Top tips to get around root disease

Apple blossom. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Apple blossom. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
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Friend Hugh grows his tomatoes directly into the greenhouse border, but this comes with the risk of a root disease ruining the crop. He recently enquired about the way around this problem.

The main options are chemical sterilisation of the soil, or removing all soil and replacing with new. Unhappy with both ideas, he asked what I did.

This greenhouse border supports three crops throughout the year. Leaf lettuce is raised in cell trays and planted out in February, with harvesting in late May when it’s replaced by tomatoes. They are removed in October and chrysanthemums take over. Fish, blood and bone organic fertiliser is used.

Tomatoes are not planted directly into the border. They go into large pots with half the base removed. These are placed on the soil, filled with compost and planted. All watering is into the pot initially, but when roots have penetrated the border soil, that too is watered.

The idea is to encourage two root systems – that in the pot receives water and weekly feed, once the first truss has set, the border substrate is also watered.