when the oil crisis hit and they had cheap north sea gas, we just could not compete with the Dutch and they took over the valuable early tomato market in the UK.  

I eventually found myself hitch-hiking around Holland a few years later, I just showed this picture to a Dutch tomato grower, which landed me a job. Luckily it was the middle of summer, so he let me and a friend sleep in a shed near the greenhouses as we had nowhere to live at the time. We eventually managed to rent a caravan, but as winter came and we would awake with ice on the inside of the windows we decided at Christmas that it was time to call it a day. 

Another few years on and I found myself running a tomato nursery in Portugal, obviously the cold was not a problem there and I was lucky enough to live in Portugal for three glorious years. My nickname there was 'O Rei Dos Tomates' -  The Tomato King, which eventually will be the the title of a novel that I will eventually  publish one day on Amazon, seeing that I have ventured into a new part time career as a budding novelist with my first book Vantastic France.    




   






8 comments:

  1. great post full of great info!

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  2. Hi Mrs P

    I hope the weather is not affecting your crops too much.

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  3. I really love tomatoes and I'm planning to plant them on my garden. I will surely twist them clockwise on the strings. Thanks for all the other tips in here! It is very helpful.

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  4. I watched your video of how to tie knots - no probs understanding your accent but I cannot get my head around knots from either diagrams or seeing other people do it! Never mind I grow mine outside tied to bamboo canes so don't need to understand that method. Love the photo from the 70s! I'm just about to prick out my leggy tomato seedlings grown indoors this afternoon.

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  5. Hi MMM
    It was hard enough teaching people the knot in person, so I do not think you are alone in not learning how it's done.
    Ah the good old leggy toms, there is no way around it unless you have a few dozen strip lights or a fully heated greenhouse. Unfortunately this dull weather has not helped, but I am sure they will be fine.
    You garden is looking stunning already and I am really looking forward to following it throughout the season.

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    1. Ahhh cheers Steve, and I shall watch when you pick those first toms with envy, but at least with the knowledge that mine will come along sooner or later! That is, if the weather EVER warms up! ;-)

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  6. It is tipping it down here in London. I am managing to take my tomato plants out of the greenhouse for some hardening off during the daytime. I hope it is safe to plant them out soon.

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  7. I am sure the fine weather is just around the corner Matron.
    The problem I have is that it has been windy and sunny, open the door and the poly-tunnel might take fight. Keep it closed it gets up to 30!
    All good fun.

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