Pamper tomato plants

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High summer brings the pleasurable daily ritual of pampering your tomato plants. Ripe fruit needs to be picked and there’s careful watering to be done: sudden deluges lead to split fruit, while erratic watering leads to blossom end rot. Steady and just enough water is far better.

• Feed pot-grown plants. Water the compost fortnightly with a high-potash liquid tomato feed.
• Remove leaves that are directly shading fruit trusses. This will help green fruit to ripen.
• Snap off side shoots from cordon types. These grow diagonally between leaf and stem; it’s easiest when plants are plump with water. Bush tomatoes don’t require pinching out but they sometimes need a few carefully placed sticks and string for support unless they’re one of the tumbling, hanging-basket cultivars.
• Remove the tip of outdoor cordon plants. Make sure they’ve set four trusses of fruit, or up to seven trusses in the greenhouse. This encourages plants to focus their energy on ripening existing fruit.
• Take off the lowest, yellowing leaves. This will  encourage good airflow around plants, which reduces the risk of disease.
• Watch for tomato blight If it strikes, salvage what you can – green tomatoes are good for chutney. Compost the plant in your green wheelie bin. Daily checks help you spot problems early;  when you’re growing outdoors, choose blight-resistant cultivars.
• Beat whitefly. Use yellow sticky traps or try introducing encarsia (microscopic, parasitic wasps) as a biological control.

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EASY RECIPE
This makes an unbeatable starter to share outside before a barbeque. Have
a tray ready in the centre of the table with garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil and a bowl of prepared tomatoes.

You will need:

• Two big handfuls of ripe tomatoes • A small handful of basil leaves • Extra-virgin olive oil • Sea salt and black pepper • Sourdough loaf cut into 1cm thick slices • 1 peeled garlic clove per guest (it’s too fiddly sharing cloves)  

1. Prepare the tomatoes first. Halve and squeeze out the pips, slice out any core then chop into 1cm (1/2in) pieces. Place in a bowl and add the torn-up basil leaves, a good drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir and set aside.

2. Toast the bread on a barbeque or griddle pan until nicely striped on both sides.

3. Rub the hot bruschetta with the garlic clove and drizzle over a little olive oil before spooning on the tomato mixture.

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