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OUTDOOR TOMATOES QUESTION AND ANSWER


Our main tomato article can be found here. But sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article. This page lists their comments, questions and answers. At the end of this page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.


COMMENTS / QUESTIONS LEFT BY OUR READERS

Date: 28 March 2019 From: Jenny
QUESTION: I'm growing several alicante tomato plants on my windowsill. I will be potting on soon. I have a 2 litre pot and a 3 litre pot, how many plants can I put in each pot?

ANSWER: My advice would be to not pot on multiple plants into the same pot. Choose a smaller pot size and transplant each plant into it's individual pot. Saves a lot of root disturbance at planting time.

Date: 27 August 2018 From: Ann C
QUESTION: I have tomatoes growing in my large pot by my front door. They have seeded themselves when using my dish water to water my plants. They have flowers but will the tomatoes be okay to eat?

ANSWER: They will be fine to eat, there is absolutely no problem with that unless you put some very unusual substances in your dish water. Normal dishwater is OK.

Date: 22 August 2018 From: Bob
QUESTION: I have grown two San Marzano heritage plants. One is perfect the other one get rotten on the bottom of the tomato. Any ideas please?

ANSWER: I have grown San Marzano tomatoes again this year after a gap of a couple of years. The disease at the bottom of the tomatoes is called Blossom End Rot and San Marzano tend to be particularly affected. I have an article dedicated to this problem which can be found here.
 

Date: 6 August 2017 From: John
QUESTION: When trying my tomatoes, the skin on them was tough, why?

ANSWER: The most common cause of tough tomato skins is strong sun and high temperatures. The plant reacts by producing thick skins to protect the fruits from damage. You don't say what variety you have grown, some varieties naturally have a thick skin.

Date: 6 April 2017 From: John R
COMMENT: I've been told to put dried powdered egg shells in the compost I use for tomatoes.

Date: 12 June 2016 From: Carlo
QUESTION: Have 2 alicante in grow bags indoors now about 2.5 feet tall flower bunches only 3 or 4 pods is this ok or should I dump them

ANSWER: By "indoors" I assume you mean in a greenhouse. I am reasonably sure that over the next two weeks some more bunches of flowers will appear. I certainly wouldn't dump them.

Date: 28 September 2015 From: Colin M
QUESTION: Can this type of tomato be grafted?

ANSWER: Yes, Alicante is a strong growing variety and there should be no specific problems grafting it.
 
Date: 28 June 2016 From: Fitz
COMMENT: Green toms gently fried with garlic in olive oil is the answer to the late ripeners. Put that on toast mate - yummy!

Date: 19 April 2017 From: Grant
QUESTION: Following your excellent, clear instructions, my tomato seedlings (moneymaker, gardener's delight and losetto) are now enormous, 12-16 inches! I think this is because they have been grown on a warm, very light windowsill. Some of them are flowering now (intending to pinch those out) so I'm very keen to get them planted out following your schedule for my area in the first week of May, and I am hardening them off at the moment.

My question is, what day and night temperature range will they tolerate/thrive in? I'm worried that it's not going to be warm enough for them to harden off over night in time to hit the 1st wk May planting out target.

ANSWER: My routine for hardening off tomato plants is to put them out at day time (bringing them in at night) for a week and then also against a house wall at night for another week.

You know your own climate better than anyone else, and there has just been a few nights of slightly colder night temperatures compared to normal. I would think that a temperature below 7C begins to cause a problem for tomato plants especially if it occurs two or three nights in a row. 4C or below and the risk of damage is significant.

On those figures, I look at the 7 day weather forecast (the Met Office forecast not the BBC or others) on the day I plan to plant them out and take it from there. At this time of year the temperatures can increase quite quickly even over a week.

If space really does become a major problem and the weather just simply isn't acting according to plan, I have been known to move half of my plants off the windowsills and onto the floor of the coolest room of the house. Next day I swap them round. Not ideal I know, but it buys an extra week without any major problems. A week at this time of year a week can make all the difference.
 

Date: 15 April 2017 From: Elizabeth
QUESTION: April 2017 as a novice grower. Wondering why my tomato plants, which are 12 inches high, have flowers on them. They have been in my conservatory.
 
ANSWER: Some tomato plants flower early, some flower late. Growing conditions also influence when flowers are produced.

You are growing your tomatoes in a conservatory which is probably warm so the plants think summer has arrived.

Unless you live in the warmest areas of the UK, my advice at this time of year would be to pinch off (prune off) the flowers and let the plant put all its energy into growing roots and foliage for the moment. It will produce more flowers in a few weeks and these can remain.
 

Date: 18 March 2017 From: Brian S
QUESTION: Billingham In the Northeast the climate is generallu colder than the South. When (roughly) is the earliest I can plant well established tomato plants in a small greenhouse? I appreciate that temp. is important. My plants are ready now to plant to a permanent site (greenhouse, unheated) and I was hoping to do this in the middle of March. You advice would be appreciated
 
ANSWER: It all depends on how much risk you want to take. Billingham in Durham is indeed in a cooler part of the UK. The last frost is normally around late April but most gardeners would not plant out tender plants until mid to late May in your area of the UK. Frost damages tomato plants considerably and in many cases will kill them.

Your unheated green house will give some protection againsta frost but not much - maybe shifting the dates by a week or two. With those comments you can decide if the middle of March is a risk worth taking. I certainly wouldn't take the risk.
 

Date: 6 May 2016 From: Not Given
QUESTION: My sweet millions plants are 20cm high and producing buds. they do not appear to have a main stem developing. Any comments?

ANSWER: One of your points is easy to answer. If the plant is only 20cm high, any flower buds should be pinched out. At this early stage of its development it needs to put all its effort into growing a strong root system and foliage above ground.

As for the lack of a main stem, I'm not 100% sure what you mean. If the plant has just one stem growing from the ground, that is the main stem. Often that stem splits, early on, into two main stems. If that is the case I would let two main stems grow if the plants are not in a greenhouse.

However, if you have more than two "main" stems I would prune away the weaker ones to leave only two. Make the cut cleanly and in dry conditions.


Date: 07 April 2016 From: Elaine M
QUESTION: I am growing sweet millions. Do I let the main stem to grow high or do I pinch it at certain height?

ANSWER: Sweet Million is a cordon type tomato variety. Don't pinch out the main stem, but do prune the side shoots as described here.
Date: 21 July 2015 From: J Blackmore
QUESTION: I'm a bit of a novice a growing, I bought some easy to grow tomato seeds and it said on there I could put in propagator in from Feb onwards which I did, they are now 3 inches high and wanted to know if I should put them in bigger pots outside in my greenhouse
 
ANSWER: Always question what they say on the on the seed packet! Always double check it out.

First, assuming you live in an average UK temperature area (there are significant differences in temperature in the UK), I would suggest sowing tomato seeds in the second week of March, aound now.

The problem with sowing tomato seeds earlier is that the plants cannot stand any frost damage. An unheated greenhouse provides only minimal protection against frost. So I would suggest that the plants are only safe in the greernhouse from mid April. Prior to that the plants need to be kept in a frost free place with lots of light.

You say you are a novice, so you will soon find out how much room your current tomato plants take up - by the beginning of April they will will have grown significantly.

As far as potting up the plants is concerned, that depends on what size of pot they are in now. As a general rule of thumb, they will need potting up when the height or width of the plant is twice the width of the pot.
 

Date: 21 July 2015 From: J Blackmore
QUESTION: A lot of the tomatoes are very small like marbles also the leaves look very tired have been growing in a large window box filled with garden soil for last 3 years, should i change soil?
 
ANSWER: Yes, change it for good quality multi-purpose compost. Garden soil is not the best for growing tomatoes in containers, multi-purpose compost gives far better results.

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