It is Labour Weekend and that means we are all going to be exhorted to get into the garden centre and spend, spend, spend on our summer vegetable gardens. In our cooler climes I think it pays to wait for a week or two before planting the most summery of crops, but I do not know about this year. Even though it has not been very sunny, we have had a mild spring, with next to no frosts. Even when we have had a southerly outbreak, we have dodged the icy bullet by having easterlies with their attendant clouds.
So, let’s just go ahead this year and get planting tomatoes, peppers and the like this weekend – or maybe next.
This is all predicated on the soil being ready to receive the plants. If you are a traditional dirt patch sort of gardener (as opposed to the newer “raised bed filled with potting mix” sort) you should have already worked your soil up, by adding some compost and fertiliser.
I have a slight problem this year. As you will be aware we have had to dig a new garden, and I have made about half of it out of soil from the recycling centre. This will have been made largely out of a mix of clippings from the local recycling centre and some treated soil, but the clippings present a threat. They will almost certainly include some week-killed grass clippings and some plants, including tomatoes, absolutely hate even a trace of these chemicals. I will have to take care to make sure I put the plants into the old soil.
I have already worked some fertiliser into the soil, but I will also add some dolomite to help keep the nutriment balance right and will add some slow release general fertiliser to the soil when I plant, as I know I am unlikely to remember to give the plants the amount of side dressings they ideally need. The next step is to put the stakes in place. You do not want to wait until the tomatoes are already planted as you will damages the young roots as you hammer the stakes into place.
I am assuming you have not saved your own seed, and are going to have to buy some plants in from the nursery. If you have been growing F1 hybrid plants (and I think you should be) then you cannot save your own seed as they will not come true to type. If you have been growing an open pollinated variety you could have saved the seed last autumn, and have sown about a month ago, but it is probably a bit late now.
You will probably find a slightly bewildering array of plants on offer, with old favourites like ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Grosse Lisse’ available, as well as a wide range of both heritage types and more modern hybrids. Personally I think you should go for modern F1 hybrids for the bulk of your plants. I know many people believe they are not as flavoursome as the old types, but I think that is a misapprehension based on supermarket fruit, which are picked before they are properly ripe. Grow a modern type like ‘Taupo’ and you will never go back to the older ones.
Among the good modern ‘Moneymaker’ types you could look out for are ‘Taupo’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Better Boy’, while larger fruited types include ‘Better Boy’, ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Big Beef’. If you are a fan of Italian types you will probably prefer the old fashioned ‘Italiano’, which I think is as good as any, but you might struggle to find that. ‘Roma’ and ‘San Mazarno’ are two good modern types.