GARDENING: Battle of the tomatoes

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IT’S a contest between old and new cordon tomatoes this year.

In the heritage corner, there’s Prize of the Trials, Texas Wild, Sunset’s Red Horizon and Jaune Flamme (apricot French heirloom type), versus new varieties Rosella (chocolate-coloured cherry) and Baby Pink Plum, which speaks for itself!

They were all sown at the beginning of March and the new ones won hands down – the heritage varieties couldn’t match their germination and sprouting performance.

Texas Wild, in particular, did badly, so much so that only a couple of plants remained - if they germinated, they fell victim to aphids.

However, time’s a great leveller and they’ve all caught up with one another.

As usual, I’m growing them in the conservatory (read that as greenhouse). They’re mostly in extra large tomato grow bags (three in each) with ring culture pots sunk into the top.

Four are growing in 99p Ikea toy boxes (put holes in the bottom with a hot skewer). They’re cheaper than pots and being rectangular, sit on the windowsills better.

Now it’s a matter of watering regularly, feeding when the fruit on the first truss is pea sized, nipping out side shoots and tying in the stems as they grow.

Give the stems a little shake to encourage the fruit to set and damp down the floor on hot day to cool it down (big swings in temperature and erratic watering lead to all sorts of problems).

As I’ve had problems with aphids, I decided to try an old tip and plant a clove of garlic with each plant. They absorb the insecticidal chemical produced by the garlic - so far, no greenfly. I’m impressed!

The Grow Bag Frame

I’M also trialling The Grow Bag Frame, which I was really impressed with when I saw it at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

It’s simple and clever, using a light galvanised steel frame to support the grow bag on its side, giving plants a greater root run – and you can lift it, an impossible task when one is planted up conventionally.

There’s also built-in climbing supports and the whole thing takes up less space than a normal grow bag. Mine is in a challenging space - the conservatory is 30ft long, but less than 6ft wide, so any saving on width is a godsend.

There’s more room, less water spillage and if the tomatoes get too big, I can pick them up and move them!

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