This year I’m going for a few different varieties. Cherolla which is an F1 Hybrid and my choice for cherry tomatoes this year. Roma for plum tomatoes and Tigerella for something a little unusual, with its yellow striped fruits, hence the name.
Although I grow a few plants outside I tend to grow most of our crop in the Polytunnel.
First job is to prepare the soil as it really suffers through the winter. It always amazes me just how dry the soil becomes in the Polytunnel, and we’re not talking a few inches of topsoil. As I plunge the spade into the soil I find at least 12 inches deep from the surface the soil is still bone dry. The only answer is to deal with it before you plant anything or you’ll struggle to get a really good crop.
The secret to a good crop is good preparation of the borders before you start planting. I’ve used various methods but I’ve found the best method in an excellent book I recently read called The Polytunnel Book written by Joyce Russel . It’s a great read that takes you through a year of growing in the Polytunnel. (isbn 978-0-7112-3170-2)
Basically I dig out a hole for each plant approximately a spades depth wide and the same deep making sure each hole is a minimum 2-3 feet apart to maintain good airflow around the plants.
Then I fill the hole up with water and leave it to drain away. This ensures the border is damp when the roots eventually make down to the subsoil.
Then I make up a mix of compost, some decent top soil and well rotted cow manure, mixed with a handful of fish blood and bone. Then I backfill the holes and the surrounding area with the mix. Finally I water the entire area again to give the plants a good start. At the end of the day these little plants are going to be providing us with lovely fresh tomatoes, so we owe to them to give them the best possible chance of success.
I always remove the lowest couple of leaves on my plants to prevent the side shoots from growing at the base. You can remove them later but I prefer the plants to concentrate on growing upwards, rather than outwards. I always water the plants well in their pots before knocking them out, and planting them level with the top of the soil.
Whitefly can be a problem in the Polytunnel, so to keep them at bay I plant a few marigolds in between the tomato plants. Must work as I rarely have whitefly problems.
I have used Grow Bags in the Polytunnel in the past, but I find they’re difficult to maintain without endless watering, which is not ideal as we’re on a water meter at Blackbirds now.
Next week I’ll head out to the local woods and collect a few hazel poles to support the plants, and plant up the rest of this years tender plants i.e. the Cucumbers, Melons, and Aubergines.