This week’s #BritishVeg hour was an (almost) complete guide to growing tomatoes and chillies. With lots of ideas for which varieties to grow, how to get a successful and disease-free crop, and even a few cooking tips for your harvest.
Starting with tomatoes, it seemed almost everyone had a favourite variety. Here’s a list, in no particular order –
‘Giant Delicious’ – lives up to it’s name in both respects
‘Pink brandy wine’ and ‘Sungold’ (although not everyone agreed on this one) – recommended for flavour
‘Blizzard’ – early, and grows well even in poor light
‘Golden sunrise’ – great taste and a good cropper
‘Roma’ – a traditional plum tomato with good yields
‘Mexico midget’ and ‘Matt’s wild cherry’ – recommended cherry tomato varieties. Matt’s wild cherry is good when grilled as a whole truss
‘Shirley’ – early and heavy cropping
‘Ildi’ – small and yellow, good for volume of fruit it produces, but not so good for taste
‘Red pear’ – a red cherry tomato
‘Costoluto Fiorentino’ – reliable Italian variety with good flavour
Recommended chilli varieties –
‘Hot wax’ – very popular because it’s early, reliable, has reasonable heat and is good for stuffing
‘Corno di Rosso’ – good, but needs to be grown under cover
‘Razzmattazz’ – a hot chilli that makes an attractive plant
‘Aji lemon’ – fruits well, and makes a good chilli oil to go with chicken, also great in vodka
Tomatoes are generally easier and quicker to germinate than chillies – it’s best to start chillies about 3 weeks before tomatoes. Chilli seed also benefits from some bottom heat to aid germination – a good quality heated propagator can make all the difference. Chilli seed can also easily be overwatered, so take care when watering them. Once growing, both tomatoes and chilli plants need good light and some warmth.
There were some mutterings about the quantities of seed found in packets of F1 seed… some of the extra cost of this seed is explained by the breeding process involved. But as it’s only available from the big seed companies, there was some thought that these companies can charge what they like.
Tomatoes can be grown in grow bags, containers or in the ground – each had their fans. If using grow bags, it was recommended that some extra lime be added to the compost to help reduce blossom end rot.
Containers were generally favoured for growing chillies.
When potting on, it’s important to remember that tomatoes will stem root, so plant them nice and deep to encourage this. Chillies don’t produce roots from their stems.
Compost tea and seaweed are good for feeding the plants – and it was pointed out that a well fed plant growing in good quality compost will be much healthier and better able to withstand pests and diseases.
For supporting tomato plants both strings attached to crop bars in the polytunnel or canes were used by growers, some used both (canes tied on to strings).
There were mixed feelings about whether grafted tomato plants were worth the expense – some felt they were for the huge yields, others were less impressed and thought they were a waste of money.
Chilli plants can be overwintered. If they are pruned back each year and repotted they can be kept going for 3-4 years.
Blight was a common problem with tomatoes, especially last year. Aphids were the main problem seen with chillies.
Stephen recommends a weekly spray with citrus extract and garlic – a cure all for all garden woes, it seems! Good ventilation is also important to minimise the chance of fungal diseases taking hold.
And finally, some dates for your diary –
Next Tuesday (21st May) 8-9pm – #BritishVeg will be discussing leafy vegetables and microgreens. All vegetable growers, large or small (in terms of the amount of veg grown…), are more than welcome to join in.
10th August 2013 – Tomato tasting day at Victoriana Nursery Gardens, when there will be 60 plus varieties to try.
21st September 2013 – Chilli tasting day at Victoriana Nursery Gardens.