How to get the biggest harvest from tomato plants

The arrival of the March issue of Gardener’s World magazine jogged me to share the findings of a tomato-growing trial they published in the Feb issue.

The trial wasn’t extensive and had several limitations, but the results were surprising so I thought they’re worth a mention.

Their objective was to test the productivity of tomato plants grown in different ways and subjected to different watering regimes. They chose the popular variety Gardener’s Delight, planted either in the ground, in pots and in growing bags (two per bag). For each growing medium they watered daily, every three days, or weekly.

To avoid rainfall complicating matters, all the plants were grown in a polytunnel.

The most productive plants were those grown in growing bags and watered once a week.

These produced 45 tomatoes per plant on average, compared to the least productive plants which were in the ground and watered weekly (yielding just 14 fruit on average). In fact, all the watering regimes in the growing bag outperformed their counterparts in pots and the ground.

The lack of productivity from the plants in the ground was surprising to me, but one of the limitations of the trial is that they suggested that the ground they were growing in had been used for tomatoes for years and not enriched before the test.

In terms of flavour, they reported no discernible difference between the growing conditions.

So, what do you think? Do you use growing bags, or swear by the soil?

For the last few years I’ve grown tomatoes in pots (in the garden, not the allotment), but the GW results in pots were the worst of the trial so I’ll be reconsidering that approach.

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7 thoughts on “How to get the biggest harvest from tomato plants

  1. Interesting! I grow mine in the greenhouse in grow bags… With halos to help watering. I use canes as the plants get bigger. But works a treat, in the summer I water 2 times a day and I feed once a week. So its a labour of love. But works amazingly well! Also I grow tomatoes outside and they are never as productive.

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    • I don’t have a greenhouse so have to make do with small harvests, mind you out decking is a sun trap so I could probably expect a little more. Maybe you could run your own trial by watering one bag less and see if it boosts your harvest? In the article it said more watering produced the healthiest plants, but by stressing them with less water they set more fruit.

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      • Yes I will try this… Might make the plants grow less too… Mine do get a bit huge!! Our greenhouse was left by previous owners of our plot. We were lucky as it was free… i probably take it for granted a bit. But wouldn’t be without it. Good luck with your tomatoes! 😊

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  2. Over the years I’ve been growing tomatoes, I’ve found little or no difference between tomatoes grown in the soil (polytunnel) or in growbags (in the greenhouse). I’ve never tried altering the watering in the way they suggest but I’d be interested to know whether they got blossom end rot which is encouraged by uneven watering.

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    • Hi and thanks for your comment 🙂 There was a short commentary with the trial and no mention of BER – they did mention some splitting in the pot-grown ones (from memory) so I assume they would’ve included BER if it had been an issue.

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