Now that we're in May, it's time to plant out the tomatoes, putting them into their final growing-tubs. They are certainly getting too big to remain in those 5" pots.
For me, the number of tomato plants I grow is really determined by the space I have available. I would dearly love to have a glut of tomatoes in the Autumn, but I don't think that is going to happen! I know from previous experience that I will have space for about 12 large tubs.
I know this is a gross over-simplification, but for me tomatoes come in basically two types - the "determinate" ones that never get very tall and therefore don't require support; and the "indeterminate" ones that do grow tall and do require support. I usually grow some of each. This is what I have this year:-
Maskotka - cherry-sized fruit, red
Tumbling Junior Yellow - cherry-sized fruit, yellow!
Ferline - medium-sized fruit, red (this one is the best variety you can get for blight-resistance)
Rainbow Beefsteak - large, up to six different colours (each plant produces fruit of only one colour though!)
Green Zebra - medium-sized fruit, stripey green
Sungella - medium-sized fruit, yellow
Tropical Ruby - smallish, plum-shaped fruit, red
This is how I provide suport for the indeterminate tomato plants.
These are cunning gadgets originally marketed as cane-supports for use with grow-bags, but they also happen to fit quite conveniently in the big plastic tubs I use.
After setting up the cane-support, I fill the tub with compost (some home-made, some commercial) and a handful of pelleted chicken manure. Then I put in the tomato, planting it quite deeply to promote the formation of a strong root system, and secure it to the cane with a few turns of soft garden twine. A good watering, and we're done...
Here is the end result: 8 pots with canes, for the tall varieties, two without (one plant each of Maskotka and Tumbling Junior Yellow).
I also put in two Physalis plants. According to the seed packet, these will only reach a height of 50cm / 20", so I have not provided them with any support.
Now this year's "Piece de Resistance" - three more plants in the huge tub I made from half of that old water-butt that Rosemary gave me. This tub is going to live on the patio. In it I have put two plants of Maskotka, and one of Tumbling Junior Yellow.
This massive pot is filled with home-made compost (it would hold about £20-worth of commercial stuff!) and weighs a ton. To help with moving it about whenever necessary, I have fitted it with two handles made of old washing-line cord. Tomato plants are thirsty and dislike erratic watering (this can promote the dreaded Blossom End Rot), so I reckon it is best to put them into really big pots, since these will be less likely to dry out and easier to keep at a constant level of moistness than small ones will be. Tomatoes in small pots may need to be watered twice a day, which can be a very time-consuming commitment.
Phew! I'm glad that job is done. Getting the tomato plants sorted out is a major milestone in my gardening year, and I always feel a bit relieved when I have achieved it. The work doesn't stop there though, because these plants will need much more care and attention before I can reap my reward. They will require side-shooting, tying-in, watering, etc, etc, throughout the Summer. Not that Im complaining - I love growing tomatoes, and I think it's worth all the effort. My biggest worry is the knowledge that outdoor tomatoes are very vulnerable to blight, and once blight comes along there is not much you can do about it, so the effort may all be wasted in the end. I sincerely hope it's NOT.