By Robin Nelson
Get a close-up view of the lifetime of a tomato.
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Extra info for Tomatoes
Farmers and gardeners who save their own seed have always selected the best performing plants to provide seed for next season, and the tomato helps the process, as one fruit can contain up to 200 seeds. Plants raised from these seeds have the best performers selected once again, and in three generations the plants come largely ‘true to type’. THE NAMING OF NEW CULTIVARS The rules that govern the naming of plants are fairly broad when it comes to cultivar names, but it can be difficult for a plant breeder to find a name that has not been previously used; consequently it is quite usual to name a cultivar after a person.
Fruits can be slow to ripen and prone to splitting. In the UK the following policy is suggested for beefsteak types: • Use a stake for support rather than a string; once the plant develops fruit it gets very heavy, and strings can cut into the stem. • ‘Stop’ the plant sooner than other types; these tomatoes are suited to longer summers than the UK delivers. Settle for fewer but better tomatoes. • Truss prune to restrict the number of fruit, and put an extra tie on the stem above each truss or there is the danger of the fruit truss breaking off under its own weight.
Moneymaker’ tomato planted in a polytunnel on a Kenyan farm. Plastic mulch is used for water conservation. ‘Shirley’: Of the more modern cultivars, the F1 hybrid ‘Shirley’ has made the transition from being a commercial greenhouse variety to a popular back-garden subject. It has compact growth with short internodes – quite unusual in modern commercial varieties – so is particularly well suited to the small greenhouse where height may be lacking. It fruits very reliably, with the fruit being of a consistent size and quality.