The Great Tomato Experiment of 2018

When I first got into gardening I always liked the idea of growing edibles and, like many people, started with a few tomato plants in growbags in the back yard.  Although we now have an allotment I still prefer to grow a small amount of produce at home in our tiny back garden which is sheltered and south facing, and so ideal for outdoor grown tomatoes (and chillis).  There’s also nothing quite like being able to pop out of the kitchen and pick a few just ripe tomatoes to gobble up straight away.  I’ve always liked to try different cultivars, and frequently find myself beguiled by those which are quirky colours or otherwise a deviation from the standard red salad tomato you find in the supermarket.

Earlier this year I read James Wong’s ‘Grow for Flavour’ which is full of interesting approaches to getting the best from your home grown crops and made me realise that perhaps my usual criteria of ‘which cultivar is weirdest’ wasn’t necessarily serving me that well!  Amongst his advice on how to maximise the flavour of your home grown toms (apart from choosing the right cultivar) were:

  • grow tomatoes in soil rather than a container of compost because they will have access to a wider range of nutrients
  • feed them with Potassium-rich molasses rather than the usual proprietary tomato fertiliser which is higher in Nitrogen
  • spray them with aspirin (something to do with mimicking plant hormones)

I did none of these things due to a mixture of cost, convenience and time factors, but what did pique my interest was the advice on pruning tomato plants to maximise both yield and flavour.  Essentially, rather than the traditional approach of allowing a plant to form 4-5 trusses of fruit before pinching out the top, plants would be stopped at one truss of fruit.  In theory this should mean plants can be positioned closer together, would not need staking and would allow the plant to focus all of its attention on producing one truss of large, flavoursome fruit.  So this I thought I’d have a go at. Continue reading