Posts Tagged ‘Growing Tomatoes’

How to support tomato plants using string

This year we’ve decided on an alternative method for providing support for our tomato plants. In the past we’ve used bamboo canes … but this week I’ve been looking at using string for the tomatoes in the polytunnel.

I’ve had problems with canes in the past pulling the plants over with the weight of the tomatoes but I’ve seen other gardeners wind their tomato plants around a string line and it seems to work really well.

Not sure if this is the standard way but this is the method I used earlier this week.

1. Dib a 12” deep hole next to the plant. The depth is important to ensure the string isn’t pulled out when the plant is laden with tomatoes.

2. Take a ball of nylon string and dropped one end into the bottom of the hole. You could always use natural string but make sure it’s nice and strong or it may perish before the end of the season.

3. Back fill the hole with a few small stones and soil and use the dibber to ram the string in nice and tight. Keep ramming the string in until the hole is full to the top and level with the soil.


4. Tie the other end of the string to the ridgepole making sure it’s nice and tight.

5. Finally … wrap the tomato plant as it grows around the string until it reaches the ridge.


Using this method also increases the harvest as when the plant reaches the ridge you can lay it down and send it up another string where it will produce even more juicy tomatoes!

Wow … what a couple of weeks it’s been!

Firstly we decided to move the polytunnel … and if that wasn’t enough we also decided to move the potting shed … and in between that we managed to squeeze in a few days in Cornwall.

Reason for moving the poly and the potting shed is we needed to free up more space at the bottom of the plot to provide better access to the plant nursery.

It was backbreaking work … especially digging the trench for the polytunnel skin. Piece of advice if I may … if you ever find yourself installing or moving your own polytunnel invest in a ground fixing kit. It takes all the hard work out of it and you’ll get the job done a lot quicker.  Look up First Tunnels for details of the ground fixing kits.

The upside of moving the tunnel is we could rearrange the inside to work better for us. Instead of one path down the centre we now have two smaller paths down either side of a central planting bed into which we planted this years tomatoes. This still leaves plenty of space around the outside for the melons, peppers and cucumbers.

At the end of the summer the tomatoes will be removed and replaced with a manure bed to provide stored heat in the winter.

We’ll keep you posted on how the tomatoes are ‘holding up’ as we progress through the season.

Best wishes,



Tomato strings

The plants are doing just great with the string supports. I took this pic earlier today (11th August) and the tomatoes are holding up really well.


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If you’d like to keep this post for future reference I have created a PDF. It’s absolutely free, so please feel free to download as many times as you like, with my best wishes.


It’s Tomato Tasting Time!

It’s that time of the year when all the hard work we put in to growing tomatoes comes to fruition, and perhaps more importantly it’s the time of year when we conduct our own tomato tasting session at Blackbirds. Each year it turns up some interesting results, and this year is no exception!

Each year we grow 1 or 2 new varieties, just for the fun of it, nothing serious, it’s really just an excuse for eating freshly picked tomatoes.

This year I’ve throw care to the wind and grown 3 varieties, one I’ve grown in the past, and two I’ve never grown before.  I like to grow at least one ‘novelty’ tomato in a season, and this year I went for Tigeralla, a striped variety, but more on that later.

All three were grown in the Polytunnel using the same growing method, and received the same amount of watering, and supplemented with a high potash feed.

You can find all the details of how we grow our tomatoes in a previous blog,

Cherrolla F1 Tomato

First tomato for the taste test is, Cherolla, an F1 Hybrid and my choice for cherry tomato this year. They produce a small perfectly formed tomato and are the most prolific of all the tomato plants I’ve grown this year. The tomatoes hang from long, regular spaced trusses that look like a real work of art.

The second tomato up for the taste test is ‘San Marzano Astro F1’, an Italian plum tomato. It’s my first time I’ve grown plum tomatoes, so it should be interesting to find out how they taste.

The seeds produce a fairly stocky looking plant with small trusses of typically 4-5 tomatoes per truss. As expected they produced a plum like shaped tomato, with lots of leaf growth. I found I had to remove a fair few leaves so the sun could get to the fruits.

I restricted the growth to a single stem by removing all the side shoots, in the same way as if I was growing an Alicante, which in hindsight may not have been the best way to grow this variety.

Last but not least we’ve had a go at growing an unusual looking tomato called Tigerella. As the name suggests the seeds produce a stripy looking tomato from a standard looking plant. As with all the tomatoes I grew these on a single stem, in bunches of fruit more akin to a bunch of grapes. I thought this would introduce disease to the fruits, but it didn’t and they’ve produced a good crop of tomatoes.

On to the taste fest!

Cherolla F1 Hybrid

A gorgeous tasting tomato, and so sweet, not even a hint of bitterness. The skins are soft, and the fruits are juicy and have the most gorgeous tomato flavour. For me the most appealing thing about these tomatoes is the size, just pop one in your mouth and wait for the taste explosion! A sure fire winner that I will most definitely be growing again next year.


Cherolla - Cherry Tomato

San Marzano Astro F1 Plum Tomato

Slightly disappointing taste to be honest. Only because I was expecting to harvest a regular tomato that I might make a tomato salad, or just eat them straight off the vine, but they are clearly grown specifically for cooking.

The fruits are fairly tasteless and they are full of flesh. I prefer a juicy, moist tomato, but these haven’t delivered I’m afraid. I will continue to grow them for the rest of the season, and report back on how I got on with them in the kitchen.



To be honest they tasted pretty much of a regular tomato, like the old standard Moneymaker tomato, but with a slightly tougher skin and tangier flavour. I found the flavour pretty uninspiring to be honest, especially compared with the Cherolla, but appreciate taste and flavour is a personal thing.

They will work in a salad, with all the other flavours adding to the tsate, but on its own it’s not really worked for me. Also the striping is almost no existent when the fruits ripen, which is a little disappointing,, given I grew them partly for effect.



I’ll most definitely be growing Cherolla as the taste is superb, the plants are prolific and they are easy to manage. The other 2 varieties have a place in the garden I’m sure, but not for me I’m afraid.

Next year I’m planning to grow ‘Marmande’ a beef stake tomato, along with ‘Black Russian’ a popular Heritage variety that I’ve heard produces an amazing flavour.

Perhaps you would drop me a note if you have any experience of either of these varieties, or any others for that matter.

Thanks &

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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Tomatoes growing away in the Polytunnel
This weekend I’ve been planting out my tomato plants in the Polytunnel.  I’m a bit behind this year I’m afraid as I usually try to get them in the ground by the last weekend in April.


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.

Cherrola Tomatoes

Cherrola Tomatoes on the vine

Soil Preparation

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.

The borders are so dry after months of inactivity

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.

Prepare your planting hole with well rotted compost

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.

Grow my little darlings!

In approximately 2 – 3 months time I hope to picking lovely fresh tomatoes!

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.

Best wishes,


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