This week has been all about tomatoes!
After waiting patiently for the fruits to turn that lovely ripe red colour, I’ve finally been able to start harvesting my Moneymakers and the big old Marmande beefsteaks.
For some reason (old seeds I suspect) my Gardener’s Delight haven’t come to much this Summer, which is disappointing as I love the little sweet fruits. The Marmande are making up for the GD absence, and are turning out to be prolific again.
If you’ve never grown Marmande before, I’d thoroughly recommend giving the variety a try. They’re a really meaty tom, which slices easily and is ace in a sandwich. I bought mine from vegetableseeds.net, amazing value at just 75p a packet.
Looking Out for Blight
The ripening of my tomatoes hasn’t been without its worries, however. Now is prime time for tomato blight to strike, especially with the wet weather we’ve had recently. Blight is a horribly demoralising disease that can wipe out entire tomato crops.
This happened to me last year. Fresh veg doesn’t come much better than tomatoes, and I was heartbroken. Real Men Sow wasn’t a cheery allotment blog during that period, I can tell you!
To help prevent blight this year, I’ve planted my tomatoes a good few feet apart to aid good airflow and light around the plants. Space also helps the plants dry quicker after wet weather.
I also try to keep the foliage dry, and always water from the bottom of the plant. Watering early in the morning is a neat idea too, as the foliage can dry before night time.
My mum’s top tip is to give the plants a haircut and trim almost all of the leaves off, except for one or two of the stalks. This not only helps airflow but brings on the ripening process quicker as more sun gets to the fruits.
I’m still too much of a chicken to try this tactic, as it seems too much to me, but mum reckons it works a treat on her plot. Maybe next year…
The onset of blight can be identified by browning foliage and shrivelling leaves. Try to keep a daily watch on your tomato plants, as speedy action reduces the chance for the disease to spread.
Nip off of any dodgy leaves as soon as you can, and throw them away. I chuck infected plants into my Council green waste bin but don’t be tempted to add them to your compost.
Pulling up blighted plants is important on an allotment, as the disease will spread quickly to neighbouring plots.
For me, protecting tomatoes is one of the most important tasks for Summer, as you don’t get much better on an allotment than fresh, homegrown tomatoes. I’ve actually stopped buying tomatoes in Winter, as the taste is so bland in comparison.
Oh, and don’t be tempted to pick a pale tomato – you’re missing out! Try and leave the fruit on the plant until fully reddened. This way, you’ll guarantee your tomato will be as tasty and juicy as possible.