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Grow Delicious Nutricious Organic Tomatoes
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Grow Delicious,Nutricious,Orghanic Tomatoes

Foundation. Before we start it is necessary to explain exactly what we are about to grow. We are not interested in quantity,quality is the name of the game.

Most people take tomatoes for granted simply because they have become accustomed to feasting with their eyes, and “Super Markets” know this – they started the trend. Wonderful to behold is a large bay of evenly shaped bright red tomatoes.What they don't tell you is that their tomatoes are picked green,usually abroad like Spain or Italy, gas treated (Ethylene gas or the likes) to ripen evenly ending up with a tasteless fleshy tomato.

We are going to give the plant it's dignity back and put it at the top of our growing achievements.

One day,30 odd years ago I visited a farmer friend of mine.When he went milking I went for a stroll generally nosing into everything.

It was my nose that alerted me to the presence of a cesspit.I took a look at a pile of rotting straw and cow dung.

Suddenly my attention was drawn to a number of tomato plants growing at a very rapid rate and obviously delighted with their situation.

Analising just what I was looking at I realised some very important facts were being illustrated.

The tomato was in a swamp like environment with ample food and water readily available along with an open well lit pit situation and a degree of heat both from the sun and from the rotting material around.

The only important aspect that was missing was support.I've got to replicate the whole of this new knowledge into my greenhouse. 30 years of trial and error,progress and disaster before I got to where I am today.

Basics We will be growing in an unheated greenhouse.The plants will be housed in our own specially designed containers.Rainwater only, as far as possible.

The following are essentials for successful tomato growing:

Strong all around light

Warmth (Close the door at night)

Steady supply of moisture.

Good ventilation.

Organic growing medium.

Organic food supply.

Good support.

Suitable container.

You don't have a greenhouse ? No problem we can build one.I've built 3 in the last 5 years and I'm now 75 so don't tell me you can't do it.

Greenhouse ( skip this if you have one)

Nothing complicated.Keep it simple.A lean to is the easiest.Any direction except North is OK.

The floor will be simply packed earth.( Keep some Roundup handy for killing weeds etc.)

The ideal is a brick sided out building.Mark out a 12ft length by 7ft3” width, oblong.

At each 7ft3” set 2 X7ft6” 4”X4” wooden posts in a 2ft deep hole in concrete at each corner.Leave to set.

Again'st the brick wall pin 3X6ft 2”x2” sawn timber uprights,one at each end and one in the centre.

Using raulplugs and 4” screws.2 screws to each upright.Now screw a 12 ft length of 2”x2” the full length into the top of each of the uprights.

The front post concrete having set, screw a 12ft length from post to post.Mark the centre point and hammer a flat length of metal into the ground minimum depth a foot.This metal must have at least one screw hole.

Screw a 5ft6” 2”x2” to the centre of the 12 ft cross piece and also through the metal to secure.Keep checking to make sure all is upright or level using a spirit level.

Now cut 2-2”X2” X 5ft 10” and 2-2”X2” X 5ft 4” lengths one for the rear end and one for the front end.Screw the 5ft 10” to each end upright at the back facing inwards and the same with the 5ft4”at the front facing inwards,again2 screws in each upright is sufficient.

Now screw 7ft3” the full width angled downwards from the 5ft10” upright to the 5ft4” upright at each end.

Now cut 6 – 7ft3” lengths and screw these each 2 ft apart the full length creating your roof supports.Pilot drill the holes at the required angle before screwing up.

At the front end hammer another metal support 2ft6” from the back.

Drop an upright at the 2ft6” point then mark cut and secure.This gap is for the door.

Except for the door gap connect each of the uprights with 2” X 2” lengths at floor level.

Door upright to front corner.Front corner to the centre.Centre to rear corner and rear corner to the back upright.This is the base.

Finish the front end by screwing a 2ft6” length to each post,the door upright and the corner post and then screw a cross member into the top of each separating the glazing area from the boards.The same at the other end but without the door gap.

The front can be done in exactly the same way with 2ft6”'s from the front end to the centre and likewise to the rear end.

Drop and mark another upright from the centre of the rear end,pilot drill and secure from the roof to the centre and then the centre to the base.

It now pays to treat all of the timber before glazing etc.If you want to cut your cost,I did,then purchase a gallon of creosote and ask your local garage for some waste engine oil 2 gallon will be enough (Don't forget to take a suitable drum or container).

Mix the creosote and the engine oil,2parts engine oil to 1 part creosote and then coat all the timber,front, back, top, bottom,the lot !

Last Winter was one of the worst for ice and snow for over 10 years.The roof is close to 90 square feet with only 2”X 2” supports.Gradually the roof started to bow inwards and downwards under the weight of ice and snow.I screwed a 6ft cross member 3ft each side of centre put a 4” square piece of polycarbonate directly under the centre,placed a correct length of 4” X 2” from the floor to the centre support and hammered it into place slowly raising the roof back to its original position.This upright is not in the way located in between two containers.Well worth thinking about !

Pat yourself on the back you are doing great,just look at it, all your own work !

We now to board up the bottom section all the way round.Rough sawn is ideal and cheap.If you can get mixed length job lots they are even cheaper.The lengths you need are ( 2” base plus2ft6” to the centre plus 2” centre cross member) Total 2ft 10” planks.

I prefer screws to nails and with a battery powered drill its quick and easy.Purchase a box of aluminium 1” screws, the boarding being about half an inch thick.

Cut say about 10 boards to size and screw up,then 10 more and so on until the job is complete.Creosote/Motoroil treat all of the boarding.

You get what you pay for in this world so I recommend buying 8ft sheets of twin wall polycarbonate sheeting for the windows.4 sheets should be enough.I got mine from a demolition site for peanuts.worth looking around.

You know the longest sizes are the front panels which are approx. 5ft6” X 2ft6”.the beauty of polycarbonate is that you can cut the sizes you want precisely. Tough but co-operative.Drilling and screwing into position is easy.

Screws also act as good inner stops so one every six inches all round will hold your polycarbonate.Locking the panel in, I use lath threequarter thick, again screwed up all the way around each panel.

Do the ends likewise.~

That's the glazing done.Poor quality timber although good enough for the job leaves slits and gaps everywhere which means more ventilation than we need.

I found some rolls of woven plastic 3ft wide which I used to line the whole greenhouse pinning it to the soft pine planking with ordinary paper staples.

Purchase 8-8ft lengths of corrugated PVC sheeting 2 ft wide.16 ft- why the extra ?

The overlapping uses up the extra because you need to overlap two furrows each time.

Choose a calm day to mount the sheeting,otherwise you will take an unplanned flight to wherever. Then work from whichever side you are comfortable with.Make sure sheet number 1 is absolutely square and secure it top and bottom one side only.Overlap number two sheet two furrows in on sheet 1 drill through both and again secure,repeating until the whole roof is covered.

Bend over the ends at each end and add extra screws or timber clamp the ends to stop wind from getting underneath the sheeting.

The door is a minor problem.You may be able to pick one up cheap or even free, if not make one ! Measure the door's height give clearance and fit a cross piece between the rear post and the door frame screw them into place and glaze with polycarbonate.

All we have to do now is fit shooting so that the rainwater can be collected.

As for a water butt.45 gallon drums are a common size.I didn't have a clue where to get one of these from but I was not buying a taylor made job with with tap & stand, and colour dark green for the outrageous price being asked. Posed the question in the pub and in the club and soon got a contact who knew someone who knew another who could get a plastic 45 gallon drum cheap. Turned out to be Blue so I built a brick stand the height of my watering can and painted it dark brown because I had some dark brown paint in my shed to get rid of.This Summer another contact offered me a nearly new taylor made butt for �15.I got it for �10.Another lesson,shop around and negotiate !

Get a fairly long length of downpipe 6ft plus.Even if only 2 feet is needed to carry the water from the shooting to the water butt because we have a good use for the surplus.

That's it,2 cans of beer and an easy garden seat to celebrate.

Special Containers Purchase 6 dark coloured storage containers overall diameter about 16” and of 14” in height. Round or oblong your choice,I'll use round, the colour has to be dark otherwise sunlight will penetrate and algae will result on the inside of the container and turn the compost sour.

This will kill our tomato plants.

One full sheet of expanded polystyrene 1” thick.This is a remarkably strong false base when supported,yet easy to cut to shape.

An 8ft length of 1” stiff plastic tubing which plumbers use instead of copper and one 4” funnel.

Take the surplus downpipe and cut 28 X 4” pieces,5 for each container.

Stick 4 of these to the base of the container using plastic glue about 3” in from the side an equal distance apart these are the false bottom supports.

Cut a tight fitting 16” ID from the polystyrene sheet.Mark a circle the circumference of the remaining support and cut a hole exactly that size using a hacksaw blade.Like wise a 1” hole for our down pipe.Decide where the downpipe is going to be and just beside it just under a 4” mark, drill a quarter size hole through the side of the container.This is the overflow.

Makes it easy to see when the resevoir is full.

Keep your feet out of the way of the overflow.

Fit the circle into the container and push until even contact is made with the 4 now unseen supports.

Insert 15” inch downpipe with one end cut at a 45 degree angle to allow a free flow of water.Plastic tape this to stand upright.Mark the other plastic support with a circle one inch from the top.Below this cut out two fairly large holes one each side of the support to admit water.Push the support through the centre hole.

Beg,borrow or steal 6 ladies knee length tights,buy em if you have to,they are quite cheap.

Fill one of the tights with compost and insert as a large sausage into the centre hole support, shaping it as needed making sure the sausage is filling the centre hole support.Tie a knot in the tights and flatten this into a large,flat mushroom on top of the centre support.

Before we do exactly the same to the other 5 containers let's test our completed container.

Via the funnel fill the resevoir with water until it runs out of the overflow.Cover the container with a black plastic bag to cut out evaporation and leave it for 24 hours.When you lift the plastic the mushroom should be soaking wet. This is caused by capillary action.When the compost fills the container this action will continue thus watering the whole of the container.A successful test enables us to make the rest of the containers.

Should there be any small holes then seal with a plastic sealer.

Grow & develop tomato plants. Variety is the spice of life they say so let's grow six different

tomatoes.They will be: Follia Imbrido F1 (ItalianPlum cordon),San Marzano (Italian Plum cordon),

Vanessa (UK cordon),Alacante (UK cordon),Shirley (UK cordon),Gardeners delight (UK bush).

I grow Gardeners delight as a cordon which is a single stem with all side shoots removed and growing from the base to the roof where the plant is stopped.

All varieties are grown from seed planted in March in organic compost in a 4” peat pot.This enables planting directly to a container without any root disturbance.

The pot stands on a saucer in the kitchen window.which is well lit but with no direct sunlight at around room temperature.3 seedlings are planted just 3 mm below the surface and mist sprayed daily. Seedlings usually show after about 12 days.

Select the strongest and transplant the other one or two into a larger plastic pot for possible failure or to give away.Stop top spraying and start adding water to the saucer so that the plant gets used to drawing from below.

By April the plant will be ready for its final home.Our containers are now filled with organic compost.

I make my own up with a basic formular as follows :

40% Irish spagnum moss peat or similar.40% Organic compost.20% Perlite.

Most nurseries sell their own organic compost.

Although the mushroom will transfer moisture throughout the container I water with a watering can until surplus starts running from the overflow.This is done just once.Carry out the same procedure until all are ready for planting.Gently plant,they are your babies and they will grow strong and healthy with initial TLC.

Screw two hooks into each container top lip running down the centre of each, the full length of the line of containers.Carefully thread a 6ft bamboo cane from the far end to the centre avoiding your plants and like wise from the other end.Tie the two together in the centre secure to the hooks using soft plastic covered wire.Now do the same with the roof using U shaped nails. Hammer these into the roof timber (2ft apart)with 4” of plastic covered wire trapped in the centre giving 2” of wire each side of the nail.Twist the wire around the bamboo cane to suspend and again join at the centre.We now have a top rail and a bottom rail.

Initially our plants will be supported by an eighteen inch split cane.We now measure the height from the base bamboo rail to the roof bamboo rail, which will be around 6ft.From the plastic clothes line cut 6 X 7ft lengths tying not too tightly from the roof to the base for each container.These are our plant supports !

Production. Everything is now set. Bit early yet,late April, so prepare some newspaper wrap arounds for possible frosty nights.One sharp frost could ruin everything,killing all of our plants.

Keep the water level topped up,by using the funnel inserted into the 1” container downpipe.When it overflows stop !

When the danger period has passed by mid May, there should be quite a number of flowers showing.Whenever you enter the greenhouse, gently tap the top bamboo rail which will vibrate the strings and help with polination.You may not see the pollen but it's there.

You may also notice the first side shoots appearing.When big enough to handle, remove these with finger and thumb nail careful not to create a running strip down the stem.

There is enough plant food in the compost until the first mini tomatoes start to set.

This is the signal to start feeding.I use well rotted cow/horse manure steeped in water.One third of a bucket with manure,then filled with water.Gently stir until fully mixed and then allow to stand for a day.Solids will settle at the bottom and a strong dark brown liquid will now be available.

1pint to a 2 � gallon watering can.This mixture will now be our topping up liquid instead of just water.Top up every two days unless very hot when every day should be OK.

Once a week I treat my plants to a prepared liquid feed containing phosphorous,magnesium and seaweed extract 1 cap full to a watering can of water,evenly divided. Their Sunday dinner !

The leaves are now getting quite large so now we ask ourselves what are we growing here leaves or tomatoes ? Start removing the leaves with a sharp knife,a stanley knife is ideal.Keep just the top three or four that's all the plant needs.Continue to remove leaves until the end of the season.A very large amount of energy is wasted in leaf production which could be feeding the tomatoes.That is what we are supposed to be doing !

Don't be greedy.When five or six hands of tomatoes have set stop the plant by cutting just above the last hand of tomatoes leaving a couple of leaves in place.

It's now just a case of removing side shoots,feeding and threading the plants up the supporting string.

Uses. Most people use tomatoes for some form of salad be it alongside a main meal or with cold fish or meat.

A salad garnish is popular, although in my view wasteful, as most if not all is thrown away.

Tomatoes may also be frozen either by slicing and freezing on a tray to keep separated individually prior to bagging and then generally freezing or by pouring a little olive oil into a saucepan then adding enough diced tomatoes for a meal .Quantity depends on the number of people concerned. Cool when cooked through and then pour into a freezer bag . Don't refreeze any leftovers once thawed out.

Cook in exactly the same way to add to bacon.egg,sausage

and tomato for breakfast.

Finally my favourite.Fry some bubble and squeak, cooking some tomatoes at the same time.Put the bubble and squeak on a heated dinner plate,pour the tomato over it and with sliced crusty bread tuck in -its scrumcious.

Conclusion I've been growing tomatoes by the above method for 3 years.Its now mid November and I picked my last red tomato a week ago.I'm constantly making minor changes.

I have now gone 3 years without having any tomato split.Splitting is due to irregular watering.The resevoir method,which this is,removes that risk !

Looking and observing to try and improve is a constant.

Latest Experiment.All six varieties were transplanted into their final growing tubs,two of each instead of one.Number one was left as the standard, but number2 had its main stem cut back to the lowest pair of leaves and left until side shoots appeared.Only the strongest survives. Every case the side shoot plant outgrew the standard with a heavier crop and a much thicker main stem.

Next Spring I intend to revert back to single planting but trying the sideshoot method again.This time I'm using 2 different American raised seeds,2 different UK raised seeds & 2 different Italian raised seeds.The results should be interesting !

Tender Loving Care (TLC) is amply rewarded with flavour and texture.

What can be better than walking into the greenhouse first thing, picking a fresh ripe Gardeners Delight and experiencing an explosion of taste like no other.Makes it all worth it !

I sincerely hope you get as much pleasure from growing “Brilliant Tomatoes” as I do !


Street Talk

wow! I love tomatoes! I'm a salad lover and tomatoes are the meat for me. This article over delivers! I had to copy it. But I am certainly interested in tasting my tomatoes!! I have a friend who'll love this too! 30 years huh? Thanks Don

Reply
  about 5 years ago
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