sweet aperitif tomatoes on vine

The first batch of seeds I sowed this year either germinated quickly, became straggly and many died or did not germinate at all.  On the second attempt I sowed far more than I needed not expecting much success. However, all but the cape gooseberries germinated and thrived. Result: too many seedlings.

I grew them on hoping to give many away to friends and relatives. A few of them took some tomato plants and cucamelons but no one wanted aubergines, peppers or chillies. At first there didn't seem to be a problem. The Webmaster rigged up his capillary matting irrigation system and they made their home in the greenhouse. 

As they grew I repotted them into larger pots. Much larger than last year as my research indicated the pots I had used then were too small. I hadn't realised how large the pots needed to be. It cost me a fortune in compost even though I supplemented it with home made compost. 

We rigged up a support framework for the vine tomatoes and let the cucamelons grow with them.

At first all went according to plan. But I hadn't realised how much difference the larger pots would make. The tomatoes and aubergines grew much larger than last year and were soon overcrowded. I did my best to thin them out and give more of the plants to friends and family. I moved some to sunny spots in the garden. But still the plants in the greenhouse grew. This must be how Jack of the beanstalk fame felt.

My first "panic" was when the Money Maker aubergines started to wilt, but after a couple of days they recovered. I think it was the sudden change in weather. Not long after that the bugs started to arrive and I tackled them with bio defences ordering and deploying predatory bugs. I misted the leaves to keep other pests down but some chilli leaves wrinkled with what I think were thrip attacks and I have had to pick off aphids. Nevertheless the bug damage this year has been significantly less than last year. Unfortunately the slug and snail attacks have been much worse. Probably due to the very different weather conditions.

After a prolonged very wet and humid period I noticed a problem with the aubergine fruits. They were developing soft brown patches from the stem end. I removed the infected fruits and thinned the plants, and provided as much ventilation as possible but as more fruits set it was clear there was a persistent a problem. From what I have read, the over crowding appears to have been a contributory problem.

diseased aubergine

mouldy aubergine
There are still a great many aubergine fruits which appear unaffected, and those we have harvested have been fine. If they had all grown I would have had hundreds of fruits but about a third to half of those on each plant succumbed to a mould infection - possibly grey mould, although I am no expert. Even after hours reading about the various infections and pests I can still not be sure what it is as only the fruits and not the leaves or stems appear to be infected. I am fairly certain it is due to the humidity and temperature because the problem seems to reduce when we have hot dry and sunny spells of weather but I am still anxious each day when I go to check, in case any of the more mature fruits have become infexted.

Last year the plants in the greenhouse suffered from leaf curl, this year, so far they have not. Yesterday I harvested 2kg of cherry tomatoes from my Sweet Aperitif vine tomatoes and there seem to be many more to come. However I am very concerned that my outdoor tomatoes developed late blight, I suspect this mainly from the symptoms with the fruit and stems. The leaves developed brown spots and then turned yellow before dying off but in all the litterature I can't see anything with that combination of leaf symptoms and fruit rot symptoms. Maybe my plants have several problems.

I have taken precautions and removed the suspect plants (bagged up ready to incinerate) but with the windy conditions and because I have had the green house well ventilated in an attempt to control the problems with the aubergines, it may have spread. Keeping a careful watch but I still have a lot to learn.

Comparing this year with last year, my greenhouse plants have, so far, done much better and despite the problem with the aubergines I am still hopeful of harvesting a reasonable crop. However, I may have had a better crop if I'd grown fewer plants and not over crowded them. I just hope the tomatoes will be OK.