Saturday, 29 July 2017

Determination to grow Outdoor Girl

I would imagine that tomatoes are one of the most widely grown 'Grow Your Own' crops. There are a bewildering number of varieties to choose from and I grow a few, maybe trying out a new one or two each year. Some varieties come and go with the fashions. This might be because improved varieties come along in the incessant process of hybridisation in order to produce the perfect tomato or indeed to open up the market still further for seed companies. 

Quite a few years ago I started to grow Outdoor Girl on the allotment we then had. It was described as an old fashioned variety and one of those that had fallen out of favour. One of the reasons I grew it was that it was explicitly recommended, as the name suggests,  for growing outdoors. 

For me Outdoor Girl consistently proves it's worth for growing outdoors. It has unusual shaped leaves, less refined and looking more like potato plant leaves. This is not surprising insofar as the tomato and the potato are in the same plant genus: solanum. The fruits are medium sized and deep red like a snooker ball. They have a good taste in that they taste just how a tomato should taste. Those who grow their own will understand what I mean. Outdoor Girl is a strong growing plant with rich green leaves. It crops surprisingly early and will continue to crop prolifically right through to the first frosts. You get a lot of tomato for your time, effort and money. The photograph shows my first picking of 7.5 kg, picked on 21st of July. The next day 6kg of them became 12 jars of spicy tomato chutney. 

Tomato Outdoor Girl

The seeds were sown in the third week of March in modules. They were potted on into 3" pots at the end of April and moved from our well lit utility room to a cold frame and then hardened off to be planted out in the third week of May. I mentioned earlier that tomatoes are relatively easy crops to grow and can be tolerant of a bit of neglect. But they do so much better if they are treated well and checks to their growth are avoided. This means providing the newly germinated seeds with enough light to stop them getting etiolated (leggy); preventing the young plants from becoming root bound; ensuring that they do not dry out; taking the trouble to harden off so that they adapt well to outside conditions; and then planted out in well prepared soil.

Then there is the issue of care for the maturing plants. Here there is a bit of confusion with Outdoor Girl. Is it determinate or indeterminate? Tomato plants are generally grown as cordons (indeterminate) which means that a single stem is grown tied into a support and the side shoots are prevented from growing by regularly pinching them out. This results in better cropping as the plant puts its energy into fruit production rather than leafy growth. They can continue growing to an 'indeterminate' height so long as the conditions are right, hence their value for large scale commercial producers. The other main form of tomato plant is the bush variety (determinate) which are generally stronger growing plants and pinching out side shoots is not necessary. They grow as a bush to a 'determinate' height and then stop growing. The main stem will need some support but otherwise it can be left to get on with it. 

When I first started growing Outdoor Girl my old gardening books always referred to it as a bush variety and this is how I have always grown it. It can get a little scruffy and some pruning out of wayward stems is helpful but it has been such a good cropper I've continued to treat it in this way. Now I notice that many seed catalogues state it is a cordon variety, some say bush and some say it can be either. The Royal Horticultural Society, which one assumes is an authoritative voice, refer to Outdoor Girl as a cordon variety. [Incidentally, the RHS awarded it an AGM (Award of Garden Merit) in 1993, so that is an additional recommendation for growing this variety]. Ultimately I don't suppose it matters too much whether it is grown as a cordon or a bush because the end result is a lot of tomatoes either way.


  1. Well, why didn't you say before that you had started a blog and you are in Suffolk and Smallholding! I hope you are a member of the Suffolk Smallholders Society!
    I shall add you to my list straight away. Welcome to blogland.
    We did most of our smallholding before blogging existed so I never got the chance to write about goats,sheep and all the other things we did. Then Col got ill and we had to give it all up.
    Shall read with interest.

  2. Thank you Sue. I've followed your blog(s) for the last three years and gleaned from them quite a bit about your and Col's final years on your former smallholding. In fact yours is the first blog I ever read.