by Janis on 14th July 2023 / 0 comments

You can teach an old dog new tricks

Well, well, well, I have finally learnt from my mistakes; I can hear my grandad saying, “I told you so”.

Now this probably isn’t a revelation to many of you; however, there is no turning back for me now. I will no longer plant my tomato plants in pots; it will be in a grow bag with high supports from now on.

Every year I have planted my tomato seedlings in pots, and every year they grow vigorously and tall even with strong bamboo canes and multiple clips, they start to collapse under their own weight.

So, what’s this revelation I hear you cry?


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Our choice of tomatoes

Are eight plants too many?

This year I grew four varieties of tomatoes from seed; San Marzano,a plum tomato, Red Cherry, F1 Sweet Million and always a winner is Gardener’s Delight which are all cherry tomatoes.

To be honest, I was only going to sow three varieties, but the ‘Red Cherry’ seeds landed on my doorstep from my Gardeners’ World magazine, and I couldn’t resist giving them a go.

Eight young tomato plants grown from seed in small plastic pots on a tray on our courtyard patio
Young tomato plants
As usual, I grew too many tomato plants and gave a few away, but hey, it’s better to have too many than not enough. I just can’t discard the weaker seedlings; I want to give them all a chance; that’s why I usually end up with a freight load of tomatoes.

Monty Don’s inspiration

Grow bags and height are required

So, last year I decided there must be a better way of supporting my tomato plants. After watching Monty Don demonstrate how to grow and support your young plants, I decided that a change was required.

I don’t have Monty Don’s lovely greenhouse, but I do have a fence along one side of our courtyard patio to which we can attach cross supports.

Eight tomato plants growing in two grow bags on our courtyard patio
Planted in grow bags

Another first for this season is that I’m going to use grow bags; they are full of nourishing nutrients for the young plants and take up less space than a large terracotta pot.

I chose two deep-fill peat free grow bags as I wanted to give them the optimum chance of feed and space. Although, I must confess I have put four plants in each rather than three, as I don’t have the space for three grow bags, and I had eight seedlings to plant.

So, I’ll have to wait and see if four plants were too much.

Last year Gary fitted a drip-feed irrigation system to our patio, which has been a godsend. Especially as, once again, our water supplier has imposed a hosepipe ban in our region. The Hozelock irrigation system we chose is exempt from the ban, as it is a pressurised drip feed system.
A drip irrigation nozzle feeding a gardeners delight tomato plant in a grow bag on our courtyard patio
Drip irrigation for the tomatoes
So, Gary inserted eight drippers from the feeder, and now the tomato plants are watered twice a day with a timer
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Monty’s method

It’s all about the twine

Ok, the way that Monty Don plants his tomatoes is that he has twine in place first, from the base of his greenhouse to supports at the top. The string is around 2 metres in height, allowing the tomato plant to grow around the twine.

Monty cuts a long length of twine, allowing enough to reach from the compost or grow bag at the base to the support at the top and plenty of string to be wrapped around in small circles. These multiple circles or loops of twine will be placed underneath the roots of your tomato plant.

Eight tomato plants growing up against our fence, supported with twine thread
Tomatoes growing up against our fence

On the fence, we attached three wires across the fence panel horizontally to give the twine and the tomatoes support.

So, take your tomato plant out of its pot, place the rolled twine in the hole of your grow bag, and pop your plant on top of the string, pressing down firmly and gently. Pull the twine up taut, being careful not to drag it out from under the plant’s roots and loop it up through the horizontal wires to the top and tie it off securely, et voila.

Our four varieties of tomatoes shouldn’t grow more than 2m (6 ½ feet) in height, so our fence panel is adequate to support.

Happy tomato plants

There are signs of progress

Our tomato plants are all now happy in their new home and have started to thrive already, flowers have appeared, and we have signs of fruit.

All is going well; I hope placing four plants in each grow bag is ok; fingers crossed, the proof will be in the eating.

A bowl of fully ripe homegrown tomatoes from our garden
Some of last year's crop

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