Tomatoes and Carrots - Planting Dates
23rd Apr 1997
Those of us that are fortunate enough to have some heating in our greenhouses can afford to plant Tomatoes much earlier than others and I have in the past planted them as early as February. Thinking back I couldn't possibly have been growing as many plants at that time because I still have the same two greenhouses and there's no way I could now grow a dozen early plants as I did then, I just wouldn't have the growing space. The difference now is that the emphasis has changed to be even stronger on the showing side of growing vegetables so the planting dates are much later.
When I was a youngster I used to give my father a hand to plant his Tomatoes and he always came out every year with the same phrase, "never plant your tomatoes in a cold greenhouse before the 13th of April". This used to be regularly drummed into him by an old head gardener who looked after the garden of the large local farm where my father worked. Now I'm certainly not going to say that this date will work all over the country, but in the forty five years that I remember Dad growing them, I have never seen him fail with tomatoes when planting on or just after this date - never before it. This would have been the date when the old gardener would have felt safe from frosts and Anglesey being an Island and positioned on the Gulf stream it does make sense.
My method of planting is in Gro bags as both my greenhouses have now got concrete floors and incidentally, since I have removed all the soil from the greenhouses I find that I'm much less bothered with pests, probably because they have nowhere to overwinter their eggs. The Gro bags are first held up by one end and the compost shaken down so that you end up with a more rounded bag, the resulting flap is then tucked under the bag and laid down on the concrete floor. This means that you can only plant two tomatoes in each bag but they certainly grow much better with more room for air to circulate around them.
The system that I evolved a few years ago is based on the ring culture principle where the Gro bag takes place of the gravel and the ring culture pot is placed on top of the bag after removing a circle of polythene from it. In addition I also place a small four inch bottomless pot between the two plants to act as a funnel for watering so that I will always be able to get sufficient moisture to the roots and prevent blossom end rot from ruining some tomatoes as a result of the plants going dry. Blossom end rot is a question that I'm always asked every Summer and nearly always, the plants would have been grown in Gro bags where their roots are contained and can't search for water.
Gro Pot System
Last year I had excellent results using the new Gro pot system where you have an inner and an outer ring system, you feed inside the inner pot and water in the outer one; it's certainly a system worth trying and the pots are well made to serve you for many years. Plant the tomato plants well down inside the inner pot and give each one a pint of water, leave them alone then for ten days or more so that the roots can strengthen as they search within the bag for every drop of available moisture. The water that I use is always at the same temperature as the plants and is stored in blue plastic drums at the far end of the greenhouse. After this period the plants are then given a good watering and once they are seen to be clearly establishing themselves I commence feeding which will be continued throughout the season. There will be more cultural tips on growing tomatoes during the season.
The carrots for the other than long classes will be sown in two stages this year simply because there is a month between the Welsh Championships and the National championships which are being held at the end of September. The ones for the Welsh show will be sown at the end of this month and those for the National at Malvern will be delayed until the third week in May; the varieties will be Corrie and my own re selection of Chantenay Red Core.
I also intend to make full use of my old carrot drums which are now inside the large complex of greenhouses at the University College of North Wales at Bangor where I am growing various short carrots for Chelsea. On my return from Chelsea and after fully recovering from a week of being on my feet for twelve hour days! I shall replant these drums in the same location during the first week of June with a few new varieties in addition to my normal Corrie which has served me so well.