On New Years day I planted my first seeds of the year which were mainly chillies. It’s a bit early to sow tomatoes unless you have a frost free conservatory/greenhouse but it is definitely time to start thinking about what you are going to grow this year.
For many the choice of cherry tomatoes is either Sungold or gardeners delight but now there are a few red varieties of tomato that are rivalling the original gardeners delight for its crown now that the RHS removed its award of garden merit . One of the new kids on the block which has been awarded the hotly contested award is Sweet Aperitif.
Sweet Aperitif is a sweet cherry tomato, smaller than gardeners delight and has a good flavour with balance of sweetness and acidity. It is less sweet than Sungold so good for those that find the orange favourite a bit too much. It is also has the added advantage that it is open pollinated, not F1 so you can save seed which is rare in modern varieties.
In the kitchen
Sweet aperitif is a cherry tomato so best used uncooked in salads or on bruschetta.
Yield and plant health
Sweet aperitif is a cordon tomato so will need support and pinching out. At the time of printing it holds the RHS award of garden merit which is a hallmark of quality. Yields were good and I had no problems with splitting or other diseases. Plants kept going in the greenhouse until the first frosts. My only slight problem was as they are a small cherry anyway, compared to gardeners delight, if they get insufficient water (which can be a problem in a poly tunnel) the fruit can be on the tiny side, but that is a problem with the gardener and not the tomato!
Sow tomato seeds from January (for greenhouse/conservatory tomatoes) to April (outdoor tomatoes) and keep at a temperature of 18 a 20 degrees c. Germination should take 7 to 14 days.
I sow 6 seeds in a small seed tray, making sure there is at least an inch between seeds. I then cover with half a centimetre of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator in a location that receives plenty of light.
Once your tomatoes sprout the challenge is to give them sufficient light to stop them getting leggy. A sunny window ledge in a cool room, a heated conservatory or greenhouse kept above 12 degrees c are ideal. You will need to turn tomatoes grown on a window ledge often as they will grow towards the light. You can also use LED grow lights to supplement the light they get. Gently blowing the leaves daily may also encourage them to be more stocky.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle (2-4 leaves), transplant into individual 3 inch pots. Pot on as required. Plant out, 2-3 ft apart after all risk of frost has passed.
Cordon tomato plants require support from about 4 inches. They will then need further tying in as the plant grows. Pinch out the side shoots that grow between the stem and the leaves before they reach 2cm long. Take the tops off outdoor tomatoes after two trusses have set fruit. In unheated greenhouses after 4 trusses and in heated green houses, stop in September to allow remaining fruit to ripen.
When tomatoes are young keep the soil moist but not damp. Water from the base to reduce humid you around the leaves which encourages blight. As they start to fruit you will need to keep them consistently watered, daily if necessary to prevent fruit putting sudden spurts of growth on and splitting. Remove the lower foliage as it yellows. This encourages air flow around the plant and allows more light to get to the fruit for ripening. The more light the sweeter the tomato.