Campaign: Diary of a tomato grower

Diary of a tomato grower

Week 36-38: September 5 - September 25

Giant Cucumbers

During week 37, all visible growth had just about come to an end on the cucumbers with the exception of the remaining one in coco (in the tunnel). This cucumber had put on a further 0.3 inches in circumference and was still adding circumference at the end of week 38 when it had to be cut for the Malvern show.

“This cucumber won 1st place in the strongly contested heaviest cucumber class'! With a final weight of 11.98kg this marked a personal best for me and was not so far off last year’s world record”.

Stunning display of giant cucumbers in the heavy class

It's worth noting that David Thomas and Peter Geyelin who also grew cucumbers on CANNA COCO, came in at 2nd and 3rd place in the heaviest class. All three winning cucumbers were grown from David Thomas' seed and it was clearly visible on the show bench that the high standard was due in part to these seeds.

Really looking forward to growing again in CANNA COCO as I am confident there is more weight to be gained!

Annual photo taking at the end of the Giant Vegetable Championship at Malvern

Week 32-35: August 8 - September 4

Giant Cucumbers

During week 33 growth of most plants had slowed down with only the Coco plant in the Tunnel still growing well, at least that was until a severe gale almost ripped the tunnel cover in two directly over this plant. I was only able to stabilise the damage until a temporary roof was created in week 34. During that time the plants were exposed to some wind and rain but my best plant seems to have survived well.

Glasshouse Cucumbers (Top), Tunnel Cucumbers (Bottom)

Week 34 including the hottest day of the year and the cucumbers had been shaded but most had started to turn yellow. The cucumbers in Terra had almost stopped and were more yellow than the Coco. During the hot periods I watered most days and also went back to vegetative watering again (i.e. lower EC).

Over the course of the last few weeks, mildew has been spreading despite new areas receiving a spray with a weak fungicide.

Week 35 was another very hot & sunny week and as I have half of the plants in the tunnel and half in the greenhouse, I have noticed that the latter have suffered from too much sun and heat. As a result I think It may have been better if the entire plant was shaded and not just the cucumber. The longest greenhouse one growing in Coco has stopped and it has a weak flower end showing the results of stress.

Most of the cucumbers are now yellow with only the Coco plant in the tunnel still growing well.

If it stays sound until the Malvern Show on the 24th September then this will be the heaviest one I have grown for some years.

Giant Tomatoes

In week 32 the first truss of tomatoes were growing although one had set a poor shape which may give problems later. The plants continued to grow through week 33 and remained healthy. At this stage the Coco plant had the largest tomato but this could also be more to do with the variety and set.

In week 34 the plants remained healthy but the Terra plant had its first tomato ripening whereas the Coco plants tomato was still green and growing slowly. By week 35 the first tomato on the Terra plant had ripened and was removed. It was only 1.5lb and far too early for Malvern.

As mentioned before, it was apparent when the first flowers appeared that they were not mega blooms and so would not be resulting in the biggest tomatoes. This is more down to the seed genetics.

The second truss of the Terra plant is a better set and so may grow larger if the weather is cooler. The Coco plant now has its first fruit showing colour so once again I may have to remove this next week even though it is shaded. In general the plants are healthy and I am watering as per the cucumbers. However, I am finding that the tomatoes do not require so much.

With giant tomatoes the timing of the ripening is critical as if they ripen to early on then they ultimately do not remain in good form.

Giant Tomatoes beginning to ripen

Week 29-31: July 18 - August 7

Through week 29-30 the growing conditions for the plants was good since the weather had turned very sunny, hot and humid. As fine roots could be seen on the surface of all the plant tubs, they were top dressed with 25L of the corresponding growing medium (Coco or Terra). I also covered the tubs slightly to limit them drying out through evaporation.

By the end of week 31 the weather improved slightly which provided ideal growing conditions for a change. The air was fresher, there was good sunshine and the nights were mild. At this point all the plants, both Coco and Terra were more or less the same height and colour although the Terra plants might still be slightly darker green in colour. Looking back at the improvement with the Coco plants I am sure that is a result of me increasing the feed (higher EC) in week 28. Perhaps they were being underfed but this is all part of learning to grow in a new substrate.

Giant Cucumbers

Whilst the weather has been great, unfortunately my best plant in Terra had its growing tip scorched by the fierce sun in week 29. Once I noticed this I started to shade the growing tips of the others. Unfortunately, the damaged tip did not regrow and I fear this may have checked the plant some degree.

Once the plants had reached the top support rail they were tied and trained horizontally. I continued to shade the growing tips as required but these have now all stopped now that a cucumber is growing. The cucumbers were thinned down to just one on each plant (all or nothing now). So far, all cucumbers have their first support independent of the plant. Judging by the appearance it looks like one of the cucumbers may be suitable for the Longest Cucumber category as opposed to the Heaviest Cucumber. But we will see how things go.

In week 30 I noticed some slight mildew on a few lower leaves of the plants and following a visit from some RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) representatives, decided to remove the affected leaves since a suitable spray was not known at that time. However, what I did not realise at the time was that CANNA has a product called CANNACURE which is very effective at both preventing and controlling mildew.

Giant Cucumbers, one per plant

Giant Tomatoes

As per the case with the cucumber plants, the tomato plants in Coco had also caught up with the Terra plant in terms of colour and size (they are different varieties of heavies) Only one fruit has been kept on the first truss of each plant and these are growing well. However neither are what we call mega blooms and so are unlikely to be giants. The flowers on the second trusses are not mega blooms either, most likely to do with the genetics of these particular plants.

Giant Tomatoes: Terra (left) and Coco (right)

Watering/Feeding Summary

DetailsEC/pH: Coco PlantsEC/pH: Terra Plants
Week 29, 7L per plant 3 times per week 2.2 / 6.1 1.4 / 6.0
Week 30, 7L per plant 4 times per week 1.8 / 6.0 1.4 / 6.1
Week 31, 7L per plant 4 times per week 2.0 / 6.0 1.5 / 5.9

Week 25-28: June 20 - July 17

Considering the weather we have had so far in 2016, it has not been a good year for growing. However, week 25 was not ‘too’ bad, a little better to be honest with the lowest recorded temperature being 13 oC and with highs being in the 20’s with some sunshine. So with the warmer weather I was able to start giving the plants more water. However, after watering/feeding the plants in week 25 I realised that I had watered both the Coco and Terra plants with the Coco A & B feed. I made the mistake unfortunately but next time I will water the Terra plants with the correct feed (CANNA Terra Vega). However, I was told though that the Terra substrate will provide some buffering against such mistakes so no harm done.

Whilst I have been very impressed by the feel and structure of both these growing mediums there has been noticeable difference in growth and colour between the Coco and Terra plants for both the tomatoes and cucumbers. This I have observed from the start of the project. The Coco plants have been both lighter and smaller than those in the Terra substrate but perhaps the Coco plants will improve over time. This difference can be observed in the photographs below.

Giant Tomatoes: Terra (left) and Coco (right)

Giant Cucumbers: Terra (background) and Coco (forefront)

Through weeks 25-28, I have used in addition to the main nutrients (CANNA Terra Vega and Coco A & B), additives CANNAZYM (at 2.5 mL/L) and RHIZOTONIC (at 2 mL/L). In week 28 you will see that I increased the EC of the Coco feed hoping it will bring about a change in those plants.

Watering/Feeding Summary

DetailsEC/pH: Coco PlantsEC/pH: Terra Plants
Week 25 1.5 / 6.1 1.5 / 6.1
Week 26, 6.6L per plant, 1 times per week 1.5 / 6.0 1.4 / 6.0
Week 27, 7L per plant 2 times per week 1.5 / 5.9 1.3 / 6.0
Week 28, 7L per plant 2 times per week 1.8 / 6.0 1.5 / 5.8

Week 21-24: May 23 - June 19

On the 28th May the giant tomato seeds were started in 2.5 inch pots. Half of the pots were filled with CANNA Coco Professional Plus and half were filled with CANNA Terra Professional Plus. All pots were watered with CANNA Start and were placed in the propagator. Germination was expected within 7-10 days and the picture below shows the seedlings as of June 7th.

The heavy and long cucumber seeds were also started on May 28th. The seeds were placed in tissue soaked in CANNA RHIZOTONIC to start in a heated cupboard. Roots were produced within 36 hours whereupon half were potted up in CANNA Coco Professional Plus and half in CANNA Terra Professional Plus. All pots were watered with CANNA Start and then placed in a heated greenhouse. Initially the cucumber seedlings looked pale and the stems were drawn but it may have been due to the poor light conditions during that week as they all greened up with the warm sunnier weather that followed in the next week.

In week 23 I filled the six large growing trays where the cucumbers and the tomatoes will be. I filled three 100 litre trays with Coco Professional Plus and three with Terra, Professional Plus and watered to settle with CANNA Start solution amended to pH 6.0.

I planted two of the best very young tomatoes (one in Coco and one in Terra) and also four of the strongest young cucumber plants (two in Coco and two in Terra). At this stage the cucumber plants were in 65 mm pots and were almost full of root.

In addition to the six trays, I have two more in the polytunnel where I intend to grow two more cucumbers in regular potting compost.

After transplanting I covered the surface of compost with bubble polythene to retain moisture since the weather at the time was sunny and the temperature inside the polytunnel was 25oC. However, as soon as I planted the weather changed to cloud and rain, high humidity and cool air temperature. I did not see the sun again for the whole week which is unusual for mid June (even though it is the UK). Therefore little growth was observed and no water/feed was given. I decided to pull back the polythene from around the Tomatoes as they may be too wet in the composts.

The Grower:
Peter Glazebrook from Halam has been growing and showing vegetables with his wife Mary for over 30 years with giant vegetables being his main interest for the last 25 years.

Over this time Peter has had 15 world records accepted by Guinness of which 3 are still current, these being for the Heaviest Carrot, Cauliflower and Potato.

Peter broke the Heaviest Onion record in 2011 and again in 2012 but as with most records, this was beaten in 2014.

In 2015 Peter competed at the UK National Giant Vegetable Show at Malvern and achieved the most 1st places, one of which included the heaviest Tomato with a new personal best 5.45 lbs. Peter also won 2nd place for the longest cucumber.

The Project:
Given Peter's meticulous attention to detail and outstanding achievements in the field of Giant Vegetabe growing, CANNA are more than pleased to be working with Peter through the CANNA Sponsored Giant Tomato & Cucumber Project 2016.

Having previously set a WR for the Longest Cucumber in 1996 we know Peter has the skill and growing experience to challenge the current World Record holder (David Thomas, 2015) for the Heaviest Cucumber. We are sure that David will enjoy the competition.

Peter will be growing four cucumber plants and two tomato plants with 50% being grown on CANNA Coco Professional Plus (Projects 1a and 1b) and 50% being grown on CANNA Terra Professional Plus (Projects 1b and 2b).

Growing medium: CANNA Coco Professional Plus CANNA Coco Professional Plus CANNA Terra Professional Plus CANNA Terra Professional Plus
Plant: Cucumber x2 Tomato x1 Cucumber x2 Tomato x1
Location: Polytunnel Polytunnel Polytunnel Polytunnel
CANNA Nutrient: Coco A & B (5-4-3) Coco A & B (5-4-3) Terra Vega (3-1-4)
Terra Flores (2-2-4)
Terra Vega (3-1-4)
Terra Flores (2-2-4)

In supporting an expert grower such as Peter we wanted to choose a substrate that would fit in well with Peter's current watering schedule. CANNA Terra Professional Plus is made from 100% high quality white peat which does not suffer shrinkage as observed with cheaper black peat. White peat also offers improved water availability to the roots and this means that a grower can produce more.

Whilst we believe CANNA Terra Professional Plus to be the best Terra on the market, we know that even higher yields can be achieved with CANNA Coco Professional Plus and have therefore challenged Peter to give it a try.

The complex water/air system of CANNA Coco Professional Plus provides ideal root zone conditions not present in soil. However, the onus will be on Peter to perfect his growing in Coco but we will be there every step of the way to share our expertise.

For all projects, Peter will also be using the full additive range (RHIZOTONIC, PK 13/14, CANNABOOST Accelerator and CANNAZYM) in order to improve plant health and yield.