We have all seen the ads on the internet promising you can start Growing rainbow tomatoes. But as you may have guessed from the date – April Fools! I know a lady that brought these “amazing” seeds thinking for all the world she was going to get purple and pink tomatoes. But photoshop and unscrupulous sellers have a lot to answer for. At best she might get regular tomatoes, at worse she got something you don’t want in your garden.
But before you despair you can grow lots of colours of tomatoes and grow yourself a natural rainbow of tomatoes. Heck, you can even grow stripy ones – I know because I have.
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Growing Real Rainbows of tomatoes
When the gardening season is in full swing, there is nothing I enjoy more than planting a new crop of cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are my favourite and I think, easiest of all tomatoes to grow, cherry tomatoes come in a rainbow of colours and a pleasing variety of shapes. In addition to the round red classics, such as ‘Sweet Millions’ and ‘Gardener’s delight,’ there are bite-size plum and grape kinds, all available in yellow, green, pink, purple/black, white, and stripy varieties like Tigerella.
Planting your Cherry tomato seeds
To start tomatoes, sow the seeds 1/4-inch deep ina good potting-soil mix six to eight weeks before your last frost. Keep the containers in a warm place at 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit until germination occurs, then move them into full sun near a south-facing window or if you have no light – grow lights. When all danger of frost is past and the plants are about six inches high, harden them off, then transplant them into a full-sun area of the garden. They should be spaced two or three feet apart in a well-drained soil amended with a good amount of organic matter.
When you plant them out I suggest planting them deep nearly up to the first leaves. Tomatoes will grow roots up the stem and this makes the plants stronger.
At transplant time, and again when the fruits are beginning to set, fertilize with fishmeal, chicken manure. Add crushed eggshells to help with blossom end rot.
Tips for Looking after your Tomatoes
- Stake or give your tomatoes a trellis to clamber up.
- Keep your tomato plants evenly watered
- Pinch out side shoots as they can sap energy from the plant
- Tap the plant support around midday to encourage the spread of pollen when they are fruiting
- Feed when the fruit has set with an organic liquid feed like comfrey
Problems your tomatoes might face
Fruit Splitting – A common problem with tomatoes caused by irregular watering with some varieties more prone to this than others. A more regular watering regime should solve this problem.
Calcium Deficiency & Blossom End Rot – Blossom end rot is a dark and often rotting area around the base of tomato fruits and is caused by a shortage of calcium. The problem may be under watering as calcium uptake is slowed in drought conditions. Again, a more regular watering regime should solve this problem.
Magnesium Deficiency – The symptoms are yellowing of the leaves while the leaf veins remain green, older leaves are affected first. Remedy the problem by using ground magnesium limestone.
Pests and Diseases
These are the most likely pest to affect your tomatoes. They look like tiny moths and lay eggs on the underside of leaves. The growing eggs feed on the leaves, leaving a sticky substance which attracts other diseases. As soon as you see the eggs, try spraying with water to wash them off and remove others by hand. I squash them!
There is an excellent biological control available, a tiny wasp which feeds on whitefly. ‘Encarsia Formosa’ eggs are available mail order.
Blight is a gardeners nightmare- This is caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans which is also the cause of potato blight. The signs are brown marks on the leaves which quickly increase in size. If left, any developing fruit starts to turn brown and rots. You can’t even throw blight infected plants in the compost bin as it might remain in the compost.
Aphids (Blackfly and Greenfly)
Planting Marigolds really does attract beneficial insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies and these love to eat blackfly. Spraying the plants with water also works – it simply knocks the blackfly off the plant.
This is the best part of tomato growing picking fresh cherry tomatoes on a warm summers day. There is nothing better and pick them regularly when they are ripe to encourage more tomatoes and read all about How to ripen tomatoes and a Tasty green tomato chutney if they are staying green thanks to a damp Irish summer.
Varieties to try
Sweet Millions – This is a heavy cropping tomato, producing luscious, shiny, red cherry-sized fruit that keep well over a long period. Ideal for the greenhouse or a sunny patio. I love this variety and it grows well for me.
Sungold – A superb orange-coloured, cherry-fruited tomato with a vigorous habit,luscious flavour and exceptional sweetness. Grow indoors or out
Black tomato Indigo Rose – A true super food with extremely high levels of vitamins and antioxidants. Specially bred for extra nutrition, it contains the same antioxidants as blueberries. Ensure the fruit ripens completely before picking (past the fully black stage, when the skin becomes suffused with shades of indigo/rose), and enjoy it fresh, or even better, cooked. Smoky barbecue flavour.
Firecracker – A compact, naturally trailing variety which is ideal for pot, basket or patio. Throughout the season plants will produce around 60-80 fruits and it looks fabulous.
Tumbling Tom Yellow – With all the attributes of its red brother, this outstanding trailing
cherry variety tastes equally delicious and looks as attractive on the patio as it does on the plate!
Hundreds and Thousands – This amazing tomato is perfect for hanging baskets or patio containers. The cascading plants live up to their name, producing literally thousands of sweet, juicy, grape-sized tomatoes in an inexhaustible supply throughout the summer
So, what lessons can we learn cheeky April fool of mine?
First, that there are plenty of scam artists out there using faked photos of vegetables, fruits and flowers to con you out of your money. Other gardening ripoffs involving seeds that don’t deliver the goods are black strawberries ( although you can grow white ones) rainbow roses and Square watermelons, but there are many others.This is easy to fix: only order seed from reputable seed companies like Suttons.
Secondly, and most importantly: If it doesn’t look real, it probably isn’t!
Thirdly, there are lots of true fun Tomatoes to grow and you should try at least one in your garden.
Learn how to grow other tasty vegetables in the garden
- Growing unusual Vegetables in your own backyard
- How to grow your own Lentils
- Growing your own popcorn
- Growing Runner Beans in your garden
You can find all my gardening post here – Organic Vegetable Gardening Posts on Snapshot and Snippets. Or sign up today for the Weekly Snapshot and Snippets newsletter and get FREE garden printables to help you start your own kitchen garden.
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