Yesterday, we cleared this bed for tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini) and marrows. Today, we're looking at planting outdoor tomatoes. We have taken on board a new way of planting outdoor tomatoes from the Rodale Institute. The summer on Pig Row hasn't been great, it started warm in spring but like a few years back that warmth dried up and we have been under clouds ever since, we have had the odd day of sun but by late afternoon the temperatures have plummeted and the clouds have sat on us like a Mexican wrestler. We know that somewhere above us there is something garish, colourful and warm but our faces are pushed into the grey canvas. So, we're hoping, and we are being really optimistic, come along with us, plaster that grin on your face and think warm thoughts, that this technique will give our Marmande tomatoes a fighting chance.
You need to dig a hole, then take one sickly looking Marmande tomato. We know, they look simply awful, stressed little plants that we should have potted on but we're about to do something far worse to it that could actually make you scream at your screen.
We're going to strip off ALL of the lower leaves, that's right we're taking off around two thirds of the leaves. That's right we're going for that leggy look. Don't worry, here comes the science bit.
Now, all tomato growers know that when you plant under cover, the only place there is any warmth this year, that you plant a tomato deep, right up to the first leaves. Why? Well, tomato plants have evolved a neat little trick, wherever the main stem touches the soil, it'll send out roots. The more roots, the more nutrients and water it pulls in, the more chance of getting a good crop. Now, outdoors in the UK means that it should be all about the roots, you want a massive root ball on your outdoor tomatoes. So, here's another tip from those crazy kids at Rodale, plant your tomato sideways.
That's right. This is what Rodale says. This say it will improve crops and survival. Plant them sideways and as you back fill the hole with soil and compost, gently tease the top of the tomato plant upwards. You will see in the photo above that we have put in a cane ready for the tomato plant to be tied into. Tomato plants are rather bendy but you're going for a gentle rollercoaster bend rather than the plummet 'who the hell said this ride was fun' shape that the UK has felt into its currency since the referendum (which means now when we tell you how much something is in $ or € we have to check if it's right because by the end of the day it won't be or often by the end of the sentence). Anyway, you end up with your tomato plant looking like this...
...yes, like you murdered it with a sharp stick and it is slowly falling to the ground yelling, 'Noooooo!' really, really slowly. You then need to tie your tomato plant to the cane using a figure of eight knot with soft string and leaving plenty of room for the plant to expand. Don't tie it tight to the cane, because as it grows that stem will swell, and that string will strangle and one day your plant will just die. Remember, optimistic smiles, keep them plastered on. No one dies today.
You now have a lovely, if somewhat annoyed with the weather, feeling sick about the lack of sun, outdoor planted tomato.
We'll let you know if this works. As Marmande is a bush tomato rather than a cordoned one (a cordoned one is where you pinch out side shoots, bush tomatoes you leave alone) and we only expect to get around two trusses of tomatoes on them so the canes aren't that tall.