This year, I’m doing in my greenhouse what I did in my first Get Diggin’ It garden last year which was an amazing year for tomatoes. Year after year, I experiment with another, more efficient way to grow things. Tomatoes love the dry heat – a bane for the veg grower generally – but amazing for vegetables like tomatoes that suffer water born diseases such as blight. The trick is to get water right into the roots of the plant so that there is no splashing up the stem which can then spread soil microbes on the stems and ultimately into the plant. Just in case you’re not familiar, blight starts with a few dark spots on the leaves and ends up withering and blackening the fruits rendering them woody and inedible. I had it one year. It was really late in the season and fortunately most of the tomatoes had already been harvested. I tried to keep it under control by taking off the affected leaves and composting them (a practice many frown upon with blight affected plant matter) but, despite my attempts, it got them in the end. A cursory glance on google assures that baking soda can treat a tomato plant that has blight. Hmm…that’s one worth keeping for future reference.
So this year, I’m planting my tomatoes in large pots and sinking them, half deep, into the ground in the greenhouse. There are a couple of reasons why I’m doing this so I’ll explain as I go. Pots buried in the ground allow the roots to root into the soil beneath enabling them to find deeper sources of water. Additionally, watering into the pot, ensures that the water stays exactly where it’s needed – around the roots. The soil underneath the pot should stay slightly moist from repeated waterings which is where the plants will be looking for their moisture when the top layers get very dry if a few waterings are missed as the summer progresses.
So in the above picture you’ll notice that they’re not yet sunk into the ground. And there’s a reason for this. Last year I rigged up canes for each plant, which were planted directly into the soil, inside the greenhouse and tied the plants to them as they grew. But the inevitable happened. A few extra days here and there without visiting meant that the plants became easily bigger than I could keep up with and ended up pulling the canes over. For most of late summer, finding a tomato was a case of looking behind leaves and risking life and limb with canes sticking out all over. We lost a few fruits to the moistness that watering roughly around the roots provided – which then of course, drained off all over the place in the greenhouse – meaning some fruit lay on the ground open to slug attack and rotting. However, I noticed in one of my neighbour’s greenhouses that he had the canes lashed to a cross bar in his polytunnel providing support at the top of the canes.
Hmmm…Ingenious! Sadly though I realised my greenhouse didn’t lend itself to supporting canes on a cross bar as it’s fairly flimsy so I have designed something to emulate that. Sinking wooden stakes into the ground and tying a cane across the top and then lashing the uprights to the cross cane will, fingers crossed, serve the same function.
Francesca and I spent some time sifting last year’s compost, filling the pots and planting up the tomatoes and the date was 1st May 2019. After the adding of some powdered egg shells, epsom salt and comfrey solution – well, it seems to work apparently providing all the calcium, potassium and magnesium that the plants need – I’ll be top dressing with some well rotted horse manure to feed the soil and keep in moisture. And hey presto, a couple of months we’ll have the most amazing tomatoes! I’ll add pictures to the gallery as the next phase goes on and let you know the challenges we had to rig that up.
Remember, you can join us on one of our projects, pottering on the allotment, or the polytunnel up at the farm, or even come out with us to markets and help harvest and sell our produce. It’s a great education in looking after yourself and knowing how to grow and use vegetables in the everyday kitchen.