Training tomato plants

How to successfully grow crops for use as food and fiber and in large quantity for sale. We also talk on how to minimize production cost of these crops.
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Training tomato plants

Post by AdexAgro » Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:14 am

Training your tomato plants will depend on the varieties and types of tomatoes grown. You may see varieties referred to as ‘cordon’, ‘indeterminate’ or ‘determinate’. Don’t be put off by these terms!

Indeterminate-these varieties of tomatoes are the most common and are grown as cordons (single stemmed plants with side shoots removed). They will grow very tall - sometimes taller than 2.5m in very warm conditions.
Bush/Determinate - these varieties stop growing sooner than indeterminate varieties with the stem ending in a fruit truss. They are referred to as ‘bush’ and ‘dwarf’ types (suitable as hanging basket tomatoes) and don’t require any pruning.
Semi-determinate - these are similar to indeterminate varieties (grown as cordons) only they produce shorter plants.
tomato plant With indeterminate and semi-determinate varieties (cordons), tie the plants to a support as they grow. You will notice side-shoots appearing where the leaf stems joins the main stem (the leaf axil). Regularly pinching out of tomato side shoots will concentrate the plant’s energy into producing fruit. When the cordon has reached the top of its support, cut out the tip of the main stem 2 leaves above the top flower truss. For the best quality fruit it’s best to let no more than 6 fruit trusses form on the plant. If the tomato plant hasn’t reached the top of its support by late summer, cut out the main tip anyway to allow the remaining fruits time to ripen.

Determinate varieties (bush/dwarf types) don’t require any pruning or training and will happily sprawl along the ground or pot they’re growing in. Determinate varieties may stop flower production after several trusses, but upward growth can be carried on by training up the topmost side shoot.

Top tip
We were fascinated by Joe Maiden's article in Kitchen Garden (January 2012 issue) where he described how he accidentally created a multi-cordon Sungold tomato plant, when one of the plants fell out of its box prior to planting and snapped off the growing point of the stem. The plant grew sideshoots, which Joe decided to train as cordons, creating a multi-stemmed tomato plant. He removed the side shoots that grew from these new stems and ended up with a 60-truss plant by the end of the season!

Common problems when growing tomatoes

Tomato blight
One of the most common problems when growing tomatoes is tomato blight, which spreads quickly throughout the plant in wet weather, causing the plant to die and the fruits to decay. The symptoms are brown patches on all parts of the plant. It is much more common in tomatoes growing outside than tomatoes growing in a greenhouse. You can prevent blight infection by spraying Bordeaux Mixture on your plants in early summer. Growing blight resistant tomato varieties will also help to overcome this fungal disease.

Fruit problems
Most tomato fruit problems are caused by irregular watering. Examples include 'Blossom End Rot' (dark patch at the base of the fruit, more common if the plant is grown in a grow bag), 'Blossom Drop' (flower bud falls off), 'Dry Set' (fruitlet growth stops when the fruit is the size of a match-head), and 'Fruit Splitting'. The key is to give your tomatoes an even, regular amount of water at the base of the plant. Too much water too late tends to be the problem in most cases, especially with plants grown in pots and grow bags.

Other problems tend to be caused by too much direct sunlight. Tomatoes need high light intensity to grow well, but too much can cause blotches, scalds or spots on the developing fruit. 'Greenback' is a common problem caused by too much sunlight, leaving the ripe fruit with a hard green area on its ‘shoulder’. If this is a problem increase the potassium in the plants' feeding regime and use fleece or shading as a cover in the hottest part of the day. It may also help to use resistant varieties such as ‘Alicante’ or ‘Craigella’.

Insect pests
As with most plants look out for green and white fly - both can spread viruses. Spray with a recommended insecticide as soon as any pest is noticed or for organic gardening use a natural pest control. Planting marigolds such as ‘Tomato Growing Secret’ and similar flowers will attract beneficial insects that will eat the pests.

Leaf problems
If leaf yellowing starts on the older leaves and moves upwards it may not be a virus but a deficiency of magnesium. It is a common problem which is not serious if the plant is otherwise vigorous. It can be remedied by using a special magnesium feed if required but this is not essential.

You may also notice curling of the leaves; this can be caused by aphids sucking the sap out of the leaves. If there is no sign of insects then it is most likely caused by cold temperatures at night (more noticeable in early summer) and this is nothing to worry about. If you notice anything unusual affecting both younger and older leaves such as mosaic patterns, streaks or distorted leaf surfaces, your tomatoes may have a virus. If you believe your tomatoes do have a virus, the plant or plants must be removed and destroyed as there is no cure for viruses. Avoid handling other tomatoes, or using the same tools on your tomatoes until the tools have been thoroughly sterilised and your hands washed in hot soapy water.

Harvesting your tomatoes

Start picking your tomatoes as the fruits ripen and gain full colour. When frost threatens at the end of the season, lift any plants with unripe fruit on them and hang them upside down under cover. Tomatoes can be successfully frozen if you find you have a glut.

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