Back in May, I was lucky to receive three small pots of tomatoes that my father had grown from seed. These small plants were the popular Gardener's Delight variety of cherry tomatoes. Since the weather was past the real risk of frost, it was time to pot them on into bigger containers and leave them outdoors. I cared for these plants and, finally, in the middle of August, I enjoyed the fruits of my labor.
Here is lots of information and detailed photographs on growing these tomatoes outside in containers. I did end up moving these into the polytunnel when the weather was particularly bad in July. Otherwise they were left outside. Next year, I shall be starting my own varieties off from seed.
Information on This Variety
- Position needed: full sun
- Type of soil: rich fertile
- Ideal for: patio, kitchen garden, greenhouse and polytunnel
- Hardiness: half-hardy
- Flowering Period: June, July, August, September
- Sowing Months: February, March, April
- Harvest Months: July, August, September, October
- Height: 200 cm (79 inches)
- Spread: 50 cm (20 inches)
Gardener's Delight is a plant that is normally grown as a cordon or indeterminate variety. This means that they should preferably be grown upwards (and not as a bush plant) and normally with a single main stem by removing any sprouting side shoots. It's a large cherry tomato variety and very popular due to its consistent reliability with performance as well as flavor and taste.
Potting into Final Sized Containers
It was the beginning of June when I potted the plants I was given into their final size of container. The size of these were 12 x 12 inches and this was possibly a little on the small side according to popular recommendations. However, as you'll see, the container size did not stop many fruits from growing. So I will stick to this size for next year since it wastes less compost too.
When re-potting, I put bamboo sticks into the containers at the back. These 5 ft poles are a necessary support to tie the stems to as they grow upwards. The sticks can help to prevent the plants from leaning over, drooping and perhaps even snapping with the weight of the tomatoes.
I also got my husband to make some plastic pipes which have holes drilled in along one half. I placed the tubing into the containers at the same time as re-potting. The drilled holes went deep into the compost with the pipes extending up from the soil level. These tubes allow some air to get to the roots and can also be used for watering. The water then goes directly to the thirsty roots below the surface. The pipes are not necessary but it was a tip I read about and wanted to test out.
Mulch went over the top of the compost to stop the soil from drying out too quickly and to help keep it moist underneath.
The tomatoes put on a large amount of growth in a very short space of time. It is fun to compare this photo with the previous one which was only taken about 5 weeks earlier. By this point they all had about 5 trusses.
Why and How to "Pinch Out" These Tomato Plants
Use this Method on all Tall or Cordon Based (Non-Bush) Varieties
Explanation of a Tomato Truss
In case you're new to growing these, truss refers to the stems on which the yellow flower buds grow. It's these flowers that can turn into the tomato fruit. You'll see a photo of these above; I ringed them in yellow because they are hard to spot between all the foliage. These grow up the main stem(s) of the plant.
Some people recommend only letting 5 of these trusses develop before pinching out the top one on the main stem. This way the plant puts all its energy into developing the tomatoes that it has instead of carrying on growing upwards. If you let it carry on developing trusses, you may end up with lots of green tomatoes to eat at the end of the season.
Flower Formation and Development
Above are flower buds developing (this makes a truss) and since these are what turn into the tomato fruit, you don't want to pick these off. The only real reason to remove the flowers is if you are taking away the very top set when you've had 5 or more grow.
Here you can see some of the yellow flowers opening up. These are where your tomatoes start growing. If you're growing these for the first time, you may not realize that some fruit are already forming. You have to look very carefully underneath the flower trusses. Then you may see some tiny green growth in the middle of the flower. That's your immature tomato.
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Tomato Fruit Growth
This is a tiny tomato starting to form. The yellow petals have dropped off and you can see the green fruit in the middle. You probably can't see this growth from a side view because they are initially hidden by the foliage. The green leaves surrounding the fruit are known as sepals. Sepals push upwards as the fruit swells and grows bigger.
Sometimes you'll see the fruit with shriveled brown bits hanging off. Not to panic, it's just the remains of the old yellow flower petals and it will drop off naturally in time.
Here the sepals that have turned upwards as the tomatoes swell in size. They are turning from a dark green at the top of the fruit to a lighter green. After going light green they start to ripen and gradually assume their normal color. This variety produces red tomatoes. You can also get yellow, black and striped or zebra varieties.
Using a Polytunnel to Extend Your Growing Season
I was growing my plants outdoors. However we have had some terrible weather this July with almost constant rain and cool conditions. It was such a cold summer that is was not actually warm enough for the fruit to start to ripen.
I moved mine into the polytunnel where I aimed to keep the daytime temperature around 20 - 25 ºC since these are the ideal ripening temperatures. The weather heated up in August and I moved them back outside again. They do take up quite a lot of room in the polytunnel.
My Gardener's Delight Tomato Rating
Easy to Grow in Containers, Lots of Fruit and Nice Flavor
Finally Enjoying the Harvest of these Cherry Tomatoes
Finally on the 14th of August (way behind the normal schedule) there were some red tomatoes to pick and eat. I ate them fresh off the vine and they were sweet and full of flavor. I can see why this is a favorite variety to grow. Luckily most of them ripened before the weather got too cold otherwise it would have been lots of green tomato recipes for me.
Image Credits: The introductory image belongs to the author, Marie Williams Johnstone. All other images (unless watermarked with the author’s name) are product photos from Amazon.