Review of the Year: Tomatoes

Bags of loverly Dalefoot compost

I ate my last home-grown tomato for breakfast this morning, so I thought I'd have a look back today on how this year's crop fared. It's been my best tomato season ever, partly helped by the weather and then boosted much further with the gifted 'Crimson Crush' seeds via Dalefoot Compost, who invited me to trial their new tomato compost this year.

A few years ago I almost gave up growing tomatoes, because I can only grow them outdoors where they're at their most susceptible to blight. However, recent success from Simon Crawford's tomato breeding programme has resulted in not only strong blight resistance in his tomatoes, they're full of flavour* too. 'Crimson Crush' is one of his and were supplied for this trial by Pennard Plants, yay.

The compost trial set up

I almost despaired this year too. June was unseasonably cold and my tomato plants took on an alarming purple hue. Luckily the weather soon turned warm and when my friend from Oz came to stay in early July, she remarked on how healthy my plants looked. Now I can honestly say that is really down to Dalefoot's compost rather than my care. I've always been a bit hit and miss with feeding my tomatoes, so it's great to have an option where I don't have to feed them for the entire season. However, a trial wouldn't be a trial without a control for comparison, so as you can see from my top photo I grew half of my tomatoes in my usual vegetable compost without any extra feeding.

It was just as well I had a bag of each compost as all my 'Crimson Crush' seeds germinated. I had to commandeer all kinds of pots to accommodate them all as I couldn't bear to throw any of them away. Here you can see my set up - the back pots are my actual trial as these 4 pots have exactly the same conditions and with unlimited access to water as those pots are self watering. Reading from left to right we have vegetable compost; tomato compost; vegetable compost; tomato compost. Out of shot are a further 8 large pots of various sizes to maximise my crop. We eat a lot of tomatoes, so I didn't mind them jostling for position on my sunny patio.

Tomato weigh-in

So how did I do? This is my biggest tomato ever. It won't challenge the giant veg guys, but I'm very proud of this one... ...which came from a tomato compost grown plant. Overall, I had 20% more tomatoes grown in the tomato compost compared to the vegetable one, and they weighed just under 30% extra i.e. I harvested more and bigger tomatoes from the new compost ๐Ÿ˜Š

Blossom end rot

However, it wasn't a totally successful season as I had my first ever experience of blossom end rot. The usual wisdom is this is due due to lack of calcium and/or moisture, but seeing it also happened in the plants grown with constant access to water irrespective of compost type I don't think it's the case with my tomatoes. This source also mentions planting out in cold soils can be a factor. It looks like the cold start my plants had in June might be the culprit. Certainly as the season went on, the incidence of blossom end rot lessened, then finally ceased altogether.

A 'nosy' tomato

On a lighter note, I also had my first incidence of 'nosy tomatoes'.

A nice healthy tomato

Happily, most of my tomatoes looked like this one, even when blight affected the plants later in the season. I only had 2 blight affected tomatoes in the entire crop. It seems the fruit can remain healthy when blight is about, and the plant itself keeps the blight at bay for a long time.

Windowsill ripening

Once the blight did take a fatal hold several weeks later in  October, I made a final harvest and set my tomatoes out on the windowsill to ripen as shown above. I find with this set up the tomatoes ripen slowly over several weeks. That's why I've been able to eat home-grown until today.

And the flavour? They were yummy from the first, right until the last.

How did your tomatoes fare this year?

* = my early trials with new blight resistant varieties such as Ferline weren't good as the results tasted insipid.

Comments

  1. My experience with the Dalefoot tomato compost was disappointing. Plants may not have needed so frequent watering but plants always looked hungry. I took pity on them and fed liquid tomato feed but yield was still very poor. I had no other control compost as fortunately I had planted others in my polytunnel soil and these were superb (same variety - Sungold)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's interesting, because I had lots more tomatoes than usual and the plants were much healthier too. That's the beauty of having people trialling in all kinds of conditions, it's much more real :)

      Delete
  2. I've used the Dalefoot seed compost this year for all my seeds VP - it turned out to be a good experience. Will have to give the tomato compost a go. My tomatoes were ok this year but not as prolific as last year's harvest.

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