Outdoor tomato growing Provided that an early-ripening variety is chosen, worthwhile crops of tomatoes may be grown in the garden in most parts. `Outdoor Girl’ is outstanding for its early-ripening quality. In colder parts frames and cloches give protection to the plants during June and early July. Plants may be raised from seed in a cold frame, in an unheated greenhouse, or under a cloche during April in warmer areas.
Many gardeners prefer to buy plants for outdoor growing but this limits the choice of variety and most plants on sale are of varieties which are more suited to greenhouse conditions. The tomato plant is not only killed by frost but is adversely affected by sudden temperature changes and in most parts it is seldom possible to set plants outdoors without protection until early June. About 38cm (15in) should be allowed between plants in rows 75cm (30in) apart. Before planting, the planting holes should be filled with water and planting done when this has drained away. Supports for the plants may be bamboo canes, stakes or a wire trellis. Weeds must be controlled. Growing the plants in a black plastic substitute for mulch saves time and work, a straw mulch may be laid down in mid-July. The plants need tying in regularly to the supports and the central growing point of each plant is removed in late July, when three or four trusses of fruit will have set. Remove all side shoots.
Where a very early-ripening variety was not chosen a great part of the crop may not have ripened by mid-September. Plants may then be defoliated and cloches placed over them. Untie them from the supports and lower them on to clean straw. The cloches are then set over the bed and pickings continue until late October. Where no cloches are to hand all tomatoes on the plants should be harvested during the latter half of September. Most of the fruit will ripen off well in a drawer in a warm room. Any small green tomatoes may be used for chutney.