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Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 10:04 am
by Odsox
After a year's break, I have decided to grow some winter fruiting tomatoes again.
You can't beat picking fresh ripe tomatoes in the depths of winter that have far more flavour than those imported ones in the supermarkets, plus they are more satisfying to grow than any old pot plant.
Some "old timers" will remember that I have grown winter toms for several years, but I have never provided details of the way I grow them at a suitable time to encourage others to try. As it's only the price of a few seeds and a handful of compost it must be worth a go.

I have to admit that I have a bit of a head start as I sowed mine back in September, but looking through my gardening diary I see that they take about 4 months from sowing to the first ripe fruit, so starting now should produce results by the end of February.

To grow them successfully you need to have 3 things, a south(ish) facing windowsill, in a heated room and a well behaved tomato variety.
The room I grow mine in has an electric storage radiator, which doubles as my computer room/play room/study, but any form of heating will do as long as the daytime temperature is around 17c - 20c and night time no lower than 12c, and the windowsill must get as much sunshine as possible. If you draw the curtains at night in your chosen room, it may be wise to move the pots into the room on cold nights.

I have grown several varieties over the years and the best I have come across so far is Totem. It's well behaved in that it doesn't flop all over the place, it's quite dwarf so doesn't take over and the reasonably sized fruits are very tasty. But as tomato taste is very subjective you can of course try other varieties for yourself, just look for varieties recommended for container growing but I would steer away from the "basket" varieties that cascade over the container edge.
Other than the above there is no "secret" to growing winter tomatoes, if you can grow them in the summer and you can provide the indoor space and the above conditions, then you stand a very good chance of being a successful winter tomato grower.

Sow seed as you normally would, probably best in a heated propagator by now. I like to sow in 2" pots and pot on progressively when I see roots growing through the drain holes, until they are finally in 7" or 8" pots.
Don't over water, wait until the compost is almost totally dry, even to the stage that the lower leaves start showing signs of wilting. Then give a good soak, watering from the bottom saucer, being sure not to leave excess in the saucer as they don't appreciate being waterlogged.
When the first fruits are visible start feeding with tomato fertiliser every watering, and that's it, no secret concoctions, no incantations, no magic, just a bit of (un)conventional indoor gardening.

I'm growing 5 plants this year and they are now at the 4" pot stage with tiny flower trusses just showing and I will post photos now and again to show the plants at different stages, but more importantly to goad you on the have a go yourself. :lol:
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Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:04 pm
by Green Aura
I was reading an article about this very topic, just last week. It suggested using the pinched out side shoots to continue growth of summer plants. Have you ever tried anything like that?

I ripped out all our tomatoes from the polytunnel, at the weekend, and find one young, healthy looking side shoot so I pinched it off and stuck it in one of the beds. Due to Hurricane Gonzalo I haven't ventured back out since but I think I'll pot it up and bring it in and follow your instructions from there.

I'll let you know how we get on - unfortunately I don't know what variety it is and it will no doubt start to get too tall. I should be able to pinch out the top though, yes?

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:18 pm
by Odsox
Yes I have tried using side shoots and while they do work I found that there is very little difference in the time taken to produce fruit.
Worth doing though, especially as they are free plants.
Pinching the top out will work OK, but if it was from a very strong growing plant it will probably ignore your wishes and throw out side shoots everywhere including off the leaf midribs in an effort to thwart you.

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 1:25 pm
by MKG
I'll follow this with avid interest, Tony. Unfortunately, the idea of growing tomatoes in the house seems not to appeal to OH. I can't imagine why, as she tolerates my having various stages of fermenting wine all over the place. Oh - perhaps that's why :lol:

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 2:52 pm
by diggernotdreamer
I am really going to give this a go, but I think my house is a bit of the colder side than yours Tony, I have a fair few plants that have been volunteering and are of a good size now.

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:31 pm
by Odsox
Update ... all 5 are now settled into their final pots and languishing in the afternoon sun.

The difference in size between them is not so marked now, although the one on the left is definitely lankier and the one on the right chunkier. There are pea sized fruit on 2 of them, well petit pois sized fruit anyway.
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Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:59 pm
by Green Aura
Mine didn't survive the transplant from the polytunnel to the house! I'll have another go next year, starting them off indoors. Keep us informed.

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Thu Nov 20, 2014 8:25 am
by okra
Very interesting and well worth a try

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 6:36 pm
by diggernotdreamer
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Got 5 plants on my little windowsill, they seem to be doing ok

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 7:15 pm
by Odsox
What variety are they DnD ?
They're looking good though, but bigger than mine so I'll race you to the first ripe tomato. :iconbiggrin:

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:00 pm
by diggernotdreamer
Odsox wrote:What variety are they DnD ?
They're looking good though, but bigger than mine so I'll race you to the first ripe tomato. :iconbiggrin:
Not 100 per cent sure, they were just some volunteers that came up and grew quite well. They may well be broad ripple yellow currant, they look a bit like them......... you'll beat me, I know you will

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:10 pm
by becks77
What variety please and where from at this stage in the year. :)

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Dec 10, 2014 4:05 pm
by Odsox
Those are Totem, or to be strictly true the are from saved Totem seeds, so Totem F2
Nickys Nursery sell them (along with others) http://www.nickys-nursery.co.uk/seeds/p ... htm#VEG358

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2014 9:01 am
by becks77
thanks OS taking a look :)

Re: Winter Tomatoes - again

Posted: Wed Dec 24, 2014 12:29 pm
by Odsox
Update .....
The first tomato is just starting to colour up, 15 weeks after sowing.
Interestingly (for some) it is on the inward side of the plant, away from the sun.

I have to admit I made a mistake, I left the plants too long before potting on. They were in full flower at the time and they decided to explore the new found space in the bigger pots rather than set fruit, so only fruit that was already set are on the lower trusses. It's now setting fruit again, but after a gap of some weeks.
Still, you learn from your mistakes. (except countries who think they can conquer Afghanistan)
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