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Growing Tomatoes

by CountryLife Gardening | Aug 22, 2016
Tomatoes are one of the top crops that gardeners grow

Harvest season is fast approaching and as I was walking around my own garden over the past two weeks I have started to notice more and more crops starting to mature and be ready for picking. This was most noticeable in the greenhouse as my tomatoes start to swell up and change from green to shades of yellow and red. 

Tomatoes are one of the top crops that gardeners grow at home because you really can’t beat the flavour of homegrown tomatoes picked straight from the vine. In Ireland most people grow their tomatoes undercover because it is just more reliable. Some people do grow them outside but I find the results are varied and you are banking on a good summer to get proper fruit. 

I find it much easier to manage tomatoes when they are grown in a greenhouse but of course you don’t have to have the most expensive greenhouse to grow them. A simple plastic lean to or even a very sunny window will do the same job perfectly. As long as your provide them with some heat and protection from bad weather you will get fruit. 

Based on the questions I get in CountryLife every gardener worries about getting their tomatoes to ripen fully. To ensure this I always recommend around this time of summer, removing some of the lower leaves on the tomato plants to encourage more sunlight on to the fruit. 

As a rule of thumb I remove the bottom two feet of leaves from my plants once the fruit starts to ripen. This means I am usually exposing the bottom two trusses to more sunlight which does help to ripen the fruit much quicker.

You should now be looking at topping your tomatoes. This basically means cutting or pinching out the top growing shoot so the plant does not grow any taller. I usually start to do this as soon as my tomatoes reach the top of my greenhouse (approximately 6-7 feet tall). By doing this and removing leaves you are encouraging the plant to put more energy in to its fruit and this will result in bigger, better fruit to harvest in the weeks to come.

 At home I like to use BabyBio to feed my greenhouse plants as I feel it gives the best all round results both in terms of plant health and fruit quality. Watering and feeding is very important when tomatoes start to form on your plants. Once you do start to get fruit forming I like to increase my feeding rate to once a week and it is also important to ensure the plants never dry out as this can be disastrous for your fruit.  

It often seems like tomatoes will never ripen as you are growing but I find in the space of two or three days you suddenly find yourself with handfuls of ripe fruit to harvest. It is best to harvest your tomatoes as soon as they turn fully red. Picking them at their ripest is really the best. No matter how much I try to plan ahead I always find myself with a glut of tomatoes at some point so a good tomato sauce or chutney recipe is always great to have under your sleeve to avoid any crops going to waste. 

Written by Malachy

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Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

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