Growing Tomatoes Under Cover
Tomatoes can be grown outside in sheltered gardens, but are much more reliable grown under cover. I grow both for safety. In years when the outdoor ones do ripen, they undoubtedly taste the best, but averaged out over the years they crop a fraction as well. Start off in individual cells or pots in a in late winter for indoor crops and early spring for outdoor. Pot up twice and keep them warm until hardened off. Plant out a couple of feet apart in spring under cover or early summer outdoors.
Most varieties indoors or out are normally grown as single cordons tied to canes with all the side shoots rubbed off. I grow some plants as double and triple cordons, though, as these give bigger early crops. Early removed side shoots can be potted up as they easily root to make more plants. I grow a couple of plants to crop extra early in small pots, these are debudded and deheaded once one truss has set. They then ripen sooner than when the plant is allowed to grow on.
Bush tomatoes produce many sprawling stems and are more often grown outdoors. To keep the stems and the fruit of these off the soil, I place old wire baskets over or around the young plants which grow up through and onto them. These can also be covered with plastic sheet to act aswhile the plants establish. Out of doors tomatoes always benefit from cloching or at least wind protection from nets on . These can be used later to cover the plants to keep the birds from eating the fruits.
Indoors or out they rarely suffer badly from pests and diseases especially if grown with Frenchand . Grow the tomatoes directly into the ground in the or tunnel rather than use pots — the extra watering and feeding for pots can never replace a free root run. The soil may become tired if tomatoes are grown in it year after year; if so, dig it out and refill the top foot with enriched fresh topsoil every few years.
Feeding is not really necessary in rich, but is needed by plants in poor soils, pots or containers. If you are after early crops be careful not to overfeed as this produces growth instead of fruit and I find fruit from slightly underfed plants tastes best though starved ones just do badly. Remember it is tomatoes you are after, not lush tropical looking tomato plants. liquid in moderation is ideal for feeding tomatoes, seaweed sprays are also beneficial.
Watering is best done well, but not too often for plants in the ground, without ever allowing the plants to get checked, which causes blossom end rot — a brown blotch on the flower end of the fruit. In pots or containers it is harder to get an even water balance. Water frequently and keep the medium constantly moist once growth starts vigorously.
Pollination is free out of doors, under cover it may help to use a cotton ball, but I plant alyssum and marigolds to flower and draw in theto do it for me.
Pests are few out of doors; under covermay appear but can be dealt with by Encarsia formosa or soft soap. Most other problems are caused by poor nutrition, low temperatures or water stress.
Tomatoes ripen best on the plant but these stop others setting. Leave a ripe one or a banana in the greenhouse to help them ripen. At the end of the season pull the plants up and hang them upside down in a warm airy place to ripen the remaining fruits.
Tomatoes freeze easily without blanching for use in soups and stews. The skins slip off if they are scalded in hot water for a few seconds.
My suggestions: ‘Dombito’ and ‘Marmande’ are beefsteak-type and produce large fruit tasty and good for salads. To get really big tomatoes limit them to three or four per plant at a time. ‘San Marzano’ is atomato which tastes poor raw, but is wonderful cooked, especially fried. ‘Pink Brandywine’ is not reliable, easy or beautiful but believe me, it is really worth growing.