Tomatoes and Onions
22nd Feb 2001
My tomatoes will be sown sometime today which will hopefully give me some to stage at the National Championships which are this year being held at Margam Park South Wales on the August Bank Holiday weekend, Sunday 26thand Monday 27th.
Since the demise of Goldstar it's been difficult to really get a variety that's as good at it, but I do now believe that some of the newer shelf life varieties are going start winning some major red cards.
Incidentally, if you are keen to continue growing the variety Goldstar, then you can still do so provided you know someone who already has some plants who will give you a side shoot. Taking a side shoot from a tomato plant has long been recognised as a very simple way of generating some quick plants, however do be aware that should the plant that you are propagating cuttings from have a disease or worse, a virus, then you would naturally be carrying that forward and weakening the resultant plants.
The variety that I intend to sow this year is a new type that is currently only available for trial called 'Estate', this is an improved Solution type which has already been winning at the highest level. The improvement is in the sturdiness and the dwarfness of the plant and this should make it much easier to grow in smaller greenhouses. Tomato seed are large enough to sow individually on top of some Levington F1 seed sowing compost. Space the seed out giving about an inch in between each one so that the resulting seedlings will have room to develop their seedling leaves to their optimum.
Tomatoes are tender plants and therefore the best germination will be achieved in a warm greenhouse or in a propagator. They can of course be germinated on a windowsill in a warm conservatory or even in a windowsill in the house. However the time will come when the seedling will need more light if they are to grow on into strong sturdy plants, you will therefore have to consider heating a section of a greenhouse when it comes time to pot them on.
Germination on tomato seed can be very quick and given warm temperatures they should be through within 7 days or so.
Once the seedling leaves are fully developed they can then be potted on into individual pots, a 3 inch pot will be ideal using some Levington M2 or even better, use the compost from a Gro bag. They will eventually be grown on in Gro bag compost anyway so an early introduction to it has given me some really strong plants in the past.
When potting up the young seedlings and afterwards when moving the plants on, either into larger pots or into their growing quarters, always plant them as deep as you can. If you look closely at a developing young tomato seedling you will notice that the stem of the plant is covered in very fine hairs and these in turn can develop into roots. I therefor always plant my seedlings with the seedling leaf sitting on top of the compost so that, not only do you have the root system that is already developing on the plant, you also have these tiny hairs that develop into roots. The more roots you have the stronger the plant will become.
The onions are now in 4 inch square pots and they will stay in these pots until planted out in their growing beds under a polythene cover. However as my onions will be planted on into a warm environment, if you haven't got such a warm growing area, then it's best to pot your plants up and wait until late April or even early May before planting out. It" no use at all growing lovely tall plants only to see them being smashed by strong winds.
My polythene over the tunnels has not been removed this Winter, the soil will therefore be in need of a good soaking in order to make sure that there is no heavy build up of salts in the soil. A high build up of salts will give you a high reading on your soil testing chart under the heading Conductivity. Outside, On exposed soil this reading would be zero, so the idea is try and emulate that reading by soaking the beds and washing out all the salts. The beds will be soaked through the seeping hoses that I shall lay down temporarily and left on until the water is draining through the bottom of the blockwork.
Once happy that the soil is well saturated, the beds will be allowed to dry and then rotovated over prior to laying my soil heating cables. I have three raised beds for the onions and each one will have a cable in it so that the temperature at planting out time will be a minimum of 55, preferably 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The onions are currently still under artificial lights and are given 16 hours of lighting per day, this will continue right through until they are planted out in their beds.