Many of you will be looking to coax a couple of tomato plants into fruit this summer. Whether bought ready to plant from the garden centre or carefully raised from seed, tomatoes have established themselves as the nation’s number one home-grown food crop. From tiny, sweet-like cherry tomatoes to massive, kilo-heavy beafsteaks – and everything in-between – our appetite for this aromatic and delicious fruiting vegetable never wanes
For many gardeners the preferred housing option for tomatoes is the growbag. The growbag offers a convenient, self-contained unit suitable for patio or greenhouse. They can be positioned just about anywhere that’s sheltered, warm and sunny – usually against a south-facing wall or within a greenhouse or polytunnel. It’s worth paying a little bit more for a quality bag with a generous volume of compost. Standard 30-litre grow bags will rapidly become exhausted and tend to dry out quicker during the height of summer. Bags with a larger compost volume give more room for the roots to explore and, ultimately, less erratic results.
Buy well-filled growbags or doubled up standard bags by stacking them on top of each other to give a larger volume of compost and better stability at the root zone. To double up, open out the top of the bottom bag and then score several slits along the bottom of the top bag before setting them together. Use string or gaffer tape to secure the bags as one until the roots from the tomatoes ‘knit’ them together.
For the absolute best results combine your growbags with the ring culture method of growing tomatoes. In this technique bottomless pots are set on top of growbags to increase soil volume. This makes watering and feeding plants easier as the liquid is simply applied to the tops of the pots and allowed to drain through – far easier than watering directly onto grow bags where water can run off in streams without seeping in. Tomatoes have two types of roots. Those near the surface primarily seek out nutrients, while those that delve deeper go in search of water. The ring culture method exploits this as the nutrients are delivered at the top of the bottomless pots (or rings) while regular watering will ensure moisture penetrates deeper down into the body of the growbag.
Ring culture can also be used in conjunction with border-grown tomatoes, delaying exhaustion of greenhouse soil and enabling tomatoes to be grown in the same positions for several years in a row without having to dig out and replace the soil at the end of each season.