I’m useless at growing tomatoes the ‘normal’ way. I never seem to get them strung up right onto their supports, or am too late tying up the ripening bunches before they split the stem under their own weight. I forget to pinch them out so end up with an impenetrable tangle of misshapen top-heavy plants that flop on surrounding vegetables or deprive them of light. Then I invariably manage to break half the fruiting branches trying to sort them all out. And I always seem to end up with bottom end rot. If they weren’t so delicious I would begrudge them all the space they take up and their high maintenance.
But high maintenance isn’t nature’s way. So last year I left a self-seeded one to its own devices to see what would happen if I just let it do what came naturally. It took up an entire raised bed section by the time it had finished sprawling everywhere, but it did fine for the lack of attention and gave us much more tomatoes than my inexpertly tended ones, although some went rotten for sitting on the ground too long. So I hit on the idea of growing them off the edges of the terraces, and this year have planted two reasonably reachable terrace edges with a variety of beef, plum, vine and cherry tomatoes to see how they all do.
So far, so good. They all look extremely healthy, despite the fact that lack of time and water for the hosepipe has meant that care has been sporadic. None had been watered for a fortnight before I managed to get to them this weekend. The only effect of this seems to have been in retarding the growth of the plants somewhat. Those with a headstart and some trickle-down dampness from the solar shower are now tumbling over the edge of their terrace wall and the fruit is beginning to ripen. Far from being a problem, the usual chaotic tangle of unpinched-out plants seems to be mutually supportive and there is no sign yet of the weight of fruit on any one plant dragging it out of the ground or bending the main stem to breaking point, which is something I’d wondered about.
And the first fruit is now ripening. No bottom end rot!