Tomatoes are one of the most popular polytunnel plants, and it is easy to understand why this is the case. These delicious fruits can be eaten raw or cooked in a huge range of different recipes. They are incredibly versatile and are a crop that can provide an excellent yield in a relatively small space. By late spring/ early summer, tomato plants sown inside earlier in the year will be ready to plant out into the growing areas of your polytunnel. How you decide to grow the plants will determine the size of the yield you are able to achieve in the space available. Cordons for tomato plants can help make the most of the space available.
Creating the Cordons for Tomato Plants
Before you transplant young tomato plants into your polytunnel, it is worthwhile taking the time to create a cordon framework. This framework is a structure that will allow you to tie in tomato plants and grow them vertically, rather than allowing them to form irregular bushes. This space-saving idea can help you make the most of the space in your polytunnel.
Cordons for tomato plants can include:
- Garden canes, or sturdy sticks, firmly inserted into the soil of growing areas.
- Garden wire, tied to the crop bars of your polytunnel and affixed at the ground with (for example) old tent pegs.
- Twine, again tied to the crop bars of a polytunnel, and either weighted or pegged at the base of each strand.
In each case, one vertical support is provided for each tomato plant.
Transplanting Tomato Plants
Once you have created the cordon framework, it is time to prepare the growing area and to transplant your young tomato plants. Prepare the planting area by top dressing with a good, organic compost or organic matter, to ensure a good general level of soil nutrition. Plant tomatoes slightly deeper than they were in their pots when they are around 20-30cm tall, to ensure good, healthy root systems for a good yield of fruits later in the year.
Tying in Tomato Plants & Pinching Off Side Shoots
As the tomato plants grow, tie them into the cordon supports, using twine and loosely looping it in a figure of eight around the plant stem. Don’t tie it too tightly, as the stem will obviously grow as the plant gets taller.
Pinch out side shoots that appear between the leaf stems and main stem, to ensure that the plant puts its energy into flowering and fruiting rather than putting on excessive leafy growth. In order to make the most of all resources at your disposal, it is worthwhile considering that side shoots that are pinched off the main plants can be rooted to create new tomato plants.
Mulching/ Feeding Cordon Tomato Plants
Once four flower trusses have formed, it is a good idea to remove the growing tip of your cordon tomato plants. This will ensure that the energy goes into forming fruits.
Tomatoes will benefit greatly from the addition of potassium-rich feeds and mulches. Comfrey is an excellent resource in this regard. Water with comfrey tea, or mulch with comfrey leaves, once flowers begin to form.
Check out our growing guides for more information about planting and tending to your tomatoes.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.