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Thompson & Morgan®: Vegetable Growing Guide

Tomatoes

Sow the seed just below the surface in a tray of peat-based compost. Germination takes 6 - 14 days at 24C (75F). Sow early in the year for greenhouse crops, and early spring for the outdoor ones.

When the seedlings have made two pairs of true leaves prick them out into 3in (7.5cm) pots - see Pricking Out - and place them in a light, warm place indoors or in the greenhouse. The object is to produce short-stemmed sturdy plants. Transplant when the first flowers are showing. The greenhouse plants can be set into well-prepared border soil, into large pots or into units for ring culture. The most widely used method is the growing bag, allowing three cordon plants to each bag.

Outdoors a warm, sunny site is needed to ensure a good crop. After hardening off, set cordon plants 2ft (60cm) apart in rows 3ft (90cm) apart, bush plants 3ft (90cm) apart. Do this after the last expected spring frost. Both cordon and bush plants will do well in growing bags or large pots on a sunny patio against a south-facing wall or fence. Bush varieties need no attention other than a mulch to protect the fruit from being splashed and, in northern districts, protection with cloches to increase the yield of ripe fruit.

Cordon varieties, both in the greenhouse and outdoors, need support. Those outside can be given a bamboo cane to which the plant's stem is tied with either plastic string or raffia. In the greenhouse the stem of the plant is loosely tied to a length of string with the other end tied to a horizontal wire under the roof.

Plants in growing bags should be watered according to the instructions on the bag and fed with a liquid fertiliser, such as Maxi-crop, Tomorite or Liquinure. This should start when the fruit on the first truss has reached pea size. Cordon plants also need the side shoots removing.

Pollination of greenhouse plants can be assisted by gently shaking the plants and by spraying occasionally with water. Greenhouse pests most likely to be encountered are whitefly, red spider mite and aphids. Yellow sticky traps hung among the plants will trap many of the whitefly. A buoyant atmosphere, night and day, and regular misting should avoid attack by red spider mite. Greenfly problems can be remedied by using soapy water or a proprietary aphicide.




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