Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Accommodating the Tomato

"The tomato is so accommodating in flavour that it lends itself to all styles of dishes, and is equally delicious in them all. On the continent it is in common use, but the Americans appreciate it even more highly than the French, and, exhausting all methods of combining new culinary delicacies, eat it in it's raw state, just gathered as a bonne bouche, at an early breakfast. Fresh tomatoes may be cooked in a variety of ways: cut in thick slices and fried in a little butter, they form an excellent addition to a matutinal chop; or a fresh and delicate flavour may be given to the time-honoured rasher at breakfast, by mashing them up with a little butter and seasoning, and simmering them over the fire for a few minutes until thoroughly hot through..."
Our Wartime Kitchen Garden -The Plants We Grow and How We Cook Them (1917) by Tom Jerrold

A slightly late start this year owing to not having the greenhouse put together until April, but some fruits are now beginning to turn orange. There is a lot to learn about growing under glass, a lot of things that I'll do differently next year. Fewer plants and more space around them (25 are crowded in there, probably 16-18 at most next year), careful pollination and better support. It was so simple when I first grew them back in Canada. Plant out on Victoria Day, stake them and water occasionally and by September we'd be enjoying a matutinal toasted tomato and crispy bacon sandwich. I never encountered blight, magnesium deficiency, dry set (I thought that it was brilliant that the fruit was staggering it's development until it dawned on me that those tiny ovaries are never going to swell) or blossom end rot. The greenhouse should protect against the blight which has snuffed out the crop 4 out of the past 5 years but -whew!- the watering (twice a day), pruning and tying. I had no idea how quickly they would grow in here, taller than I've ever seen them, taller than me. I climbed the ladder and pinched out the apical shoots once they got to be massed and tangled in the roof spine. But, fingers (and legs) crossed we'll get to eat some of this year's crop.


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about too many plants. I have 32 in my greenhouse, and it's completely full. The plants are pressing on the glass on all sides, and in turn the greenhouse is supporting the plants like a giant tomato cage.

As I think you know, it's my first year too with a greenhouse. I'm curious to learn from your experiences.

In my case, the greenhouse can't easily be made airtight because some of the glass is broken and it was not well made to begin with. I decided to just leave the door open, with only a bit of netting to keep the birds out. In this way I don't think I need to worry about pollinating, because the insects can come and go as they please.

Even though my greenhouse seems very full, it doesn't seem like a big problem yet and my plants are not growing unusually tall. My heirloom tomatoes almost always reach 2 meters anyway, and that's about what these are doing. I suppose if I have any disease problems it will spread like wildfire.

I also have a number of early determinate plants (9 of the 32 plants), planted in between the indeterminate ones. The intention is to pull out those plants soon after I harvest from them, probably in a few weeks.

Black Sea Man has turned out to be a great early determinate variety. I'm just about to save some seeds.

Misshathorn said...

Mine are all indeterminate this year. But I can see that in theory your plan might be a cunning one. The season can definitely be extended beyond what I am familiar with. Perhaps next year I will experiment with rooting and potting-on the side shoots that I pinch out.
Also, this year I'm doing pots. This is not the way forward. Do you know anything about straw bale culture in glasshouses? This might be something that I want to try.

Anonymous said...

Determinate tomatoes tend to be the earliest, and that's another reason for planting them. I must admit, I could use more space now, and it's still going to be a while before the determinate plants can come out.

If you're pinching side shoots, that's probably why your plants are growing so tall. If you prefer bushy to tall, leave the side shoots on the plants! I personally never pinch side shoots, but I know many other people do.

Straw bale culture sounds interesting. Why don't you want to plant directly in the ground, do you have wilt or other disease issues? Would you bury the bales, or leave them above ground? If you bury them, or at least push them up against each other, they might retain moisture better.

I'm kind of wondering it it's worth it to try to make my greenhouse airtight, maybe even replace it with a new one. Besides extending the season, do you find a closed greenhouse an advantage?

Misshathorn said...

Yes, well I normally don't pinch out when they are growing out of doors but felt I had to in here to prevent overcrowding. I may create a raised bed and plant in the ground (it came with staging, hence the pots this year) but I want to research the straw bale method as there might be some advantages - heat & water retention...