Caption: Terry with son David
Caption: Choosing tomato seeds

In this blog series, we will hear bi-weekly top tips from expert tomato grower Terry Marshall. Terry was given his first garden for his 7th birthday and has been gardening ever since. In those days most gardeners were ‘organic’, although the phrase had yet to be coined. After a conventional horticultural college education, he eventually became a commercial glasshouse grower specialising in tomato growing. Alarmed by the ever increasing use of pesticides and herbicides, he decided to return to his organic roots, in Bingley, where for 40 years he has been a freelance organic gardener, researcher, speaker and writer. 


Terry’s Top Tips, 1. Getting started, choosing tomato seed

Warm, sweet, succulent tomatoes…sun ripened globes of delight with their blend of sugar and acid and that distinct smell. The very thought of them lifts the spirits on a cold winter's day. So, lets make this a reality…by making 2021 the year of our best tomato crop ever...

The difference between a heavy crop of delicious fruit and a mediocre one is by using our personal facilities to grow a crop within the natural laws that govern the plant. We will look at these laws and how they apply as the season progresses.

With so many varieties of tomato available which ones shall we choose? After carefully reading the details of variety, size, colour, flavour, early or main crop, disease resistance, cordon, bush, dwarf or family preferences!

Broadly speaking, cherries along with early varieties, given good growing conditions will produce ripe tomatoes 15 to 17 weeks after sowing. Some of the larger beef steaks will take a month longer and in a poor summer 22 to 24 weeks before the first fruits are ripe.

For many years, I started the season with ‘Stupice’ an old Czech variety which will produce ripe fruit 16 weeks after sowing and grow at lower temperatures than most other varieties. Another very useful variety is ‘Red Alert’. This 18 to 24 inch tall plant can easily be grown in a 10 inch pot or container and can be moved around to make take advantage of any odd spot with good light and warmth early in the year. Later it can be pruned back to produce new growth for a second crop in autumn.

Next time…Sowing and germination

1 comment

  • Janice

    19 February 2021, 12.02pm

    Sounds like any varieties with shorter growing season would be very useful in Cumbria, too. I plan to try one of these.


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