End June 2020: The Tomato Journey so far

Surprisingly its now 106 days since I sowed most of my tomatoes. Fruit is now set on all but six of the thirty or so cultivars that I sowed but there’s no reason to suspect that the rest won’t set in the next few days.

Based upon past experience, its still a couple of weeks or so until the first fruit will be ripe and (my guess) is that it will be a race between Bloody Butcher and Quedlinburger Fruhe Liebe for the Indeterminate varieties and Maskotka and Kibits Ukranian for the Determinate varieties. Its not a fair comeptition between the two different types as all my Determinate varieties are outdoors and all the Indeterminates are in the greenhouse. Anyway I’m always keen to get the first fruit as they always taste the best.

The slow cultivars are (as one would probably expect) the beefsteak varieties with little sign of fruit (although lots of flowers) on Pink Brandywine or either of the Mortgage Lifters. However Summer Cider (my favourite tomato) looks to have a reasonable crop forming.

The weather this year has been a bit up and down with a hot spell in May followed by a cold & wet spell in early June and the last few days up in the high 20’sC. High temperatures are never good at this time as they discourage fruit setting on the tomatoes as the temperatures in the greenhouse hits 40C and there’s nothing I can do about it.

In the rest of the garden, other vegetables are beginning to show with courgettes, french beans and swiss chard starting to crop. Lettuces are producing more than we can eat but the “difficult” period where they don’t germinate easily is upon us so sometime over the next few weeks we are likely to have a gap. The sweetcorn are growing strongly as are the carrots, beetroot, and summer cabbage. The spring cabbages have germinated and are growing ready to be transplanted and florence fennel has popped its head above the ground. I have tried this twice before, once with success once as a failure so it will be interesting to see what happens this time they seem to bolt. Radishes are over but (because I’ve lots of seed) I keep sowing. They just won’t heart up regardless of how much I water them.

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Blight in my greenhouse?

If there’s one word that strikes fear into tomato growers, it has to be “blight”. More people seem to be looking on the internet trying to see if they have blight than almost any other problem. The reason is simple, if you get late blight, it’s simple to spread throughout your whole crop, it will quickly destroy your plants and infect your fruit and there isn’t a lot you can do about it.

Blight is caused by Phytophthora Infestans and spreads rapidly in warm damp conditions. Whilst relatively common in outdoor tomatoes, especially when grown at allotments near to potatoes, it is less common in greenhouses because it tends to be spread on damp leaves.

Early Blight is a different problem, caused by Alternaria solani And, whilst relatively common in the US, is less so in the UK but is becoming more common. Fortunately, Early Blight is less aggressive and if you cut off and destroy affected leaves may not affect the crop too much.

My interest in Early Blight has been sparked by the fact that (I think) it has struck this year on one of my plants. What’s interesting about the plant it has struck is that it has been grown from seed I saved from Mountain Magic, an F1 hybrid which is supposedly Blight Resistant. Now I realise that The saved seed will not have inherited all the Blight resistance of the F1 hybrid but the parents were chosen because of their resistance. The plants I have grown are very different from each other (some are potato leafed and some are regular leafed). The plant affected is regular leafed and I would love to know whether the original parents were different leaf types or whether I’ve got something different again.

Anyway, I have cut off the affected leaves and will keep an eye on the plants and decide whether to take them out if they get worse.

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Tomato Progress & Selection

I’m always trying to think of different ways to compare the different cultivars. In the early days (when I was even keener) I weighed the harvest from each of the different cultivars to see whether there were significant differences that would influence my decisions as to what to grow.

What I learned was that there is significant difference between individual plants of the same cultivar and that therefore using the quantity as a measure was not a good idea. (Do you reject a cultivar because it happens to have a few “bad plants”.

Taste is easier but more personal. There are fruits that I like but my better half doesn’t and you can almost certainly guarantee that cherry tomatoes will have a sharper taste than beefsteaks. Again, if anything, I’ve learned that ripeness is the most important thing, picking fruit before its ripe will (in all probability) lead to a less pleasant tasting tomato but leaving them for too long to go overripe in general will result in something that loses flavour. (That said, there are some cultivars that never seem to have a decent flavour and others where I struggle to decide if they are ripe or not).

Then there’s resistance to pests & disease. Some cultivars seem to be more likely to get Blossom End Rot regardless of what you do and (in my growing conditions) late ripening cultivars are more likely to get mould as they have to stand through some of the autumn and perhaps into early winter. Blight is also a problem if growing tomatoes outdoors. However, I’ve found it unlikely under cover and away from allotments.

So this year I am keeping a record of how long it takes the cultivar to go from seed to first (and last) harvest. That will allow me to compare and contrast another aspect of the cultivars and to confirm the figures I’ve included in the descriptions.

Watch this space to see the answers for the 30+ cultivars I’m growing this year.

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2020 May 27th – First Tomatoes Set

Its always pleasing when you start to see that you might get some tomatoes this year. It feels earlier than normal but, looking back through the calendar, its neither the earliest (nor the latest).

This year the first ones I’ve noticed are: Bloody Butcher, Kbits Ukranian and Mountain Magic. The Mountain Magic are an F2 (saved seed from an F1 Hybrid) which I’ve tried to grow before without success. However, this year, because I don’t have the allotment any more, I’m growing them in the greenhouse. I’ve again got two distinct plants, one potato leafed and one regular leafed. They’re both growing strongly. Its the potato leafed version which is the first to fruit. The other is flowering but no obvious fruit yet.

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Recipe: Carrot Cake

In previous years, I’ve grown more beetroot than we’ve been able to eat, beetroot is good pickled, but as a vegetable its less useful. This year I decided to replace the beetroot bed with carrots so my guess is I’ll get more carrots than we know what to do with so I’ve been looking for recipes to use them before we’re overrun.

Obviously carrots can be added to stews, salads and so forth but this is a excellent carrot cake recipe which makes a change


  • 250g Grated Carrots
  • 140g hard margarine
  • 150-200g caster sugar*
  • 140g sultanas
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g gluten-free self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice*
  • 1tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 50g chopped mixed nuts

*Adjust the amount of sugar and spice to suit your own taste.


Grease a 2lb loaf tin and set your oven to 180C/160C Fan

Beat together the sugar & margarine until soft then stir in the carrots & sultanas, then add the beaten eggs a little at a time to avoid the mixture splitting.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

Bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until cooked (check it with a skewer).

When cooked, take it out and leave it to cool.

That’s it, the cake is excellent slightly warm (although its not simple to cut), when cooled and as a pudding with fruit, custard, cream or anything else you like.

Carrot Cake

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Tomato Urban’s Delight

From the 2019 seed swap something we are yet to know exactly what it is but probably something like Gardener’s Delight.


This is a slightly unusual activity. The allotment website that we visit had a “largest truss” competition and this was the winner (in fact it had such a large truss that nobody else bothered) with 60+ fruit. The person who grew it (Urban) said it was “just a Gardener’s Delight. The question was asked whether it was a singular freak or a genetic modification which could be inherited. Urban agreed to distribute the seed through the seed swap and we are growing it out to see that it does.

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Recipe: Slow Cooker Leek & Potato Soup

This is an incredibly simple recipe and produces an acceptable soup. (Acceptable because like all soups with potato in them, it tends to be a little “gloopy”.

Its barely even worth a layout:

The ingredients are (as you would expect): Leeks, potatoes, stock (vegetable or chicken- enough to cover the leeks & potatoes) and pepper (we never add salt to anything, there’s enough in the stock).

The method is: Chop the leeks & potatoes into relatively small pieces. Add the stock and cook in the slow cooker on high for about four hours. By this time everything should be soft so whizz it with a stick blender and hey presto you’re done.

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Growing my Tomatoes in lockdown

Tomatoes Growing

I’m not sure if I grow tomatoes in the same way as other people. My desire (usually) is to grow as many different varieties as I can fit into the available space and, because of the weather in the UK, this usually means growing them in the polytunnel or greenhouse. This year however, I think productivity is at least as important as the number of varieties so I’ve decided that I will aim to fill the greenhouses with tomatoes and also grow some outside hoping that the weather will be kind.

What you see above are two trays of 7cm pots, each of which were sown with five seeds. The trays conveniently take 15 pots so in an ideal world with perfect germination I would have 30 pots of five plants. Now of course the world isn’t perfect and four cultivars had no germination (possibly not warm enough) and some have fewer than five plants (in fact some have only one). I have sown some more to try and make up for the lack of plants but they will be running behind.

At the moment, because of the cold evenings, the trays are ported into the greenhouse in the morning and then back into the utility room for overnight.

When the plants are a little larger I will stop watering them for a couple of days so that the compost dries out a bit and then pot the plants up into individual 7cm pots to let them grow on. Some (probably 60 plants, four trays) will continue to be ported in and out and others will be left permanently in the greenhouse, trusting to luck that they survive any cold nights. Some of the plants would normally be culled at this point because I only have space in the greenhouse for 40 or so plants.

When they fill the 7cm pots, they will get transferred into 9cm pots. At that point I can only get eight pots in a tray and the plants will be 9-12 inches tall making it much more difficult to transport them to and from the greenhouse so I will leave even more outside permanently. Again, some will be culled, except this year I might try to keep the maximum number of plants to increase the crop of tomatoes.

Hopefully, by the start of June the frosts will be over and I’ll be able to plant them into their final growing pots or in the ground.

Below the tomatoes are my plugs of lettuces which I sowed at the end of March. They don’t get the luxury of being carried in and out but they’ll get potted up to 7cm pots in much the same way as the tomatoes to give us the volume of lettuces that we seem to eat through the summer.

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Tomato Father Frost

A “standard” red tomato on short potato leafed indeterminate vines


This tomato is from the 2019 seed swap so this page will be updated as we get more information

As a potato leafed variety, it is a little different from the standard tomato. However, it is supposed to be early and (in our experience) many of the early varieties are potato leafed (Bloody Butcher, Quedlinberger Fruhe Liebe, Stupice) so there’s no real surprise there. Its supposedly of Russian/East European origin as again are many of the early varieties so we’re hopeful that this will prove tasty.We are also growing Bloody Butcher in 2020 so it will be interesting to see which comes first.

Quick Facts

  • Fruit Type: Standard
  • Fruit Shape: Round
  • Fruit Size: Medium
  • Fruit Colour: Red
  • Flesh Colour: Red
  • Plant Type: Semi-Determinate
  • Leaf Type: Potato
  • Seed Type: Open Pollinated
  • Ripe Days: Early
  • Taste:
  • Our Source: 2019 SS
  • Origin: European – Did Moroz
  • Alternatives:
  • Fruit per Truss:
  • Truss Spacing:

Buy Your Seeds Here

Prices given are for a packet of seeds (and may be wrong) different suppliers have different numbers of seeds in a packet.

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Tomato Dancing with Smurfs

A blue cherry tomato on Indeterminate vines.


Another blue cherry tomato from the 2019 seed swap.

The web suggests that this was first created at the Oregon State University and further developed by Tom Wagner (a well know tomato breeder) and released in 2012.

My guess is that its colour will depend upon the amount of sunshine so we’ll have to see how it does in the UK.

April 2020 Update

The seeds germinated well and the plants are growing nicely. They have a slight purplish tinge which is not unexpected.

Blue tinge – Other tomatoes treated exactly the same much greener.

Quick Facts

  • Fruit Type: Cherry
  • Fruit Shape: Round
  • Fruit Size: Small
  • Fruit Colour: Blue
  • Flesh Colour: Dark
  • Plant Type: Indeterminate
  • Leaf Type: Regular
  • Seed Type: Open Pollinated
  • Ripe Days:
  • Taste:
  • Our Source: 2019 SS
  • Origin: USA – Tom Wagner
  • Alternatives:
  • Fruit per Truss: ?
  • Truss Spacing: ?

Buy Your Seeds Here

Prices given are for a packet of seeds (and may be wrong) different suppliers have different numbers of seeds in a packet.

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