I’ve been blogging and vlogging about tomato growing in Scotland for some years now. The big learning from it all has been that the size of tomato you choose to grow can make the difference between huge harvests of tasty tomatoes or frantically googling recipes for fried green tomatoes or green tomato chutney on a rainy day in September.
Let me explain, basically tomatoes are a warm-weather crop – they originate from the sunny, hot, hot, hot climate of South America and need heat for the fruit to ripen. And on top of that, the plants need a fairly long, warm season to being the huge plants to maturity for them to start flowering and fruiting – that’s BEFORE you are even trying to ripen the fruit. So you can see why a lot of folk struggle to grow them in Scotland.
The easiest way around this, as I’ve mentioned before, is simply to grow in a greenhouse. The benefit of the greenhouse is that it extends your growing season. Letting you start early and finish late as well as providing a much warmer than usual climate. However, as I said at the beginning of this post, the size of the tomatoes you grow can help. Think about it like this. The larger the actual tomato, the longer it will take to ripen that fruit, so if you want lots of ripe tomatoes, growing small, cherry tomatoes works a treat in Scotland. Even if you don’t have a greenhouse, you can grow them outdoors in your garden in a sunny sheltered spot.
Now, this year, we are trying something a bit different as an experiment, we are growing dwarf tomato plants. Yup, tiny little ones. They give you cherry-sized fruit but the plants themselves are small too, so in total they need a shorter growing season, and the small fruit should ripen fast enough for us to enjoy them in our Scottish climate.
I actually sowed my tomatoes in early April and they are now big enough that they can be potted on. At the minute I’m still keeping them in the greenhouse as they aren’t big enough to cope with pests outdoors yet (our garden is a complete slugfest), but if you aren’t a greenhouse grower, these plants are small enough to grow on your window sill.
We chose 4 varieties of dwarf tomato to try:
- House, and
- Ola Polka.
A mix of red and yellow cherry tomatoes and of size of plants. All are very small dwarf or patio-sized plants, but the Latah has more of a sprawling habit. They are also all bush varieties so don’t need pruning. Generally easy to grow. Unfortunately only 3 of the varieties germinated for us, so much to our disappointment, we didn’t manage to try “House” this year
We have lots of folk from all over the world joining in with us on this big outdoor growing experiment, so feel free if you want to jump in, or if you are growing along, you can share your pics with us and everyone else using the hashtag #GrowAlongWithEli
If you want to catch up with our fun experiment, the playlist of videos is below. Including the very latest update as I pot on the outdoor tomatoes and add the greenhouse “control” plants to the quadgrow self-watering planters in the greenhouse.