Monday, May 9

Ring a ring a ... tomatoes?

Another landmark activity - we are beginning to plant our tomatoes into their final growing places and it seems that for a quite a few years we have been doing it all wrong!

I was browsing a gardening forum where the general consensus was that you should only grow two plants in a grow bag and not mix varieties in each bag ... oops. We do both and will carry on doing so this year too as it has always worked well for us! We don't mix different growing types but the varieties are mixed. The moral is to find what works for you - gardening has never been an exact science.

We don't grow any outdoor tomatoes as they always seemed to be attacked by blight. The year before last even the ones growing in the plot greenhouse were blighted. When our site was more or less derelict then we never suffered from blight at all but now the plots are fully occupied it is a real scourge - no doubt the high density of similar crops is ideal for it to spread. 

We are repeating the method used last year in the garden greenhouse which is to use giant grow bags and ring culture. 

The plants are planted in the inner ring which is topped up with grow bag compost. Its a bit like having a plant pot on top of the grow bag so give the roots more room to develop. Water and food is applied to the outer ring which means that this should go directly to the roots and avoid wetting the leaves too much.

We tried a do it yourself method in the plot greenhouse last year but it didn't work as well and so we have invested in more rings and will use them on the plot too.

We will grow the small fruited tumbling tomatoes in large tubs - the ones grown like that last year were really prolific.

I wrote about the varieties that we were growing this year in an earlier post but in case you have forgotten (and why on earth would you remember?) a list is available here. It also has the date we sowed the seed and how? All had the benefit of a spell in the Indoor Light Garden.


  1. Goodness, I didn't know you weren't supposed to mix varieties either! I was lucky and didn't have any blight problems last year, and "Ferline" is supposed to be quite blight resistant anyway, but I won't be trying them up at the plot. Lovely healthy looking plants Sue. I am looking forward to seeing how growrings compare to just bottomless pots vs. large individual pots. Experimentation and breaking the rules is all part of the fun! BTW, how did your Dahlias do over wintering at the plot? I'm amazed to see that lots of the gladioli I didn't get around to lifting have come through.

  2. We haven't uncovered the dahlias just yet - dreading it as the winter was so bad. One of our plot neigbours lostjust about all of his storing them the conventional way - just turned to mush! He planted some new ones out the day before we had a frost so is hoping they recover.

    We tried bottomless pots in the plot greenouse popped on top of holes in the soil filled with compost and they didn't do very well. It wasn't grow bag compost though and we've had very variable results with compost even from the same brand so it may have been that rather than the system.

  3. What is the reason for only growing one variety of tomato in each grow-bag?

  4. You put them well, nice container, nice bench..., I hope they bear beautiful tomato soon. I always put one tomato plant in a pot...

  5. This is hard to follow;-) because I usually don't remember which tomato seedlings variety I have and just put anything together without a thought.

  6. I don't grow my tomatoes outdoors either. No one on our site does, but I'd rather not chance blight. I plant mine in a container but I was looking at the growing rings the other day in Swillington.

  7. I don't know Mark - no-one said why and I didn't ask as we had no intentions of changing how we grow tomatoes. We grow several varieties and to have a different bag for each variety wasn't going to happen.

    I'm hoping for tomatoes soon too Bangchik

    I don't really think there is a problem with mixing them Diana.

    We're due a visit to Swillington this week Jo. After a couple of years of losing all outdoor tomatoes to blight it isn't worth the effort and as you say the risk.

  8. Seems like you'll be freezing plenty of tomato sauce for the winter! Your production system looks very organised.

  9. It's all looking good dow there on your patch. I'm going to plant my tomatoes in a ring culture too. I just cut the bottom out of a plastic flower pot! Happy gardening down there at Green Lane.

  10. My tomatoes have suffered with blight before; it is so disappointing. Last year was fine though and the only thing I changed was to always water them in the morning instead of evening, don't know if that was what did it, but I'm doing the same this year too. I like the fact that you have don't stick to the rules. It's interesting to experiment.

  11. We hope we will have tomatoes for freezing Linda.

    That's what we tried on the plot last year Matron so if you are successful we will know it was problem compost as we suspected.

    Hi gfmum not to put a dampener on things last year blight wasn't too big a problem but I'm sure your regime will have helped as will removing bottom leaves and letting air circulate. Rules what are they! :)

  12. I find this system very interesting. I don't know what we would do if we couldn't plant tomatoes outside. We had the late blight here in our part of the US two years ago. It was horrible.

  13. It's not good Robin when one minute you have plenty of almost ready to pick tomatoes and the next day they are all blackened.

  14. Your tomatoes look great! mines are still growing, and hopefully will start flowering soon

  15. Those green pots look very smart. I have uglier large black plastic pots with the bottoms cut off sat on a trough of gravel lined with plastic so it retains water. The gravel acts as a reservoir which the longer roots take water from and I feed weekly into the pot were the more fibrous roots take the food. Seems to work and less compost required - the compost effectively there to support the growth initially and then regular feeding takes over. Good luck with them.

  16. I didn't know about mixing varieties...but like you I don't intend to change what has always worked well for me. I tend to grow in tubs at home for some handy pickings but this year I have some on the plot too...some different varieties that were given to me and I have planted in the earth in the greenhouse...They seem to like it and have already started flowering.

    Those rings look kind of fancy. So if I am reading it buy grow bags...tip the soil from the bags into the rings...and water the outer rings?? Do you keep these in the greenhouse?

    Luckily I haven't seen any blight on our plot in the 4 years I've had mine...does anyone even know where it comes from and why?

  17. Knowing you Fer I'm sure you'll soon have lots of lovely tomatoes. Do you grow the small tumbling types as they are ideal for tubs - you could even grow one in a hanging basket.

    I did ask why you couldn't grow three varieties on one bag Tanya but no-one answered.

    Blight spores overwinter on plant debris that has been affected so if any affected plant material is composted or left lying around (not necessarily by you) this can harbour blight. If affected potato tubers are left in the ground then volunteer potatoes also can be affected.

    The spores need warm and wet conditions to spread - if the minimum air temperature is at least 10C, and there is a minimum of 11 hours with a relative humidity of at least 90% then this is called a Smith period and ideal for blight to spread especially if the weather is windy.

    I'm not sure whether very cold winters kills it off but we can hope.


Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment - it is great to hear from you and know that there are people out there actually reading what I write! Come back soon.
(By the way any comments just to promote a commercial site, or any comments not directly linked to the theme of my blog, will be deleted)
I am getting quite a lot of spam. It is not published and is just deleted. I have stopped sifting through it and just delete any that ends up in my spam folder in one go so I am sorry if one of your messages is deleted accidentally.
Comments to posts over five days old are all moderated.