Sowing Tomatoes: San Marzano

Little did I know when I received a copy of Kitchen Garden magazine that I would be growing one of the most unknown but used tomatoes of our time.

Shortly after sowing the Red Cherry tomato I sowed San Mazarno plum tomatoes. I really wanted to grow plum tomatoes because not only do I not grow them that often, but when I go abroad, especially Poland in the summer, I often see them and think how wonderful they are.

So I Googled San Mazarno tomatoes to write this post and I was amazed at the information available. In short, it’s probably one of the most canned and used tomatoes in the world and you will have probably used them from either a can, sauce or puree without even knowing it.

It’s a very highly regarded variety and has been referred to as the ‘most important tomato of the 20th Century’ – I would expect this because of the food and manufacturing industries it’s fuelled and sustained over the years.

One of the reasons why it’s used for canning is because the flesh is thicker than other varieties of plum tomatoes and there are less seeds. Making it a very profitable product.

I for one are very excited to see how these turn out and I hope they last through UK climes, or we have a decent Italian style summer to help ripen them.

Like the Red Cherry, this variety will require bamboo cane support and the side shoots taken out as they grow.

I honestly had no idea what I was sowing when I planted these seeds – I guess that’s one of the wonderful things about gardening is that discovering different varieties can take you by surprise.

This year I’m growing 4 types of tomatoes and this is the third after after Gardener’s Delight and Red Cherry.

Have you grown San Mazarno plum tomatoes before? Were they any good? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂

Sowing Tomatoes: Red Cherry

I discovered Red Cherry Tomatoes last year, and ever since my discovery I thought – I must try and grow them. So my favourite cherry tomato is Gardener’s Delight and I think I’ve been quite vocal about this, so these will be a nice addition to my tomato collection this year. That’s right, I’m still growing Gardener’s Delight 😉

Let me tell you how I discovered Red Cherry Tomatoes. Last year, when I was at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show I came across the Hobbit garden in the main tent and I was able to sample some Red Cherry tomatoes in the little front courtyard at the front of the garden – and I have to admit, the flavour really took me by surprise. It was probably the sweetest tomato I’d ever tasted. And I know what you’re thinking, it’s Chelsea, it’s bound to be particularly excellent…But it really was!

I remember the the foliage being a real deep green and the tomatoes were such a deep lipstick red – they were a real stereotypical red tomato colour, which was absolutely fantastic!

I also noticed that they planted basil with their tomatoes, which not only looked great but apparently kept pests at bay. I think this added a real Italian edge as well, we all know that tomato and basil goes hand in glove. So I’ll definitely be doing this at my allotment.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

All I know about Red Cherry Tomatoes is that the manufacturer is Mr. Fothergills and that you sow them like every other tomato seed.

They’re also an indeterminate tomato variety, which means that when they grow they’re going to need support from a bamboo stick and some string. I’ll also need to pinch out the side shoots in order to stimulate growth and encourage the plant’s energy into going into producing lovely delicious tomatoes!

I’d love to know if any one else managed to sample this wonderful variety at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower show, plus anyone else who’s ever grown this particular variety – are they as sweet and tasty as I remember?

Dealing with tomato blight

I thought I’d gotten from getting a touch of tomato blight this year, but it turns out that in the end I wasn’t so lucky.

I visited the allotment this week and I found that my Gardener’s Delight tomato plants were showing the early signs of blight – something I’ve not had now for about three years or so.

Getting blight on your crops is not a pretty experience. It all starts with the leaves beginning turn brown and shrivel. You’ll also notice that black and brown legions appear on the stem of the plant. Over the next few days (hours even) those legions will spread and soon the whole plant will begin to decay. The tomatoes also then begin to turn a brownish-yellow and fall off.

If you’re lucky enough to catch blight in the very early stages, you can pick the green tomatoes that are on the plant and hope for the best that they will ripen in a fruit bowl sitting next to a banana.

What is tomato blight?

According to the RHS…

The late blight pathogen is a microscopic, fungus-like organism whose sporangia (spore-bearing structures) easily break away from infected foliage and may be wind-blown for long distances. The actual infective spores are released from the sporangia into water and need to swim in a water film before settling on the plant surface and penetrating into leaf tissues; this is why the disease is so serious in wet summers. The pathogen then spreads rapidly, killing the cells. Under humid conditions, stalks bearing sporangia grow from freshly killed tissues and the disease can spread rapidly through the crop.

Source: Potato and Tomato Blight

Tomato blight can be a real pain because it can stay present if old tomatoes or foliage are left in the ground or if the remains are transferred to the compost bin. Typically, tomato plants that are planted outside are most at risk as they’re exposed to weather conditions that could bring on blight, or winds that are carrying blight from other locations.

The best ways to dispose of plants that have suffered from blight is to either bag them up and take them to the local dump or to have a bonfire and burn them.

Planting Tomato plants: Gardeners Delight

We’re on the cusp of the summer months and I finally get to plant out my Gardener’s Delight tomato plants.

Gardener’s Delight is a Cordon/Indeterminate variety which means they grow as single stemmed plants. Shoots that grow between branches (otherwise known as side shoots) are nipped out so that most of the plants energy will be going into the fruit. You can grow them to any height – and when you’re happy with the height at which they’re growing you can nip the tops of the plant out.

Gardner’s Delight tomatoes reach around a 7.0 on the the Brix scale, making them the perfect tomato to snack on or to mix into a salad. The Brix Rating is a measure given to the amount of sweetness in a particular mixture or item. The higher the rating, the sweeter the fruit. You can read up on the Brix Scale here if you’re interested in reading up on how different factors can effect plant growth and the final outcome of your fruit.

Whether you’re growing your tomato plants outside or in a greenhouse – they need something to grow up against. This not only supports the plant against the elements but also helps the to support the plant when it has the weight of the fruit to contend with. Bamboo canes are ideal for this, they’re available at pretty much any garden center and you can reuse them for years to come.

 

I’ve got 9 plants in total, so I’ve planted three plants, in rows of three so that there’s plenty for me to move in between the rows, pick the fruit and do some weeding. Planting plants outside is very easy, you just dig a hole big enough big enough for the root stock and bury. When securing your plants to the bamboo stick, first tie the string around the bamboo stick and then to the plant, using a figure of eight in between the two. This knot will allow greater movement for the plant as well as keeping the integrity of the knot.

Tomato plants attract a lot of greenfly and blackfly and you know when you’re plants are being affected because the leaves begin to curl up. The leaves curl up because the aphids are sucking out the sap of the plant, causing the structure of the leaf to buckle. I’ve planted marigolds in the bed as well, and will most likely sow some more as the weeks continue.

Separating Gardeners Delight seedlings

Since sowing my Gardeners Delight seeds they’ve come up a treat – however, I do think they’ve gone a little bit on the leggy side. Seedlings go leggy because they’re stretching towards the light (meaning that they may have some light restrictions) and the result is a slightly over tall, disproportionate plant.

A good indicator of knowing when to separate your tomato plant seedlings is the presence of the second set of leaves. The sooner you can separate these plants the better.

Gently pat out the seedlings from the pot and the seedlings should break apart from the pot revealing their main root ball.

Fill two inch pots with multi-purpose compost and make a hole in the center of the pot for the the seedlings. Try avoid handling the seedling by the stem as this could damage the plant, instead handle the plant by it’s leaves and root stock.

Place the seedlings in the pot and cover the base of the seedling well.  Because my seedlings are on the leggy side, I’ve tried to bury the seedling as close to the first set of leaves as possible to try and strengthen the plant.  I’ve moved these seedlings into an area that has better access to light so that they don’t continue to get leggy.

When I plant these outside I’ll look to mulch these as this will help retain water during the warm dry spells and also had some much needed nitrogen into the ground. I’ll plant the marigolds that I’d sown earlier to keep the black fly attack down. I’m also considering sowing some spring onions, again for pest management, but also make the most of the space that I have.

I’ll also have to employ some measures to keep the slugs at bay too as I’ve read that slug attacks are said to be higher than usual this year thanks to the mild winter.