Beware changes in the weather

Tomatoes starting to ripen (S)
Tomatoes starting to ripen (S)
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Martin Fish, Director of Harrogate Flower Shows this week insists patience is required to ripen fruit and outdoor plants, even in the best weather.

So far this summer with the high temperatures and levels of sunshine, tomato plants have grown much better than last year when it was cool and damp. Even greenhouse tomatoes suffered last year and many were affected by blight caused by the horrible weather conditions. Despite the slow, cold start to spring plants are now growing well and if not already producing ripe tomatoes, they should soon start to. Tomatoes growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel are easier to care for simply because they are in a protective environment and not affected as much by weather conditions. Outdoor plants are more prone to changes in the weather, especially if it turns wet for a lengthy period. Hopefully by now, your plants will have made plenty of growth and several trusses of developing fruits. In order to help the fruits to ripen there are a few things you can do. Firstly, the plants need to be watered on a regular basis and the soil or compost should never be allowed to dry out. This is particularly important in hot weather and it may mean watering twice a day, morning and evening. If allowed to dry out the fruits won’t develop properly and may also split open. Try also to keep the foliage and fruits dry when watering to prevent possible fungal infections. Feeding is also important and a high potash fertiliser will certainly help fruit growth and ripening. Any tomato feed is ideal and should be applied once or twice a week from now onwards. As the fruits start to ripen I also remove a few of the lower leaves from the plant. There are two schools of thought on this, but my theory is while the leaves are green and healthy they are feeding the plant, but once they start to yellow and discolour, their job is done and they can be removed.

A little extra care and attention now will help the tomato crop ripen over the next couple of months, but at the end of the day the fruits will only ripen when they reach maturity, so don’t be in too much of a hurry!

Readers’ questions

Arthur Johnson from Ripon has been in touch to ask about summer pruning apple trees. He’s been told to wait until August, but already the trees have made lots of long new growth on his cordon trees

August is the traditional time to summer prune trained fruit trees grown as cordons, espaliers or step-overs. Basically the long new shoots produced this growing season are cut back hard to just and inch or so to the old establish framework of branches. This process instantly tidies up the tree making it look much better, but it also means that all the plants energy can be directed to the developing fruits. Although it is only just August, I’d get on with it.

Jobs for the week

Finish planting out winter cabbages in order to give them time to grow and establish before the autumn.

After the recent rains some plants will have perked up a little, but the ground is still dry in many places so continue to water new plants.

Cherry trees requiring a little shaping can be pruned now while they are in full growth. Don’t prune too hard though as it will affect flowering next spring.

Read more:

It’s been a good year for roses

Dealing with summer pests