Tips for Wanstead gardeners: When tomatoes won’t ripen

Wansteadium’s new gardening blogger is Ron, who has been cultivating his Wanstead garden for more than 50 years.

I was pleased to receive this note from Wanstead resident Geoff Wilkinson.

Hi Ron

Great to know that there is someone to answer queries re gardening.  I have for the first time this year attempted growing tomatoes outside.  Have watered daily and fed them Tomorite weekly.  They have an abundance of trusses and are still flowering in anticipation of more fruit.  However, they continue to be hard, large and green (variety – Moneymakers).  When do they turn red?  I have taken the largest trusses off and placed the tomatoes on a tray and put them in the sun at every opportunity (could be a better summer).  Still not turning red – if anything they are erring on the side of yellow.  Desperate for help.  We need red tomatoes – no clue how to make chutney.


To be honest, I’m not sure why Geoff’s tomatoes shouldn’t be going red – I’ve been growing Moneymakers for several years and always found them a good variety. I grow my own plants from seed; they’re easy to rear in the Spring, so long as you don’t let them get too tall or leggy.

The basic method is to grow them in the ground or a big pot, using an ordinary potting mix and putting a nice cane or stake in place at the time of planting out – though they should only go outside when there’s no risk of late frost. You should confine the plant to one main stem, and allow only five or six trusses (i.e. five or six bunches which grow together). With most varieties you nip out the side shoots (that’s those which sprout from the nick between the main stem and the established leaves). As Geoff has been doing, they need feeding once a week, after the first trusses start growing, and those in pots will need watering daily in dry weather. Tomatoes in the ground will not need so much watering.

One problem lots of people encounter is browning or yellowing of leaves. This could be BLIGHT. Cut off those affected bits and get rid of them – don’t put them in your compost.

Tomatoes do like sunny weather (as do I), and this should help them ripen. It might help to put the tray of tomatoes on a window sill indoors. Ripening might just be a matter of time, but when it comes it will be worth it. There’s nothing like the smell you get from the skin of home-grown tomatoes. I hope this helps you, Geoff. Do let me know if you have any luck.

• The sunny weather at the end of last week, felt like a bit of an apology for a pretty disappointing August. Here’s hoping that we have an Indian summer this September. I took advantage of last week’s sun to pick the first of this year’s almonds from my tree. The outer casing has already split on lots of them. I love the almond tree – it’s the first thing in the garden to blossom in the Spring and is an early indication of great things to come.

UPDATE: Geoff Wilkinson replies:

“Thank you very much for responding to my problem. You have mentioned a couple of things that may be the problem and I will bear these in mind for next year. However, not all is lost the window sill is proving efficient just a bit slow. Perhaps I should stick to photography !! Best wishes and once again thank you. Cheers Geoff”

You can send Ron your gardening questions at